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The Red Marbles



 << >>THE RED MARBLES
  >>
  >> During the waning years of the Depression in a small southeastern
  >>Idaho
  >>community, I used to stop by Mr. Miller's roadside stand for farm-fresh
  >>produce as the season made it available.  Food and money were still
  >>extremely
  >>scarce and bartering was used, extensively.
  >>
  >> One particular day Mr. Miller was bagging some early potatoes for me. I
  >>
  >>noticed a small boy, delicate of bone and feature, ragged but clean,
  >>hungrily
  >>apprising a basket of freshly picked green peas. I paid for my potatoes
  >>but
  >>was also drawn to the display of fresh green peas. I am a pushover for
  >>creamed peas and new potatoes. Pondering the peas I couldn't help
  >>overhearing
  >>the conversation between Mr. Miller and the ragged boy next to me.
  >>
  >> Hello Barry, how are you today?
  >>
  >> H'lo, Mr. Miller. Fine, thank ya. Jus' admirin' them peas......sure
  >>look
  >>good.
  >>
  >> They are good, Barry.  How's your  Ma?
  >>
  >> Fine.  Gittin' stronger alla'time.
  >>
  >> Good.  Anything I can help you with?
  >>
  >> No, Sir.  Jus' admirin' them peas.
  >>
  >> Would you like to take some home?
  >>
  >> No, Sir.  Got nuthin' to pay for 'em with.
  >>
  >> Well, what have you to trade me for some of those peas?
  >>
  >> All I got's my prize aggie-best taw around here.
  >>
  >> Is that right?  Let me see it.
  >>
  >> Here 'tis.  She's a dandy.
  >>
  >> I can see that.  Hmmm, only thing is this one is blue and I sort of go
  >>for
  >>red. Do you have a red one like this at home?
  >>
  >> Not 'zackley .....but, almost.
  >>
  >> Tell you what.  Take this sack of peas home with you and next trip this
  >>
  >>way
  >>let me look at that red taw.
  >>
  >> Sure will.  Thanks, Mr. Miller.
  >>
  >> Mrs. Miller, who had been standing nearby, came over to help
  >> me. With a smile she said: "There are two other boys like him in our
  >>community, all three are in very poor circumstances.  Jim just loves to
  >>bargain with them for peas, apples, tomatoes or whatever.  When they
  >>come
  >>back with their red marbles,  and they always do, he decides he doesn't
  >>like
  >> red after all and he sends  them home with a bag of produce for a green
  >>
  >>marble or an orange one, perhaps.
  >>
  >> I left the stand, smiling to myself, impressed with this man.
  >>
  >> A short time later I moved to Utah but I never forgot the story of this
  >>
  >>man,
  >>the boys and their bartering.  Several years went by each more rapid
  >>than the
  >>previous one. Just recently I had occasion to visit some old friends in
  >>that
  >>Idaho community and while I was there learned that Mr. Miller had died.
  >>
  >> They were having his viewing that evening and knowing my
  >> friends wanted to go, I agreed to accompany them.  Upon our arrival at
  >>the
  >>mortuary we fell into line to meet the relatives of the deceased and to
  >>offer
  >>whatever words of comfort we could.
  >>
  >> Ahead of us in line were three young men. One was in an army
  >> uniform and the other two wore short haircuts, dark suits and white
  >>shirts
  >>obviously potential or returned missionaries.  They approached Mrs.
  >>Miller,
  >>standing smiling and composed, by her husband's casket.  Each of the
  >>young
  >>men hugged her, kissed her on the cheek, spoke briefly with her and
  >>moved on
  >>to the casket.  Her misty light blue eyes followed them as, one by one,
  >>each
  >>young man stopped briefly and placed his own warm hand over the cold
  >>pale
  >>hand in the casket.  Each left the mortuary, awkwardly, wiping his eyes.
  >>
  >>
  >> Our turn came to meet Mrs. Miller. I told her who I was and
  >> mentioned the story she had told me about the marbles.  Eyes glistening
  >>
  >>she
  >>took my hand and led me to the casket.
  >>
  >> "This is an amazing coincidence," she said.  "Those three young men,
  >>that
  >>just left, were the boys I told you about.  They just told me how they
  >>appreciated the things Jim traded them.  Now, at last, when Jim could
  >>not
  >>change his mind about color or size...they came to pay their debt.
  >>We've
  >>never had a great deal of the wealth of this world," she confided, "but,
  >>
  >>right now, Jim would consider himself the richest man in Idaho."  With
  >>loving
  >>gentleness she lifted the lifeless fingers of her deceased husband.
  >>Resting
  >>underneath were three, magnificently shiny, red marbles.
  >>
  >> After a while, you learn the subtle differences between holding a hand
  >>and
  >>chaining a soul; and you learn that love doesn't mean
  >> leaning, and company doesn't mean security; and you begin to learn that
  >>
  >>kisses aren't contracts, and presents aren't promises, and you  begin to
  >>
  >>accept your defeats with your head up and your eyes open, with the grace
  >>
  >>of a
  >>man or woman, not the grief of a child...you plant your own garden and
  >>decorate your own soul instead of waiting for someone to bring you
  >>flowers.
  >>And you learn that you really can endure, that you really are strong,
  >>and you
  >>really do have worth.  And you learn and learn.  With every good-bye you
  >>
  >>learn.

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