We went down the driveway to the main road to throw rocks at cars. I remember it as the day of my Grandfather’s funeral. My good buddy Stephen Holmes was visiting. We were about 4 or 5, I guess, and we’d been told to get out of the house.
So we went to the end of the driveway, picked up bits of gravel, and when a car came by, every five minutes or so, we’d throw gravel at it and it’d swerve. Big fun.
After a few sedans, along comes this big pickup truck. And we have our rocks and we throw them and the truck swerves and we laugh — but this time the truck squeals to a stop and pulls onto the shoulder of the road. I turn to Stephen and he’s running up the driveway.
I look back at the truck – and the door opens very slowly, and out comes this humongous cowboy boot. And then a huge cowboy with an enormous hat. He unfolds, nearly as high as the telephone lines, closes the door, and walks slowly back towards me looking down at the dust his boots are raising.
And I’m riveted. I just stand there ’til he’s right in front of me. Then he kneels down and looks into my face. Straight on, face to face. He says, soft as the dust his boots raise:
“You kids throwin’ rocks at cars, hunh?”
“Yep,” I say.
“Watch ’em swerve, hunh?”
He scratches his forehead for a second and then says.
“I don’t suppose you know … that rocks can hurt cars.”
“Yeah, you kids think cars are so big and so strong. But they get hurt, too. That’s why they swerve, to get out of the way, so you don’t hurt ’em.”
I remember the squeal of the last sedan, the gravel flying, the look of the old man in the car.
“Now you don’t want to hurt the cars, do you?”
“No!” I said.
“OK. Good. So no more rocks.”
“No more rocks.”
“You remember that?”
“Yeah. I can remember that.”
And then he reached out his hand, and stuck it right in my hair and ruffed it back and forth. Like a daddy might do … if your daddy ever did that kind of thing.
And then he got up and turned around and walked back to his truck. Very slowly, same little puffs of dust blowing out from his heels.
And I never threw another rock at a car, not even a little pebble.
… but I sure do like cowboy boots.
This story was originally part of my one-woman show “Stand Up & Sing, Harp Lady” – (well, originally it was just a part of my life and then it became a part of the show) – in a segment called “The Kindness of Strangers” that had 3 scenes: The Cowboy, The Toilet Seat Cover & Welcome to Massachusetts. Last week I wrote all three stories out to submit to a radio segment called “KindWorld.” I haven’t heard back from them, so I figured I’d just tell you the stories now.
Debra – I LOVE your website! You had me from the moment of the glasses and the book. Still-life as life! http://wallswithin.net/
Loved the story and the telling of it. You continue to entertain!
I love this amazing story! You are a great story teller. Thanks for sharing and making me smile! 🙂
I also grew up along side the highway. My boyfriend(age 4) and I used to take an overnight case to sit on, and we’d put our thumbs up to “hitch” a ride. Thank goodness no one ever stopped for us!!!! (we’d have run like crazy!)
Loved your story. Hey, speaking of past things…..remember that concert in the wilds of Montana, at Great Falls? Have you ever found the CD that we could get a copy of that concert that we played with you??
Daisy … I LOVE how you keep asking me … and I keep finding the video and then some disaster befalls it. But I did just find it again and saw YOU rocking away for 3 seconds (long enough for me to confirm it was the video of Great Falls). We WILL get that on line sooner or later, between your spectacular reminders and my plowing ahead!
Thanks, Cowboy Jeff!
Debra, I hope you will write your autobiography! You are a gifted story teller. The description of the cowboy, his boot, his height, kneeling in respect to you, so he could see you face to face. Truly a work of genius. The conversation is a close second: “Cars get hurt.” My oh my! When you flashed on the old man’s reaction you saw he really meant people get hurt! But he spoke your language to get his point across. Wow!
Skookums – thank you! From a storyteller, that’s high praise. I still remember you leaning over your harp in shorts and telling tales of real life up at the Barn!