Tuesday, July 30, 2019

The Value of a Quarter


         Today of course, there are few 14-year old kids worrying about family finances, but I really stressed over those hard times when Dad was worried about paying the electric bill from our pool hall.  I offered my ideas on saving money.  One was the elimination of my regular haircuts.  About every three weeks Dad would come to the pool hall before main street businesses closed and send me across the street to the barber shop, in a day when Mr. Holder, the barber, thought that if there was any hair within 3 inches of your ear, it ought to be whacked off.
       I’d go back to the pool hall and the old men would all have some kind of smart aleck remark about how much lower my ears were growing all of a sudden, or how good I smelled or whether or not my cap would fit any more.

       So I told Dad that I figured he was spending about 20 dollars a year on my haircuts, which was one whole good day’s profits in the pool hall, and an absolute waste of money. He thought I was on to something there, and suggested I begin using my own money for haircuts!

       Eventually I convinced Mr. Holder, the barber, who liked to play golf, that if he would cut my hair free, I would keep him well supplied with almost new golf balls I found scouring the weeds around the golf course, which sat up above the McKinney hole on the Piney river, only a little ways from our home.

       Other golfer-pool players, like Shorty Evans, found out about that and I began to make some pretty good money finding lost golf balls. I got a quarter for the good ones. When you combine that with the money I made in the summer guiding fishermen on the Piney River, you can understand how I could sometimes accumulate a pretty good sockful of quarters.

       But I never did think that float trip arrangement was it was fair. I paddled the old wooden johnboat all day for fishermen who gave me a handful of quarters and Dad got three dollars just for renting out his boat!
       One of the old timers at the pool hall said that when he was a kid, his dad gave him a quarter to go without supper, then snuck in and stole it out of his overalls pocket while he was asleep, and wouldn’t let him have any breakfast because he had lost it!

He didn’t seem to have any lasting effect from that kind of childhood, as he was fairly rotund and happy.  But you could make an argument that he suffered psychologically, since he showed up at every church picnic and ate some of everything and all of some things.

       As I think about it today, I come to the realization that what was wrong with me and Dad and those old timers back in those days was the rarity of quarters.  I am absolutely sure that for every quarter there was when I was 13 there are a million today. There are so many that no one any more has to trade used golf balls for a haircut.

       Bartering was part of the Ozarks once and it worked really well. My Grandpa McNew traded a pig for a 1949 Chevrolet pickup once, then traded a bushel of potatoes and a dozen eggs to have some neighbor fix it so it would run.  Grandpa Dablemont never had a hog in his whole life, but he sure did trade a lot of catfish and handmade sassafras paddles for different stuff.

       Maybe that kind of thing wouldn’t work today in the city, but I have a boat I would trade for a small boat trailer. And I have a lawn mower too, that I would trade for about anything.  Do you realize the futility of mowing a lawn when you live out in the country? Mowing the variety of weeds like the ones that make up my ‘lawn’ up here on this wooded ridgetop might kill a baby rabbit or two, or mash some whippoorwill eggs or ruin a patch of wild flowers about to bloom.  And what good will it do you?... the whole thing grows back in a couple of weeks just like it was!

       I know I had something I was wanting to tell you in this column that was really important but now I can’t remember what it was.  If I remember it, I might write about it next time.  Meanwhile I will leave those of you who enjoy poetry with this verse I wrote a while back as spring left us. As a poet I do not write under my regular name.  My poetry is oft published under Lawrence Arthur Dableaumonte’ as I have noticed that poets ascribe to great long poetic names, like Harry David Thoreau or Elizabeth Barnett Browning. 

I call this poem, “Inevitability”.

---I am glad to see the spring come, I hope it lasts awhile.
The hatching birds and flowers, always makes me smile.
The breeze is warm, the fish will bite, and wildlife will be lively.
But then before you turn around, summer will arrively.
And there’ll be snakes and ticks and heat that hangs on like the plague. “Cause spring’s a fleeting young beauty, and summer’s a mean old hag.---

On August 9, at 1 p.m. at the St. Marks Church in Houston Missouri I am going to speak to some folks about the old days on the Big Piney River going all the way back to the time men lived in caves.  I will bring lots of old, old artifacts, some from a hundred years ago and some from perhaps thousands of years ago. I might even recite some poetry! It is a free event open to the public if you would like to come.

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