The men were there every day, sitting on the porch or steps of the defunct pool hall. The deserted building sat on a corner where two streets met and formed a Y. There was a front porch with an old bench and a couple of chairs. There were four or five men who played dominos or cards, or at times were whittling on a block of wood, shaping it into a toy for a child.
They nodded or waved to most people who passed by. I don’t know why they were referred to as the “boys who sat on the corner” since most of them were at least 40 or 50 years old. One day, I asked my mother why they were always there. She explained it was because they had no jobs and no place to go. One was called Blackie due to his jet black hair, black eyes and dark skin. He had the build of a boxer — wide shoulders and muscular arms. Mom said he was almost full Cherokee.
Blackie lived with his widowed mother. He hunted and fished now and then, went to visit relatives in Cherokee and lived on a pension.
Then there was Lonnie. He had served his country during WW I. Wounded in France he had never recovered enough to hold a job. His lungs were damaged from some kind of gas, so mom had heard. Lonnie lived with his sister and her family. He also received a small government pension. Another regular was Jesse. He really was the only boy in the bunch. Jesse might have been 20 years old. Jesse was an albino. His hair was snow white with skin that matched. Jesse had pink eyes and wore heavy glasses, which magnified his pink eyes showing them quite large. When the sun was on him, his ears looked pink also.
Jesse was tall, but stooped like an old man. He was capable of working and sometimes helped in the neighborhood if someone was building or working on the yard. Jesse lived at home with his folks who supported him.
The fourth regular was Tom Bell. That was his first and last name and everyone called him Tom Bell. It was “Good day, Tom Bell” or “Where are you going, Tom Bell?” Tom Bell was afflicted with palsy or some disease that caused him to shake. His head and hands shook and he sort of stumbled when he walked. Tom Bell lived at home with his wife who worked at Mae’s Diner.
Most people called this quartet of men misfits, idlers, lazy and no good.
That is, until the day there was a car accident right there on the corner.
One of the cars ran a stop sign and rammed the other car. A man was alone in one car and uninjured. A couple with a 6-year-old boy was in the other car. The child was bleeding badly from a cut on his head.
The men rushed to the cars and immediately started helping. Tom Bell fumbled a handkerchief from his pocket and held it to the boys wound to stop the flow of blood. Jesse ran quickly to his home a few doors down the street to use the phone to call an ambulance.
The lady had hit the dashboard and her nose and mouth were bleeding profusely. Lonnie turned her head to one side and using his fingers pulled the broken teeth from her mouth to prevent her from choking. He held her head up slightly to stop the blood from filling her throat. His time in the military served him well.
Blackie’s strong arms was able to extricate the father from behind the crushed steering wheel and allow him space to breathe. By the time the ambulance arrived a large crowd had gathered. The ambulance people commended the men for helping the family and remarked they may have saved all three lives.
There was a nice write up in the local paper the next day. From that time on, everyone in the area looked on the “boys” with a lot more respect, waving to them and saying hello.
No longer were they called idlers or no good. Now they were called heroes. No one knows how many days they sat on that corner, just to be there the day they were needed to save three lives.
This confirms my belief that we are always right where God wants us to be.
Clara Wersterfer [email protected]