The Walking Stick

The Walking Stick

chair2-Border

An old man takes his daily walk down the road.

A Short Story

By

Floyd H. Smith, Jr.

The Walking Stick

Back and forth, back and forth. That’s the way it went most of the time on the front porch of Otis P. Olman’s house. Otis spent a lot of time sitting in the rocking chair. Which, by the way, he had built himself several years ago. He didn’t have much else to do these days. With the years catching up to him, and the arthritis in his legs, he was pretty much confined to the chair. It takes him awhile, but with the help of his walking stick, he still manages to take a stroll down the road that runs in front of his house. He chose to take his walk in the early evening when it was cool. Giving himself enough time to get back before dark.
“This chair is not rocking very smooth today”, Otis said aloud. “ It feels like there’s something under one of the rockers”. Not wanting to move, he decided to take a look and see what was causing the bumpy ride. “Well, I’ll be,” he said. “I thought I heard something”. The cat that was laying on the porch beside him had managed to get it’s tail under the rocker. “I’m real sorry”, he said to the cat. “I hope I didn’t hurt you too bad”.
I guess Otis wasn’t your ordinary old man. In fact, some people thought him rather strange. His appearance probably didn’t help either. He had a long, gray beard. And his gray hair was down to his shoulders. He didn’t like barber shops, if you could still call them that. Years ago, on the few occasions that he did go to a barber shop, the barber seemed compelled to talk the whole time he was in the chair. Otis wasn’t much on conversation, so he decided that his hair would just have to grow long. The kids in the neighborhood were scared of him, and referred to him as “The Old Man”. When he took his evening walks, they would run and hide behind the bushes and watch from a distance as he walked by. They made up stories about him. How that unusual stick he always carried had magical powers and could turn little kids into certain creatures. The stick was different from other walking sticks. This stick was custom built by Otis P. Olman himself. It was of large diameter, and had an odd- looking handle. Otis was proud of the stick. He had built it especially for these walks down the road.
Otis had built his house many years ago on a hill back off the road. He had always wanted to live in the woods, but since that wasn’t so, he planted his own trees. He planted trees everywhere. As the years went by, and the trees grew, his house was pretty much in the woods now. You could barely see the house from the road through the trees. Vines hung from the trees, and grass and weeds had grown up around the house. The place kinda looks like one of those spook houses you see on television at Halloween. With the house in need of paint and the grass and weeds out of control, there is a bit of mystery about the place.

After consoling the cat, and making sure it was okay, Otis decided it was time for his walk down the road. During the day he kept his coat and hat on a nail on the porch. It saved him a few steps from going into the house after them. He put the hat on first. The hat was old and out of shape and the rats had chewed a hole in the brim on one side. It was comfortable and he liked it. After taking the coat from the nail and putting it on, Otis thought to himself, “Get ready kids, here I come”. The coat was nearly floor length and black in color, with a hood attached to the collar. The wind hurt his ears, and if the wind blew, he simply pulled the hood up over his head. He got the stick which was leaning against the wall. “Now, I am ready to go”, he said. With the beard and long hair, the hat and coat, and the odd- looking stick, Otis probably did look like something out of a monster movie.
As he started down the steps of the porch, Otis misjudged the first step. He did a couple of cartwheels, then landed in the grass at the bottom of the steps. He sat there for a minute and checked himself for damage. “Those circus people don’t have nothing on me”, he said. Standing up and dusting himself off, he was ready once again.
The kids would be down there hiding in the bushes. They didn’t know that he knew they were there. On one of his previous walks, Otis had caught a glimpse of them before they had gotten concealed behind the bushes.
When Otis reached the road, he headed in the direction he always took. Down the hill, around the curve, past the bushes, and back again. As Otis walked slowly along, he thought what joy it is, that children bring to the heart of an old man. He really did look forward to these walks, but didn’t know how much longer he could keep taking them. When Otis came along side the bushes, he chanced a side glance. Yeah, they were there alright. He thought he could hear them giggling. Or maybe it was there teeth chattering. No matter, they had made his day, and he had made theirs. Otis reached his stopping point and turned around and headed back. When he reached the bushes again, he didn’t chance a side glance, but kept his eyes on the road ahead. The walking stick was always lighter on the way back. Maybe there really was something magical about it.
Upon reaching the steps to the front porch, Otis made a mental note. “I really should build some hand rails for those steps”. He walked up the steps, being careful not to make a repeat acrobatic performance. As he walked across the porch, the cat jumped out of the rocking chair and ran around the side of the house. “I don’t blame you little fellow”, he said. “I guess your tail still hurts”.
The next day was pretty much like the day before. It was mid-afternoon and Otis was sitting in the rocking chair. It was cooler than yesterday with a light northerly breeze. The cat was in Otis’s lap. All was forgiven. Sitting there in the chair was nice. And it wasn’t hot. “A good day for a walk”, he told the cat.
“You can have the chair to yourself until I get back”. After donning his usual attire, and picking up his stick, Otis walked to the steps. Then he remembered what he was supposed to have done. “I’ll start on those hand rails first thing in the morning”, he said.
Otis turned to the left when he reached the road. The routine was unforgettable, even at his age. Down the hill, around the curve, past the bushes, and back again. It was a little earlier than usual and the kids wouldn’t be home from school yet. But that didn’t matter, the deed would still be done.
Just as Otis entered the curve in the road, a car came speeding toward him. It came on him so sudden that he couldn’t get out of the way. The car hit him in the hip and knocked him into the ditch. The car sped on down the road. The driver either didn’t know that he or she had hit someone or didn’t care.
When the kids got home from school, they played in the yard, but kept there eyes on the road for “The Old Man”. After a long time of playing, one of the kids said, “I wonder where The Old Man is”? “ He should have walked by here by now”. “I don’t know”, said one of the other kids”. “Let’s walk down the road and see if we can see him coming”. “What’s that in the ditch”? “It’s The Old Man”! One of the kids shouted. “Quick, go call 9-1- 1″.
With his experience with the car, Otis received a broken hip and numerous cuts and abrasions. He most likely wouldn’t be taking walks anymore.
As the days went by, the kids missed The Old Man. They would walk down the road to see if they could see him coming. One day, while walking down the road, one of the kids saw something in the ditch. He shouted, “Hey, look at this”! “It’s The Old Man’s stick”! They all gathered around. “It’s got a trigger on the handle, just like a pistol”. “Point it over there”, one of them said. “And pull the trigger”. With the stick pointing in a safe direction, the trigger was pulled. A quarter fell out of the end of the stick. The trigger was pulled again and another quarter fell to the ground. “This stick is full of quarters”, exclaimed the kid that pulled the trigger. “You know what this means”, he said. “Yes”, said another. “It explains all the quarters we’ve been finding on the road.

Floyd H. Smith, Jr.
January 29, 2002

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The High Note

The High Note

Bugle Border

A Marine Vietnam war veteran
has difficulty learning to play Taps.

A short story

by Floyd H. Smith, Jr.

The High Note

Clem parked his pick-up truck in front of the store and looked at the little sign that hung above the door. The sigh was a small piece of plywood painted white with black letters that read: Antiques. Hanging crooked, and faded with age, the sign matched the store. “This is my kind of store,” Clem thought, as he looked at all the junk laying everywhere. He got out of the pick-up and walked to the door. He opened it and hoped the sign didn’t fall as he went under it. “Good morning, young man!” said a voice coming from somewhere in the back of the dark room. Before his eyes could adjust to the interior darkness of the room, Clem tripped over something as he stepped toward the sound. He caught his balance and waited for his eyes to adjust. It seemed that the older he got, the more he heard people calling him “young man,” especially older men. He kinda liked it though, and it always made him grin. After all, he was fifty-nine years old. “Good morning!” Clem said as he made his way through the obstacle course on the floor. Now, he could see who had spoken. An old man with kind eyes sat in a rocking chair. “Have a look around,” the old man said as he spit tobacco juice into a spittoon sitting on the floor next to his chair. “Is there anything in particular that your looking for?” “No, I saw your store from the road out there, and my curiosity got the best of me,” answered Clem. “I don’t get many customers anymore since the new highway went through out at the edge of town,” remarked the old man. “ But every once in a while, someone like yourself will wander in.” Clem sensed that the old man was trying to strike up a conservation. He would talk to him after he had looked at all this stuff. Clem walked off down an isle, if you could call it that. It was more like a maze. When he reached the wall on the other side of the room, Clem noticed a box on the top shelf with something sticking out of the top of it in one corner. In the dim light, it was hard to make out what it was. He could barely reach it. But he managed to get it down and placed it on the floor. Clem squatted down next to the box. “Well, look what I’ve found,” he said as he took the bugle from the box. He couldn’t tell what kind of condition it was in, but it seemed to be okay. Clem put the bugle down and emptied the contents of the box onto the floor. “This stuff must have belonged to a Boy Scout,” he thought as he examined the contents of the box. There was a complete uniform, a back pack, a scout’s handbook, and a mess kit. “Be prepared,” Clem said aloud. He was once a Boy Scout. “That’s right, be prepared.” Clem put everything but the bugle back into the box and placed it back on the shelf. He picked up the bugle and made his way back to where the old man was sitting. “ I see you found something,” said the old man as Clem handed him the bugle. “Yeah, it’s an old bugle. I’ve always liked the sound of “Taps” played on a bugle. I guess it’s from my military days. The notes are sad, but at the same time, are very soothing.” The old man was examining the bugle and remarked, “This bugle has been back there for years. I had forgotten all about it.” He hesitated for a moment, then continued. “ There’s a story that goes with this bugle. They say it’s haunted. Well, maybe not haunted, but there is a legend behind it. This bugle belonged to a Boy Scout who had a merit badge in bugling. He was the Scouts’ bugler, and played at all the Scout outings. There was a tragic accident, and he was killed on his way to summer camp. Some say that they can still hear him playing “Taps” on this bugle late in the evening, out by the lake. Come over here in the light, and I’ll show you something”. Clem walked with the old man over to the window. Holding the bugle out in the light from the window so Clem could see it, the old man said, “See this big dent, here on the underside of the bugle. This here dent gives this bugle it’s own distinct sound. The people that have heard it say that is how they know it’s him. No other bugle sounds the way this one does.” Pointing at the bugle, the old man added: “You can hardly see it, but look at this.” Clem took his reading glasses from his pocket, put them on, and looked where the old man was pointing. Inscribed in the bugle, and barely visible, were the words- Official Bugle- Boy Scouts of America. “It’s a Boy Scout bugle alright,” said Clem. “But I don’t put much store in superstition. I can’t play a bugle, and don’t even know why I want it. But I’ll take it. How much do you want for it?” The old man handed the bugle back to Clem. “You seem to be a nice young man, I’ll take twenty dollars for it, and you can have the legend for free,” he said. Clem took forty dollars from his wallet and handed it to the old man. “That legend you told me is worth as much as the bugle, I’ll pay for it too.” Clem kept the promise that he had made to himself, and after talking with the old man for several minutes, he made his way to the door. “You know, you might learn how to play that thing some day”’, the old man said as Clem opened the door. “Yeah maybe, he replied,” and stepped out into the bright sunlight. Clem opened the door to his pick-up, laid the bugle on the seat, and got in. He glanced down at the bugle lying there on the seat beside him. “What if there was something to the legend?” Clem thought. “No, that was nonsense.” He started the truck, backed out, and with his new possession, headed for home. While driving home, Clem thought about the bugle. He would build a small shelf to set it on. He arrived about midday. Plenty of time before his wife got home from work. Clem immediately started building the shelf. It wouldn’t take very long. Just a matter of cutting a couple of boards and nailing them to the wall. After the shelf was finished, he put his tools away and sat down to rest. He was pretty tired from rearranging all the pictures on the wall to make room for the shelf. Feeling rested, Clem picked up the bugle and put it in its new place. He went back to his chair and sat down. Looking at the bugle, he thought, “That is a big dent, I guess it could alter the sound. Even so, that don’t justify the legend.” Clem couldn’t stand it any longer, he retrieved the bugle, sat back down, and put it to his lips. He blew, and got nothing but a puff of dust. “I guess I should have cleaned it first,” he thought. Clem carried the bugle to the kitchen and filled the sink about half full of warm soapy water. He put the bugle in and sloshed it around a few times. “That ought to do it,” he said. Clem didn’t know how to clean a bugle, but he figured that would get the dust out of it. He then dried it off and got his shotgun cleaning kit from the closet. Tying some bore patches to a piece of wire and pulling them through the bugle should get it clean. After cleaning the bugle, he was ready to try again. Clem took the bugle back to his chair, sat down and propped his feet up. Ready now to try again, he put the bugle to his lips and blew. No sound came from the bugle. Just the hiss of air. “This is not going to be easy,” he thought. He blew several more times, and finally managed to get a noise from it that sounded like something from a horror movie. “It’s going to take a lot of practice just to get a decent sound from this thing. I’ll try it again tomorrow,” thought Clem. He put the bugle in its place on the wall and decided to take a nap. Freda, his wife of thirty-five years, would understand about the bugle, but he wasn’t sure about the pictures being rearranged. If it didn’t please her, he would put everything back the way it was, and find another place for the bugle. Clem was awakened from his nap by the sound of a car pulling up in front of the house. His wife was home. When Freda entered the room, she noticed the bugle and the rearrangement of the pictures. “Hi!” she said. “I see that you’ve found yourself a bugle, but you’re going to have to find another place to put it.” Freda walked over and picked up the bugle. “It’s got a big dent in it!” She exclaimed. “Yeah, I know. But that’s not all. It’s also haunted,” replied Clem. “The old man I bought it from says that it plays itself.” After hearing this, Freda put the bugle down on the little table beside Clem’s chair and stepped back. “What do you mean haunted?” She exclaimed! Clem laughed at her reaction. “ It seems that there is a legend about this bugle. It belonged to a Boy Scout bugler that was killed in an automobile accident. Some say that they still hear this bugle playing “Taps” up at the lake, out by the Boy Scout Camp. The old man didn’t say the Boy Scout Camp, but that was where the boy was going when the accident happened. They say the dent in the bugle clarifies that this is the bugle they hear.” Freda picked the bugle back up and looked at the dent. “I don’t know that much about wind instruments, but a dent this big could alter the sound,” she said. Freda handed Clem the bugle and he put it back on the shelf. “You know how legends start. Somebody says something, then someone adds to it. The first thing you know, it’s blown out of proportion”, said Clem. “Yeah, I know.” Said Freda. “And we’re the owners of a Boy Scout bugle with a legend. Do you think you can learn how to play it?” “I don’t know,” Clem said. “I might with a little help from you. You’re the musician in the family. I”ll piddle with it tomorrow, after I put your pictures back the way they were.” Tomorrow was a long time coming. Several years had passed before Clem seriously tried to play the bugle. He had messed with it a few times, and had gotten a few decent notes out of it, but had never really tried to play any calls. Clem had become disabled by this time, partly from his “tour of duty” with the Marines in Viet Nam, and partly from ailments in general. One day, while being confined inside the house own account of the weather, Clem decided he would learn to play the bugle. He got very serious about it, and practiced almost every day. All he wanted to learn to play was “Taps”. There was a very high note in the call that he was having trouble with. No matter how hard he tried, he just couldn’t get it right. Even with the high note being wrong, “Taps” was sounding pretty good. Freda was proud of his accomplishment. And Clem felt that he was going to succeed. He had came a long way since that first terrible note. Both were confident that he would eventually get it right. One Saturday, when Freda was at home, she and Clem were enjoying a leisurely morning. They were making small talk, and every once in a while, he would blow a few notes on the bugle. “Maybe this will help,” Freda said, as she handed him a sheet of paper.

Notes for Taps

(These are the actual notes.)

Clem took the sheet of paper and looked at his wife’s handy work. She had written the call of “Taps” in huge notes shaped like letters in the key of the note. Clem studied the notes. “You know, with this, I just might be able to get it. At least, I can see what I’m supposed to do. If there was anything to that legend, the notes would jump off the paper and go intothis bugle. And it would play itself.” Freda replied, “Don’t you go getting silly on me here in your old age.” Clem hummed the notes to himself, “d-d-g, d-g-b, g-b-deee.” The note was high, alright. He didn’t even know the bugle had a note that high. Clem placed the piece of paper on the table and put the bugle on top of it. “I’ll give myself and you a break. The bugle can rest the rest of the weekend. When you get home from work Monday evening, I’ll play “Taps” for you, including the high note.” Monday morning arrived, and Freda went to work. Throughout the day, she thought about Clem sitting at home practicing on the bugle. She hoped that the music she had written had helped him. “Maybe I will call him,” she thought. “No, I will just let him surprise me.” That evening, when Freda arrived home, she made a startling discovery. Clem was slumped over in his chair. The bugle lay on the floor beside him. “Oh no!” She screamed. She ran to him. He appeared to be dead. Freda rushed to the phone and frantically dialed 9-1-1. After about ten minutes of pacing the floor, she heard the siren of the ambulance. She opened the door, “Over here, I think he’s dead!” The paramedics rushed to him. After examining him, one of them spoke, “We had better call the coroner. It looks like he’s had a massive heart attack.” The coroner arrived a short time later. He examined Clem and spoke to Freda. “I’m sorry Ma’am, but he’s gone.” The paramedics loaded Clem into the ambulance and took him to the funeral home. The coroner spoke to Freda, “Is there anything I can do for you Ma’am?” Through crying eyes Freda replied, “No, I just have to make a few phone calls.” The coroner left and Freda was alone. Really alone. Freda picked the bugle up off the floor. She held it out and looked at it. “I wonder if he blew the high note.” She said aloud. After a while, Freda had regained her composure. She made the necessary phone calls to family and friends. They all expressed their condolences. She then left for the funeral home to make arrangements. Freda called the Veterans Administration the next morning. They would be glad to give Clem a military burial. Complete, with the playing of “Taps.” There was just one problem. No bugler was available, and they were going to have to play a recording. This just would not work. “What can I do, Clem has to have a real bugler,” she thought. Then she remembered the guy from church. He could play “Taps.” Freda gave him a call. He offered his symphony and informed her that he could be available. There was to be no funeral. A graveside service with an Honor Guard was what Clem had wanted. The cemetery where he was to be buried is located out in the country. It is a peaceful place, with a nice wooded area just outside the fence on the north end. Freda scheduled the services to take place on Thursday. It would take place late in the day. Around sunset, at day’s end. The air would be still and the notes of the bugle could softly drift through the trees. Thursday arrived as a cool and calm day. Considering the circumstances, it was going to be a nice day. The day was long for Freda, but finally it was time to go. Upon arriving at the cemetery, she was surprised at the number of people that had come to the services. She saw the bugler standing off by himself. He was dressed in a nice black suit and holding a highly polished bugle by his right side. Freda walked over and hugged him. “I’m so glad you could come,” she said. The service was about to start and Freda took her place beside the flag-draped coffin. When the preacher finished with his nice sermon, the Honor Guard raised their rifles and fired three volleys. They walked over and took the flag from the casket, folded it, and the Marine handed it to Freda. At that moment, the soft and sad notes of “Taps” being played on a bugle went drifting through the still air. Freda had been holding up pretty well until now. She just couldn’t help herself. The long flowing notes of the bugle brought the tears to her eyes. Every note was perfect. Even the high note. Clem would have loved it. When the last note finished drifting through the still, evening air, another bugler started playing “Taps.” The sound was coming up from down by the woods. It was the “Echo.” But who could be playing it! She hadn’t made arrangements for someone to play the “Echo”. Freda raised her head with a start. “That’s Clem’s bugle! I would recognize that sound anywhere,” she thought. “The legend must be true. The Scout is down there by the woods playing “Taps” with Clem’s bugle.” Then she heard it! The eighteenth note, the high one that Clem had so much trouble with, was way off key. Freda thought about the conversation she and her sister had earlier. “My sister was wrong! She said. Clem “is” playing “Taps” at his own burial.”

Floyd H. Smith, Jr.
August 15, 2003

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The Ginny Tree

THE GINNY TREE

Swing Tree

By

Herbert Smith

The Ginny Tree

The car turned into the driveway that led up the hill to Poppy and Nanna’s house. Ginny could see Poppy sitting in his rocking chair on the front porch. Before the car was halfway up the driveway, Ginny said, “Hi, Poppy.” Poppy saw his daughter’s car as it pulled into the driveway. A smile crossed his face as he saw his granddaughter waving from the car seat. “Hi, Poppy,” Ginny said as the car stopped in front of the house.
The two words that Poppy enjoyed hearing most were “Hi Poppy.” Ginny’s mother got out and walked around the car and unbuckled Ginny from the car seat. “Hi, Poppy,” Ginny said again as she ran to the front steps of the porch. She climbed up the steps and ran across the porch to where her Poppy was sitting in his rocking chair. Ginny climbed up on his lap and gave Poppy a big hug. “Poppy, tell me a story,” she said .“O K,” said Poppy. “What story would you like to hear?” “I want to hear the story about the Little Red Wagon.
Poppy told lots of stories. He told stories about birds, rabbits, turtles and little girls. Once, he even told a story about a skunk. But the story she liked to hear the most was the story about the Little Red Wagon. It reminded her so much of herself; it almost seemed as if it were real. The stories that were read to her at the day-care center were always stories about people and things in far away places. But these stories that Poppy told where things that happened in his own back yard.
When Poppy finished the story, Ginny crawled down from his lap and went into the house. “Hi, Nanna,”she said. “Poppy told me a story. I like Poppy’s stories.”“Hi, Ginny,” Nanna said as she gave her a hug.
One day, a few weeks later, when Ginny came out to visit her Poppy, he was out in the front yard playing in the dirt with a stick. “Hi, Poppy,” she said. “What are you doing?”“Hi, Ginny. I’m going to plant a tree.” “Oh, a tree! Can I help?” She asked. “Sure you can help,” Poppy said. Ginny ran to the porch and came running back with a little plastic shovel. “Where’s the tree?” Ginny said as she looked around. Poppy reached down and picked up the stick. “This is the tree. It’s just a little stick now. But it will grow to be a big tree.” Poppy placed the tree in the hole and Ginny started raking dirt in around it with her little plastic shovel. He helped her rake dirt in around the tree, and explain to her how they had to put water on it to make it grow so it wouldn’t die. “I’ll tell you what,” Poppy said. “We will call this tree, the Ginny Tree.” “Oh goody,” Ginny said. “You named a tree for me?”
After the tree was planted, they went into the house to wash their hands. Poppy went out on the front porch to set in his rocking chair. Ginny came out and crawled up in his lap. “Poppy, tell me a story.”
“O.K. There was this little squirrel burying a nut in the ground,” said Poppy. “No! No! I want to hear the story about the Little Red Wagon,” Ginny said. As he told the story, Ginny sat very quite in his lap and listened to every word.
“Hi, Poppy! Hi, Poppy!” “Who are you talking to Mommy?” “Who’s Poppy?” It was then that Ginny realized that she had been dreaming of a time years ago. She looked over at the empty rocking chair that sat beside her and looked into the eyes of her little girl standing there shaking her arm.
“Mommy! Mommy! I want to swing.” “O. K.”, said Ginny. “Go get in your swing and I’ll push you.”
As she walked out to the Ginny Tree and looked up at how tall it had grown, Ginny remembered the day that she and Poppy had planted it. And she thought how sad it was that her own daughter didn’t have a Poppy.
Herbert Smith
1995

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The Crash

The Crash

stickwalk2-Border

An old man uses his walking stick
for something besides walking.

A short story

By

Floyd H. Smith, Jr.

The Crash

I walked up to the door and looked out. As I stood there looking out, I noticed that the bird feeder was empty. I’ll have to fill it up when I get back I thought. After finishing my survey of the yard I glanced up at the thermometer. It’s one of those big round types with numbers big enough for me to see without having to hunt for my glasses. The big red dial was pointing just under thirty-five degrees. There’s no numbers between twenty and forty so I guessed the temperature to be thirty-three degrees. Cold enough for a jacket, especially since these old bones stay cold all the time anyway. I’d better put my cap on too, as it may start raining again before I get back. After putting on the jacket and cap I was ready for the trip. When I reached the door again I picked up my walking stick. The stick is kept by the door for easy grabs when leaving the house. It’s really kinda ironic about the stick. Just about a year ago while walking in the woods, I saw this little oak tree with honeysuckle vine growing around it. The vine had wrapped itself around the tree early on and as the tree grew it bulged out around the vine creating a bulging spiral trunk. I had seen pictures of walking sticks that were spiraled, but none that were quiet like this one. One might think I’m a little touched in the head, but I walked up to that tree and said, “Tree, I’m going to make a walking stick out of you”. Who knows, one day I might need one. Now, just a year later, I don’t leave the house without it.
As I stepped out on the porch, the cold north wind hit me right in the face. The beard that I had grown a few months earlier made me look a lot older, but I didn’t care. It does a good job of keeping my face warm. When I reached the steps to the porch I noticed they were still wet from the rain. Easy does it, I thought as I stepped off the first step. I don’t want to be laying here in the yard when the wife gets home. After successfully making it down the steps, I walked across the yard to the driveway. Going, will be fairly easy. It’s the coming back, that will be somewhat of an ordeal. When you’re young, you don’t think much about the trials of an old man. “Let’s build our house way off the road. Up there on top of that big hill”, I had said. Now, after all these years, I still think we made the right choice.
“I can’t just stand here thinking about the past”, I said aloud. “If I don’t get moving, it will be dark before I get back”. After walking for a ways, I stopped to rest. “Stick, old buddy, I don’t know what I’d do without you”, I said as I leaned on the stick.
At the edge of the driveway is a big old pecan tree. And I just love pecan pie. I’ve picked up enough pecans to make a few pies, but crawling around on the ground is kinda hard on me, what with the arthritis and all.
“Well, looky here. There’s enough pecans to make three or four pies”. The rain had washed the pecans down the hill and they had become trapped in a big pile. I didn’t know whether to thank Mother Nature or The Lord. So, to be on the safe side, I thanked them both. “ I’ll pick those pecans up when I get back. Or maybe, I’ll pick them up tomorrow.” I better get going. It’s gonna be dark sure ‘nuf now before I get back.
Walking on this gravel road is kinda hard with these wobbly old legs. But with the help of this stick I’ll make it just fine. Besides, it’s all downhill from here. After walking for a while longer, I stopped to rest. While standing there leaning on the stick, I thought I might sit down for a bit. “What am I thinking? If I sit down, I’ll never be able to get back up”. As I started walking again I noticed the wind was picking up, and it was getting colder. If my legs would work right I could walk a little faster. Well, would you look at this. It’s starting to rain, and it sure is getting cold. Should’ve wore my gloves. “Oh, stop complaining. Your almost there now”, I said to myself. The rain was starting to freeze on the road making it more difficult to walk. After nearly falling a couple of times, I decided to walk in the grass. Oh yes, this is much better.
After making one more rest stop, I made it to my destination. Well, almost. The mailbox is on the other side of the main road. The asphalt road is covered in a solid sheet of ice. What to do? I decided to sit down and slide across the road on my butt. This will be fun, I thought. Just like when I was a kid. With myself in position, I put the stick against a tree, and gave a shove. “Wheee”! And away I went flying across the icy road and crashed right smack into the mailbox. As a kid, I don’t remember having fun hurting this much. I took a hold on the mailbox post to pull myself up. Pain shot through my leg as I made the attempt. I must have broken it when I slammed into the mailbox.
I’ll just have to sit here and wait for someone to come by and help me. Here comes a car now. This is my lucky day. Ha, Ha. At least I still have my sense of humor. The car was going slow on the icy road. As the car came closer, I recognized it as my wife’s car. The car stopped in the middle of the road, and my wife got out. She walked carefully toward me, so she wouldn’t slip on the ice. “Well, isn’t this a fine mess you’ve gotten yourself into”,she said. “Let’s get you into the car and up to the house”. With some difficulty, we managed to get me into the car. “Don’t forget my stick”, I said. “Honey, do you think we could get the mailbox moved up to the house”?

Floyd H. Smith , Jr.
January 24, 2002

 

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Life Goes On

LIFE GOES ON

By

Herbert Smith

Cropped Ginny Tree-Border

This story is dedicated to my brothers Tim
and Gene, and to my sisters Mary, Eunice,
Martha and Sally.

Virginia stopped pulling weeds from the flower bed to wipe the sweat from her brow. As she looked around the backyard, the big oak tree beckoned her to come and sit in the shade. “Not just yet,” she said aloud. “I have to finish with these weeds.” Virginia laid the towel down and took a long drink of ice water from the large glass that was sitting on the back porch. Again she looked at the tree with it’s cool shade, then went back to her task of weeding the flower bed. It wasn’t the work that bothered Virginia about pulling weeds from the flower bed. But the killing of living things.
When she was a little girl her Grandpa had talked to her about Nature. He had explained to her how some things must die so that others can live. And the weeds were taking moisture and nutrients from the flowers. Soon the weeds were gone and the flowers were free to grow and blossom.
Virginia wiped off the sweat again and drank the remaining water from the glass. She walked into the house and filled the glass with ice and water. Then she headed straight for the shade under the big oak tree. When she got to the tree, Virginia sat down on the bench that her daughter had helped her place in just the right spot to get the benefit from the most shade when the day was the hottest. Virginia sipped on the water and glanced around the large backyard which was filled with other trees. Her Grandpa had planted all the trees, except for the pecan trees in the front yard. The other trees in the yard were mostly fruit trees. There were apples, peaches, plums, apricots and a few scattered mulberries, oaks and walnuts. A lot of the fruit trees were in bad shape now with their dead and broken limbs. Some of the trees were dead. Time had taken its toll. This tree, the tree that Virginia was sitting under, seemed to thrive. It was bigger and greener than the other trees in the yard. Her “Poppy”, as she used to call her Grandpa, had planted this tree as he did with all the others. Her Mother had told her that this was a very special tree, and that her Grandpa had taken very special care of it. As Virginia was sitting there in the shade enjoying the cool breeze, it almost seemed as if in the rustle of the leaves, the tree was talking to her.
After her Grandma had passed away, Virginia and her daughter had moved into her grandparents old house. Her Grandpa had passed away when she was just a little girl. She had always enjoyed visiting with “Nanna” and “Poppy”. Her Grandma would give her cookies, play games with her and read her stories. Her Grandpa would let her help him in the garden, pick fruit from the trees and tell her stories.
The sound of the school bus stopping at the end of the driveway brought Virginia back to reality. She didn’t get up as her daughter came running up the driveway. She knew that her daughter would come straight to the tree. “Hi, Mommy,” she said as she sat down on the bench next to her mother. “Why do you spend so much time out here with this tree?” Virginia was silent for a little while, then replied, “I guess you’re old enough now, so I’m going to tell you a story.” “When my Grandpa passed away, he left a letter to be read after his death. Your Grandma read it to me.”
“When Grandpa’s mother passed away, she was cremated. Grandpa didn’t like the idea of cremation. But it was his mother’s wishes, so he kept quiet Grandpa and his brothers and sisters were to scatter the ashes of their mother on the grave of her grandson. One by one they slowly reached into the box and took out a handful of their mother’s ashes and scattered them over the grave. All except Grandpa. He just pretended to scatter the ashes. Instead, he put them in the pants pocket of his suit.
Later that afternoon, after Grandma and Grandpa got home, Grandpa went straight to this tree. He sat down on the ground and pulled all the grass and weeds up from around the tree. Then he reached into his pocket and took the handful of his mother’s ashes and placed them very carefully around the little tree. After that, he took his pocket knife and worked them into the soil. As he was standing there saying a small prayer, he watered the tree with the tears that were falling from his eyes.
Grandpa never told anyone what he had done, except Grandma. So this tree was very special to my Grandpa. And it’s become very special to me. If Grandpa was right, your Great, Great Grandma lives on in this tree.”

Floyd Herbert Smith, Jr.
1997

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Nostalgia

Nostalgia

By

Herbert Smith

Me and Mom

An old man has some fond memories of his mother.

A true story.

Mothers Day has came and gone, but the thoughts of my mother are still strong in my heart. Hardly a day has gone by that I haven’t thought of my mom. Mother passed away on Easter Sunday, 1993. I miss my mom.
Things or events in everyday life bring the memories flooding in. Just the other day as I was listening to the radio, a song by Hank Williams was played. Almost instantly, an image appeared. I could see myself walking into the kitchen through the back door after having finished my outside chores. The voice of Hank Williams, singing “Lovesick Blues” was playing on the radio, and the aroma of baking biscuits filled the room. The radio sat on a small shelf on the south wall of the kitchen that my daddy had built just for it. Mother was busy sitting the table for breakfast, walking to and fro in her flour-covered apron. Over the years, I’ve tried to make similar biscuits. It can’t be done. “ Oh, how I miss those biscuits.”
I miss my mom.
There are so many things that evoke memories of my mom that I can’t possibly mention them all. On Thanksgiving Day when we are having the traditional turkey and dressing, for instance. As soon as I take a bite of the dressing, my mom comes to mind. Nobody could make turkey dressing the way my mother could. I miss my mom.
My mother enjoyed planting trees and flowers, as do I. Over the years, I’ve planted many trees and flowers. I don’t know if this is on account of my mother, or if we just shared the same love for these plants. I would almost always visit my mother on Sunday morning, arriving early so I could have time alone with her. If I arrived later in the day, it was almost certain that one of my siblings would be there. It’s not that I didn’t want the company of my brothers and sisters, I just wanted to visit with my mom for a little while first. Soon after I arrived at my mother’s house, she and I would take the “tour”. The “tour” being walking around the yard with her and looking at her many plants. As we walked among the flowers, I would be especially watchful for new ones. It was almost a certainty that she had found room to plant one more. I miss those Sunday morning walks .
I miss my mom.
Personal problems occur that as responsible adults, we have to deal with. Most of these problems are small and are easily taken care of, while others are more difficult. It was these more difficult decisions that I had to make that I would rely on my mother for help. She always helped me find the right answers. I miss getting her advice. I miss my mom.
Mothers Day is a very special day. Sons and daughters have bought gifts for their mother. Some have bought or picked flowers. And the phone lines are jammed with long distance calls. I think the restaurants are exceptionally busy also. Of the people who have lost there mother, some choose this day to visit their grave. To place flowers by the headstone, talk to them, or just visit and pay last respects.
It is with this last category that I have a problem. There is no headstone for which I can place the flowers that my mom loved so much. There is no grave for me to stand over and grieve and cry my tears. Maybe I am just selfish, but I feel so deprived of these things. I miss my mom.
My neighbor probably thinks I’m a little touched in the head because I give the oak tree in my back yard so much attention. Of all the trees in the yard, the oak tree gets the most care. I give it water and keep the grass pulled up from around it. I believe that my mother lives on in this oak tree. Feeding off her ashes, that I placed under the tree. And yes, I talk to a tree. I miss my mom.

Floyd H. Smith, Jr.
May 22, 2002

And the Lord God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground––trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food. In the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of knowledge of good and evil.
GENESIS 2:9

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Bastard

Life In The Fast Lane

CART

After years of name calling,
a man finally finds peace.

A short story
by
Floyd H. Smith, Jr.

Life In The Fast Lane

Jim knew they had to hurry, but the ride was awfully rough and painful. As the gurney was rushed down the hallway, it seemed that every crack in the floor was like going over a big boulder. He was in a lot of pain, and Jim knew that his injuries were serious.
Suddenly, his life was passing before his eyes. He was five years old and running through the house, hollering, and having fun, as kids will do. His Mother’s boyfriend was laying on the couch. Joe, he thought his name was, but he wasn’t sure. There had been so many. “Hey, you little bastard! Why don’t you go out in the street and play?” Jim didn’t like this man. In fact, he didn’t like any of the men that his mother had over.
In the next scene, he was in the third grade. It was recess, and all the children were in the playground. Some of the kids were in a circle, holding hands, and running around Jim. But it wasn’t “Ring Around the Mulberry Bush” that they were singing. Jim sat on the ground with the circle of kids running around him. “Jimmy’s a bastard, Jimmy’s a bastard,” they were shouting! Jim knew that he was a bastard because his mother had explained it to him, and she didn’t know who was his father. What he didn’t understand was why the other kids always made fun of him.
The years passed, and Jim had gone through most of his childhood being called a bastard. He never understood it, and didn’t like it, but he did learn to live with being called that awful name.
When your life passes before your eyes, it goes by real fast. Jim was now a senior in High School. He was running in a track meet. It was the hundred-yard dash, and he knew that he was the one who was going to break the ribbon. He was giving it all he had, and he could hear the spectators shouting. There was one spectator he heard exceptionally clear. “Look at that bastard run!” the man shouted. After High School, Jim joined the military. Now, he would get some respect.

It was the first day of Boot Camp, and all the recruits were in some sort of formation on the parade ground. There were two men standing in front of, and facing them. The meanest looking one of the two shouted, “I am Sargent Bracket, and this is Sargent Mackay! We will be your mother and your father! And by the way, we are not married! You know what that makes you! That’s right, maggots, you’re all bastards!”
The military wasn’t for him. When his hitch was over, Jim accepted a life as a civilian. He went from town to town, working different jobs. He never married, and was somewhat of a loner. While walking home from work one night, two muggers attacked him from out of the darkness. Laying there on the pavement in semi-consciousness, Jim heard one of the muggers speak. “Let’s kill the bastard,” he said. The sound of approaching sirens had saved his life. With police cars coming to the scene, the two muggers ran off into the darkness.
The scenes from Jim’s life abruptly stopped. The pain he was experiencing was unbearable. He opened his eyes and saw nothing but a bright light. The light wasn’t what he expected, though. He was in an emergency room of a hospital. In great pain, and barely conscious, Jim could hear voices way off in the distance. “If we don’t get this bleeding stopped, this poor bastard’s going to die!”
The pain suddenly stopped, and Jim knew that his time on this earth was over. He smiled. “I’m going home. I won’t be a bastard anymore, and today, I will meet my Father.”

Floyd H. Smith, Jr.

Sept. 25, 2003

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