This is not a Texas story, but I thought I’d leave my traditional theme for today to share a story that seems particularly fitting for the spirit of Thanksgiving. The author is anonymous.
I was at the corner grocery store buying some early potatoes. I noticed a small boy, ragged but clean, hungrily appraising a basket of freshly picked green peas.
Pondering the peas myself, I couldn’t help overhearing the conversation between Mr. Miller (the store owner) and the boy in the thin-at-the-knees jeans next to me.
“Hello Barry, how are you today?” asked Mr. Miller.
“Fine, thank ya. Jus’ admirin’ them peas. They sure look good.”
“They are good, Barry. How’s your Ma?”
“Fine. Gittin’ stronger alla’ time.”
“Good. Anything I can help you with?”
“No, Sir. Jus’ admirin’ them peas.”
“Would you like to take some home?” asked Mr. Miller.
“No, Sir. Got nuthin’ to pay for ’em with.”
“Well, what have you to trade me for some of those peas?”
“All I got’s my prize marble here.”
“Is that right? Let me see it,” said Mr. Miller.
The boy handed it to Mr. Miller and said, “Here ’tis. She’s a dandy.”
“I can see that. Hmmmmm, only thing is, this one is blue, and I sort of go for red. Do you have a red one like this at home?”
“Not zackley. But almost.”
“Tell you what. Take this sack of peas home with you and next trip this way let me look at that red marble.”
“Sure will. Thanks Mr. Miller.”
Mrs. Miller, who had been standing nearby, came over to help me. With a smile she said, “There are two other boys like him in our community, all three are in very poor circumstances. Jim just loves to bargain with them for peas, apples, tomatoes or whatever. When they come back with their red marbles, and they always do, he decides he doesn’t like red after all and he sends them home with a bag of produce for a green marble or an orange one, when they come on their next trip to the store.”
I left the store smiling to myself, impressed with this man. A short time later I moved to Colorado, but I never forgot the story of this man, the boys and their bartering for marbles.
Several years went by, each more rapid than the previous one. Just recently I had occasion to visit some old friends in that Idaho community, and while I was there learned that Mr. Miller had died. They were having his visitation that evening, and knowing my friends wanted to go, I agreed to go along with them.
Upon arrival at the funeral home we fell into line to meet the relatives and to offer whatever words of comfort we could.
Ahead of us in line were three young men. One was in an Army uniform, and the other two wore nice haircuts, dark suits and white shirts – all very professional-looking. They approached Mrs. Miller. Each of the young men hugged her, kissed her on the cheek, spoke briefly with her and moved on to the casket.
Her misty light blue eyes followed them as, one by one, each young man stopped briefly and placed his own warm hand over the cold hand in the casket. Each left the viewing room awkwardly, wiping his eyes.
Our turn came to meet Mrs. Miller. I told her who I was and reminded her of the story she had told me, many years ago, about her husband’s bartering for marbles. She took my hand and led me to the casket.
“Those three young men who just left were the boys I told you about. They just told me how they appreciated the things Jim ‘traded’ them. Now, at last, when Jim could not change his mind about color or size … they came to pay their debt.
“We’ve never had a great deal of the wealth of this world,” she confided, “but right now, Jim would consider himself the richest man in Idaho.”
She lifted the fingers of her husband. Resting underneath were “three exquisitely shined red marbles.”
Wishing all y’all a Happy Thanksgiving. – W. F. Strong.