Monday, April 21, 2008

These Are the People in Your Neighborhood

Friday night, the children escaped our evil clutches to attend sleepovers at the homes of friends. Saturday morning, at loose ends about what to do with ourselves, minus the responsibility of parenting; Hugh and I went out to breakfast at the local diner.

While we were enjoying our breakfast burrito (me) and Spanish omelet (him), we had occasion to visit with a number of local townspeople who were also enjoying a meal away from home. I came away from breakfast with an even deeper understanding of the fact that we live in a community of what my father would call, characters. In a good way, of course.

Characters such as our dear friend, Junior Jr.

Yes, Junior, Jr. And, while I am well aware that Junior Jr. has an actual first name to go along with his last name of Junior, a name he apparently shared with his father, Junior Sr.; I have never heard him answer to anything but Junior. Ever.

Junior is an older man, and although I’m not certain of his age, his stories of the town's children go back a couple of generations so; he’s clearly got some history on him. Due to a childhood illness or injury-once again, not entirely certain of the specifics and it seems rude to ask-the left side of Junior’s body is slightly paralyzed, leaving him to walk with a slight limp, his arm dangling loosely at his side. This slight handicap might lead one to wonder if Junior ever feels sorry for himself to which I would have to give a hearty hell, no.

Junior is an active volunteer in town, rising at dawn each day of the year to care for the community baseball field, weather permitting. He doesn’t get paid to do this; it is simply his self-appointed job and has been for all the time that I have known him. In recognition of his efforts, the field was renamed for him a couple of summers ago; an event that left him embarrassed and humbled all at the same time.

Each year, on the field bearing his name, Junior dons a blue bunny suit and leads the annual Easter egg hunt for the local chapter of the Lions Club, of which he is past president. He poses for photos with local children for as long as it takes to make certain that not one child misses a chance to be photographed with the Easter Bunny, regardless of the fact that, on a hot day, it will become stiffling in the suit. I have never heard him complain, once.

Junior, Jr. is good people.

Also slightly eccentric, but in a good way, is our friend, Mecurio. Mecurio, he of sky- blue eyes and broad smile; is a naturalized citizen of this great country, arriving via Mexico a number of years ago in search of a piece of land to call his own. The land he ended up with is one of the best cherry-producing sites in our area and, each summer, I can be guaranteed of a knock on my door and a heaping bushel barrel of fresh-picked cherries, courtesy of Mercurio. Despite his time in the States and his-quite good- grasp of the English language; I only understand about every third word that comes out of his mouth which, I have to admit; simply makes our conversations more entertaining.

“You want I bring you some pieces?”
“Pieces of what?”
“Pieces! Pieces! You know, pieces!”
“Pieces of what?”
“Pieces! With the juicy! And the fuzzes!”
“Peaches? You mean peaches?”
“Yes! Pieces! That what I say, pieces!”

Next up, we have one Mr. Irvin Dingle. Irvin stands almost seven feet tall and I am not kidding. Since birth, Irvin has had a condition in which the pituitary gland over-produces growth hormones; leading to accelerated growth. When Irvin was six years old, his father took him to the State Hospital located in Neighboring Big City and left him for tests. He never returned and Irvin lived his formative years in the State system before finding a home in our community a couple of decades ago. Like Junior, Jr., Irvin’s “handicap” is less a cause for concern among the people of our community, who have embraced Irvin to the point that there are townspeople who fight over the privilege of driving Irvin to doctor’s appointments.

He is a gentle giant, for certain.

There are more, of course, too many to mention in one post; we have our own version of Gladys Kravits, a police deputy who would give Barney Fife a run for his money, a crazy Cat Lady Who Lives Down the Block, and a whole host of old men who sit in rocking chairs on Main Street, gossiping like women and whittling. Yes, I said, whittling, can you think of anything quainter?

Clearly, there are worse places I could live and I do try to be a good neighbor, myself.

A task that I’m certain I failed at miserably this weekend when I allowed Hugh to run a borrowed roto-tiller in the new backyard well past dark. A loud roto-tiller. One that kicked up tons of dust which, when carried on the hellacious wind we were having, probably coated the households of everyone within a three-block radius.

You’re welcome, neighbors!


  1. Sounds like Mayberry RFD.

  2. I want to live in your neighborhood--everyone sounds fascinating!