This delayed offering was caused as I evacuated my home in South Carolina, expecting the wrath of hurricane Irma. Fortunately, she did not come. My prayers for those she visited.
In my first book, Half Way Home from Kinderlou, I introduced four men from my childhood in a tetralogy titled: A Little Help from Monday Through Sunday.
In February 2017, you met Mr. Harp, a blind man who saw how to befriend a little boy. In August 2017, you were introduced to Mr. Holly and Mr. Eli, two men who gave me special attention.
This month I will share with you Mr. Dye.
JAMES EDWARD: Mister Dye, where did that bird come from? He got a mama?
MR. DYE: Yes, James Edward, all animals got a mama.
JAMES EDWARD: I don’t see no other birds around here. His mama know where he is?
MR. DYE: I ‘speck’ she do.
JAMES EDWARD: Mister Dye, how did that bird get born?
MR. DYE: Well James Edward, his mama laid some eggs and he was inside.
JAMES EDWARD: Mister Dye, how could a bird that size get in a little ol’ egg – or was it a big egg?
MR. DYE: Well James Edward, he wasn’t that big when he was born, neither was you.
JAMES EDWARD: Mister Dye, you trying to tell me I was the size of that bird when I was born?
MR. DYE: No James Edward, I ain’t saying you was that little when you was born, but you ain’t no bird.
JAMES EDWARD: Sure glad about that Mister Dye. Mister Dye, how did water get in that well over there?
MR: DYE: Well you see James Edward, (pause) why don’t you take a nap.
Sometimes a friend needs a special favor that can only be performed by a special friend. During that period when I was compiling a log of the numbers on the boxcars that passed our house, my special friend took notes while I was in school. He had only one eye, but that visual handicap did not stop him from helping a little boy build a dream.
Mister Dye was my protector. Although a fence separated our properties, one portion gradually weakened and sagged after it became my quick escape route from my mother Catherine to Mister Dye’s arms whenever she threatened to punish me.
One hot summer day I didn’t know which side of the fence was the safest. We sat on the front porch talking things over. He rose and went to the kitchen to get us a drink of cool clear water from the wooden pail that had recently been drawn from the well. I was following him, but I stopped momentarily in the living room to admire the nice array of doilies on a coffee table. A box of matches also lay on the table. I took a match from the box with the intent of putting it in my mouth as a pretended toothpick, just as Mister Dye did. Instead of getting the match for the intended purpose, I ignited it. It fell from my small fingers onto the doilies. The fire started, and I started screaming. Mister Dye turned and saw the table top engulfed in fire. He grabbed the pail of water and doused the flame before it spread to the settee which abutted the table. I very quickly reached some conclusions. If I stay here, he’ll kill me; if I go home Catherine will kill me. I ran out of the house and dashed to the railroad track – a neutral zone, where I stood in the middle of the rails and wailed. Once again, the neighbors heard me crying aloud and rushed from their homes to see what was wrong – this time. Mister Dye quickly removed the smoldering table to the front yard. Catherine saw what had happened and rightly concluded that I was either the sole cause of, or principal contributor to, the crisis. She approached me in a flutter. My friend, realizing that I was in peril, rushed to my side and told my mother that he too had been having trouble with those matches, and he reasoned that the entire box must be a bad batch that somehow self-ignited.
I had started a fire that could have destroyed everything he owned, yet he was now pleading my defense by repeating, “It was them matches fault. It was not James Edward’s fault.” Sometimes, a friend sees things others don’t understand.
He only had one eye. He used his heart to see who I was before I could see myself.