Sparks (or not)
Emitted from the fire, their tiny illumination endures for the briefest of moments…then, they are gone

Dirty Jerry

It was the late 1950s – a time before political correctness and environmental consciousness.

My brothers and I would often walk the 2 miles to Trowbridge’s Store. It was a treasure hunt of sorts, as we would gather discarded  soda and beer bottles along the way, cashing them in for candy money once we got to the store.

It was a very rural area in those days. Passing vehicles were few and far between yet somehow we were always able to fill our sacks with a bountiful harvest.

I’m still not sure if the other kids thought themselves above such lucrative enterprise or simply lacked the industrious spirit required for the effort and reward.

At any rate, we owned that stretch of road – except for Dirty Jerry.

Dirty Jerry was so named because of his unkempt appearance. He was unshaven and wore a tattered old coat – even in the summer. He was old, and walked slowly, with the aid of a cane.

He was a familiar figure along the road as he made his daily pilgrimage to Trowbridge’s Store. The man never accepted a ride or money, on the rare occasion when it was offered.

My brothers and I,  young lads that we were,  looked upon him with caution whenever we chanced to meet him on the road. To us, his appearance was sinister and threatening – due more to our youthful imaginings than to any tangible expression on his part.

Plus, we viewed him as a business rival, not realizing at the time that the sack slung across his back was  used only to carry groceries back to his shack.

~ ~ ~

Several years passed, and as a young man I heard the news of Dirty Jerry’s passing. The neighbors had chipped in to see that Jerry was given a proper funeral. My Aunt did some research on his life to include in his eulogy.

There were many gaps in his history but some details were uncovered:

He was the last operator of a ferry across the Rogue River, a short distance from his shack.

He was college educated and had accumulated a lot of money.

He once had a family.

Not much more was discovered about our Dirty Jerry.

Occasionally I ponder the mysterious life of this man who’s surname still eludes me. What were the circumstances which drove him to the life of a hermit? What kind of pain must he have carried along that road while some laughed and some feared? Why didn’t someone – why didn’t I – bother to get to know him?

My ponderings inevitably lead to regret.

It is my loss that a rich story is known only somewhere in the great beyond.

My loss…that a person with feelings and character and something to contribute was never more to me than a scary man to be shunned.

My loss…that my near-sighted judgment robbed me of a grand vista.

May I live and learn.

2 Responses to “Dirty Jerry”

  1. Dearest brother, I know, it is tough when we shun in our earlier life due to myopic view or innocence that something from which we would have evolved and understand.

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