The Red Marble
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.
"Hello Barry, how are you today?"
"H'lo, Mr. Miller. Fine, thank ya. Jus' admirin' them peas.
Sure look good."
"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?"
"Is that right? Let me see it."
"Here 'tis. She's a dandy."
"I can see that. Hmmmm, only thing is this one is a 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 marble."
"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."
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.
"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."