|The Writer's Page
||May 3rd, 2007|
A new page in The Paper that offers a forum for area writers to display their work, to offer commentary, and/or criticism. Submit work by email, photo art will be considered (we prefer jpg). This will be an occasional feature, scheduled when the editor feels there is sufficent material with which to work and sufficient space to publish. No phone calls, please.
The Most Interesting Character I ever Met
by H. P. “Pat” Gallagher
To begin my story I need to input a little background as it happened in the middle of the 1930’s depression in the town of Poplar Bluff, MO.
My parents had six children, all born before World War II. My father was a railroad engineer and we always rented, because we could never afford to buy a home. My father had an old maid sister who lived in Georgia. She loved her younger brother who was our father. She passed away and left him $4000. That four thousand was like hitting the lottery in those days. My parents called a realtor and started looking for a home in the country with a little acreage. In a short while, they found and fell in love with a little old two bedroom house on two and a half acres about four miles from town. That move ended our tenant days and enabled my sweet hard working “stay at home” Mom to raise some chickens and plant a garden.
About once a month there was a very old Native American gentleman, obviously at least an octogenarian, who walked by our new home heading in the direction towards town. He was lean, had long legs, a short torso, a leather belt about six inches wide covering his midsection, and a long intentional stride. His eyes gazed directly ahead as if he was on a mission and determined to complete it. We learned from our neighbors that his name was Moss Reindeer. None of them knew him personally but each had a different rumor about where they thought he lived and things like, “He rode with Jesse James and knows in what cave Jesse hid his gold.” One rumor had it that the gold was hidden in a canoe in a cave that had water in it.
Out of the six children, I was number four. The older kids were usually out and about going to school, to work, or hanging out with their friends. We three little ones stayed pretty close to the protection of our mother whom we loved dearly. We played a game to see which one of us would spot old Moss Reindeer coming over the top of the hill first. If we were outside when we saw him coming we all ran inside, probably because we felt we needed protection. We asked our mother why he had such a weird name. She explained that it was the practice of the Indian mother to watch what the newborn child first saw when he opened his eyes and that would be the child’s name. She indicated that when Mr. Reindeer was born he obviously observed a reindeer standing on a clump of moss. We didn’t know if mom was pulling our leg (which she loved to do) or if she was telling the truth. It sounded like a likely story so we accepted it unquestionably.
One cold winter morning my baby sister, Marge, spotted Mr. Reindeer topping the hill heading towards town past our house. We all squealed for Mom to come and watch. It was a typical cold Missouri winter day, where a fine wind driven sleet was falling at about a 45 degree angle. Mr. Reindeer had to be miserable heading toward his monthly goal. We were all sipping hot chocolate and in the comfort of our living room with the coal burning stove on high.
Mom said, “Pat, I want you to run out and invite Mr. Reindeer to join us for a cup of hot chocolate. He has to be miserable trying to walk in that driving sleet.”
We were told to always address him as Mr. At first I thought she was kidding, but shortly I found out that wasn’t the case. Mom said, “Just run up the road and ask him politely if he would like to come in the house and get warm and share a hot chocolate with us.” I must have been seven or eight at the time and I have to admit I was scared to run out there and invite him in. I had to prove to my siblings that I was no sissy so I reluctantly did my mother’s bidding. I ran out and met him halfway up the hill repeating over and over in my head the words my mother had told me to say. You can imagine my surprise when I blurted out the memorized sentence that Mr. Reindeer replied in a normal language and voice, “That would be nice.”
Naturally I was elated when he held my hand and we both walked gingerly through the sleet covered yard into the warm, welcome home. Quietly I was thinking that I had really shown my younger brother and sister, Jack and Marge, how brave I was and that they could never call me a “sissy” again. Mom poured each of us a cup of hot chocolate. You can just imagine all of our eyes when the old Indian gentleman whom we all feared calmly took out a funnel and unscrewed a silver cap on his belt buckle and poured the hot liquid directly into his stomach. Mom tactfully engaged him in conversation, and he told all of us how his stomach was shot out during the Spanish-American War. He explained that he received a veteran’s pension so he goes to town once a month, cashes his check and stocks up on supplies for another month. Mr. Reindeer turned out to be a nice old guy who was just surviving the best he could in those hard times during the depression. It was a lesson well learned for us three little ones not to believe in rumors.
by James Pontious
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