Memories of Grandpa Garrett in Mason City

A.K.A. Kenneth Lester Garrett

By Megan Garrett Judy

Every summer, when we visited Grandma and Grandpa Garrett in Mason City, we would feed the ducks at the park. My memory of this is washed and faded like a Polaroid, more impression than an actual memory. It's possible that Grandma gave us bread chunks that she prepared and packaged in plastic bread sleeves for the purposes of duck feeding. It's also possible that my memory of that is confused with feeding ducks in other locations and with other people. Memory is odd like that.

In any event, what I remember most about feeding the ducks in Mason City was not so much the ducks but the locomotive. Black and sooty, it had been retired to the park where kids could climb and play on it. In my memory, the thing was filthy and playing on it meant that you got filthy, too, like they'd just plopped the coal engine in the park after years of service without so much as running a hose over it first.

The engine has since been restored and you can't climb on it anymore.

I remember Grandpa Garrett's laugh and his blue Ford Pacer with the windows that wrapped around in the back. He always looked like he stepped right out of the 1950s. When I think of him at the park, I think of him wearing a hat and a coat though it would have been summer. I'm not sure if memory serves me correctly here, either, but in my mind, he's standing near me on the muddy bank of a pond reflecting a gray sky and the trees on the other side, laughing, looking like the Don Draper of Mason City, and pointing out which ducks are the mallards.