Sunday, while out and about I drove by the house where I grew up. It must have something to do with mirrors and shadows, the house, while growing up was big, but today seems small in comparison. The pasture next to it that separated Green Acres from our house also seemed small. This is where we rode our motorcycles before venturing down the side streets to get out to the Katy trails. Lawless, I tell you! The yard appears to be smaller or was I just complaining about the size of it as we used push mowers to cut the grass? Regardless, as I passed by I realized that for about twelve years of my life, things were pretty simple.
Sure, school took up most of my time, but there were always the summers. We had a barn in the back yard that we hung out in and plenty of stuff to climb around on. Bicycles to get up-town to the Vicker’s station or the pool hall and then there were all the yards I mowed for money. My dad painted houses with Sammy and sometimes I would help. So as kids, we were constantly in motion.
One summer, Lacey Mahon asked me to tear down a two-story garage/shed that he had in his back yard. Lacey Mahon owned The White City Register which was the local newspaper. The paper office was only about three blocks from his house and he was a hard-working man who was dedicated to providing our community with a valuable piece of information and historical journal every Thursday in the form of a newspaper. I already mowed his grass and apparently the look or eagerness on my face told him I would do it. It was a big job as he expected any good lumber to be saved, cleaned of nails, stacked and covered and the rest of it to be hauled away to the dump. I was about fourteen years old and looking back it was probably a little bigger project than this guy should have taken on. Remember the look of eagerness?
And so the roof starts to come off. Wooden shingles and nails falling to the ground. My brother Danny is helping and my dad provided the tools and the ’67 Chevy truck. We were making it happen! I was actually surprised how quick it was coming along. My brother and I found out that if you stayed on the roof with the truck below, we could toss the scraps into the bed saving all kinds of time. Only later did we find out (from our dad) that all the lumber that missed the bed of the truck… those boards that just fell short, might have left dents in the side off the truck. Might? They did. Oops.
Through the hot summer days we worked. We knocked down boards and pulled thousands of nails, some of which we straightened and saved, and it all took time, but we got it done. Many loads to the dump, lumber sorted and stacked and in between days of demolition I was mowing yards around town. I had been keeping track of my hours and figuring in my brother Danny’s help, for that day to finally collect. As a young man walking down the street with my hours figured on a piece of scratch paper, I was nervous that the total was going to be too much. After all, we tore down a two-story garage! When I asked my dad what he thought about how much it totaled he said, “is that how many hours you worked?” I guess that meant that it wasn’t too much.
I remember the day I walked down to the newspaper office to collect. We had just finished up and I knew Lacey was there. Of course he was there as he was always there. I walked in, stood at the desk where Lacey was sitting and told him I was finished. He pulled out his check book with his ink-stained fingers and asked how much. I explained how much work it ended up being and that it took a little longer than I thought. He said he appreciated the cleaning and stacking the lumber and that the rest was hauled off and to tell him how much. “$167 dollars” I said. He wrote me a check and I walked out a much better man than when I walked in. I cut Lacey’s grass for several years and always thought a lot of him for letting me do this. And I was always proud of myself for taking on a project of that size at that age. But I still feel bad about the dents in the side of the truck. Sorry dad!