You Have To Ask

I’m 78 years old and I’ve met scores those who had much to say. Some spoke well while others should have remained silent. The one person who offered the best advice was Leonard, a man with only a grammar school education.

I was in high school working in the hay fields each summer bucking and hauling farmer’s hay from their fields to their barns. It was hard work. A young man’s job. I jogged from bale to bale so I could pause for a few seconds while waiting for the truck to arrive. This was where I met Leonard.

Leonard was some fifteen years my senior, probably too old to keep the pace I, a sixteen-year-old, set, but he matched my every move with no complaints.

Leonard began working during the Great Depression as a powder monkey (setting off dynamite charges) in a coal mine. I don’t know when, but sometime in his young life a charge went off in his face. It left his legally blind and with scores of greenish specks embedded in his face. While he knew nothing about algebra or world history he was well grounded in common sense. Even though his wife had passed on and left him with three school-age children, the four of them survived and he saw that each one finished high school.

There were many times he had common-sense answers concerning everyday problems teenagers had and still have during the process of growing. However, out of them all that I can only point to a few of them.

During those years the farmer’s wife, for whom we were working, always prepared a meal fit for a king – roast beef, pork chops, corn, mashed potatoes, gravy, pie, cake, ice cream. And lots of each. Young people such as myself with hollow legs took advantage of these situations.

One day while harvesting hay for a farmer everyone knew at Joker, noon hour arrived and we headed for the dining room. Joker’s wife had made a cream pie that had my name on it. Sitting next to Leonard, I leaned closer and mentioned how good that pie was and that I’d like a second helping.

“Ask her for more,” he whispered.

“That would be rude.” I replied.

“I think not,” he said, then added, “rude or not just remember the answer is always no if you don’t asked.”

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