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OPINION

Hunker Down: We could see clearly back then

By Kesley Colbert Hunker Down

Robert Holmes “Yogi” Brewer sat on the porch steps and looked out across Stonewall Street at the late December sun lowering behind the distant trees….. “You reckon next year is going to be about the same as this one?”

Silence.

To be honest we didn’t do much looking in either direction in 1957.

More silence.

 It was about the “here and now” for us. We’d race each other to town on Saturdays for the front row, center seat at the Park Theatre. If any of us could come up with a nickel, we’d share a Dr. Pepper on the front steps of Woodrow Kennon’s store. If we weren’t dying of thirst, we’d hustle—with our five-cent piece burning a hole in our pocket—over to Pat Houston’s grocery and buy a pack of baseball cards.

Kesley Colbert

We played army, cowboys and Indians, hid important things or just explored down at the big ditch behind George Sexton’s house. We’d coil up inside an old worn out tire and take turns rolling each other down that high bank in front of the ditch.

We threw rocks at the one single streetlight out on the Como Road.

We played “kick the can” and “hide and go seek” at night. We traded magnets for steel ball bearings. We made fun of the girls. And we all favored hamburgers and fries over brown beans, turnip greens and cornbread.

Of course, what we got mostly last year was brown beans, turnip greens and cornbread… and we didn’t hold any high expectations of the New Year bringing a dietary change.

We fussed about having to wear those starched shirts and rock-hard Buster Brown shoes to church. And I’m telling you, every preacher in town could “shell down the corn” to way past noon, but I believe our Brother Hatcher “excellest” them all!

We played baseball in the summer and complained all fall about how confining, boring and “jail like” school was… which was an interesting comparison, seeing as how none of us had ever seen the inside of a cell of any kind.

Come to think of it, we didn’t need much of a change in the upcoming year… if you don’t count the length of the sermons.

Buddy Wiggleton broke the porch silence, “I reckon so”.

After the appropriate pause to let Buddy’s reply take root, Ricky Hale chipped in, “Do you think next year we’ll finally outgrow those gosh awful spelling bees!”

We had this same conversation every year around the first of January. It had become a ritual. I suppose we were just emulating the adults. They were always divided; half looking back at what was… and the other half looking expectantly towards what is to come. 

Mostly we didn’t care. If we could just get down to the big ditch or find a nickel…

But life did move on for us. We did outgrow spelling bees and eventually, the ditch. Girls somehow made a considerable leap forward between elementary school and junior high. And our significant talks about life, dreams, hope and worldly wonderment moved from the porch at the end of Stonewall to the vinyl booths out at Frank’s Dairy Bar.

I think looking back… and predicting the future used to be a lot easier. Time just didn’t move as fast. And there was a lot less “noise.”

I don’t know if our generation complicated the world… or the world complicated us…

Shoot, it’s near ’bout impossible today to even understand what you just lived through! And there ain’t a crystal ball on earth large enough to start to get a handle on what might be coming up in the year ahead!

2020 is the perfect case in point. It was, to say the least, challenging on so many fronts.

Never in all my life have I heard so many folks proclaim how glad they are to get a year behind them! And I’m not disagreeing, disparaging or judging here in any way.

But we’ve certainly got no guarantee of a better 2021.

And that kinda gets me back to the porch on Stonewall Street. Listen, me and Buddy, Ricky and Yogi didn’t know our elbows from a hot rock back in those days. We were feeling our way through life.

But we didn’t dwell much on things we couldn’t control in the past year, nor did we waste precious time worrying about something that hadn’t happened yet. 

“Here and now” was our mantra.

And when you deep down study on it…..just maybe we weren’t as far off as some of our friends, most of our parents and ALL of those news forecasters thought…..

Respectfully,

Kes