Orphan Boy Runs Away And Learns A Lesson For LIFE.
Story by Roger Dean Kiser (Author)
“O beautiful for spacious skies. For amber was of grain,” sang the old man underneath the railroad overpass.
“Can I stand by your fire and get warm?” I asked him.
“Sure Kid,” he replied, stretching out his arm.
Once again I had run away from the orphanage. This time for being slapped across the face for refusing to drink my warm powdered milk. Shouldn’t you be in school?” asked the old man. I just stood there warming my hands against the 55 gallon drum. I didn’t say a word.
“For purple mountain majesties. Above the fruited plain,” he sang again.
“What’s a “fruited plane” I asked him, as I moved my hand as though it were an airplane.
“Fruited plains, my boy. They are the flat lands of American where all the crops are grown. Like corn and wheat,” he told me.
“I ain’t never seen nothing like that before,” I said.
“You will one day. America is a very beautiful and wonderful country.” he continued.
“How did you get to see all of America?” I asked him.
I was in the Navy,” he answered.
Was you in the war too?” I asked.
“My brothers and I were at Pearl Harbor,” he said in a broken voice.
“Do they stay under this bridge with you too?” I questioned.
“Afraid not, son. They was both killed in the Japanese attack.” He said. “AMERICA! AMERICA! God shed his grace of thee. And crown thy hood with brotherhood from sea to shining sea,” he sang. “I love that song,” he said.
I just stood there not having any idea what he was singing or talking about.
“You know kid. This world is full of two types of people. There are the “takers” and then there are the “givers.” Which are you?” He asked me.
“I don’t know,” I told him.
“Come on, Boy. Let’s go earn something to eat.” He said, slapping me on the back. He picked up his small back pack and he threw it over his shoulder. Down the side of the road we began walking.
“You pick up papers and I’ll look for Coca Cola bottles.” He instructed. Hour after hour we walked beside the road just talking and laughing with one another. By six o’clock that evening we must have walked ten miles just picking up papers and searching for bottles.
“Bottles is get’n a little heavy. Let’s cash them in and head back to camp and eat,” he told me.
On the way back we walked into a small roadside store where we traded in the bottles for fifty-six cents. The old man bought a package of hot dogs, a can of pork-n-beans and a can of dog food.
“We ain’t gonna eat no dog food are we?” I asked him.
“You’ll see,” said the man, as he laughed out loud.
Just before we got back to the freeway bridge we stopped in at a gas station. We walked into the washroom and started to wash our hands and face.
“OK. You two bums get your butts out of here,” yelled the gas station owner, as he pushed the door open with his foot.
The old man said not a word. He just dried his face and then he walked outside and stood there waiting on me.
“And don’t come back here,” said the man, as he spit some chewing tobacco which landed on the shoe of the old man.
“We didn’t mean to unconvinced anyone” he told the station owner.
“Just get out of here,” said the man.
We took our days’ work and we headed back to camp. When we arrived the old man opened the can of beans, and the dog food with his knife. Then he raked the dog food out over by the bushes and he rinsed the can out with the water from his canteen. Then he cut up the hot dogs into little pieces and he mixed the pieces into the beans and divided them between us.
“What’s that dog food for?” I asked him.
“Something will come along that’s hungry,” he told me. “You have to eat with the sharp lid kid. So don’t cut you tongue.”
“Why did we have to pick up all those papers and trash?” I asked him, as we were eating.
“It’s like I told you this morning kid. There are “takers” in this life and then there are “givers.” Most people that I know are “takers.” Today we gave a little and we took a little,” he said.
“America! America! God shed his grace on thee. And crown thy hood with brotherhood. From sea to shining sea,” he sang. “Are you going to be at “taker or are you going to be a “giver” when you grown up,” he asked me.
“I’m gonna be a “giver,” I told him.
“I know you are boy,” he said, smiling at me.
Later that evening the police came and took the two of us to the Duval County Jail for loitering. I never saw him again after that. But I can tell you this. I have never forgot meeting my first role model.
To know more about the Author: The Books and Stories of Roger Dean Kiser