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.