The Picket Fence

The Picket fence

Most times, it’s not always greener on the other side of the fence; the life of mankind has always proven the thought to be true.

There was this old man of seventy some years, thought by some to be reclusive, an unsociable character that is just part of the local landscape. He speaks seldom to most of his neighbors, always hearing the scuttlebutt the neighbors wallow in about him; never lending himself to their party favors of falsehoods.

He reads his books, Whitman, Longfellow, Kipling and Samuel Longhorn Clemens, under the folage of the hundred year old Dog Wood tree that adorns his front yard. The old man sits there for hours, watching the pedestrians stroll by, the children on their bikes and trikes; or pulling their little red wagons behind themselves like little junk wagons.

Often times, it is just the children being the social voices around the old man, ‘hello Uncle Tom’ they would say as they would frolic by the old man in his reading slumber. The grown ups, they are too busy hearing and passing rumors to be social with their neighbor. In fact one of his neighbors, a worn out old farm woman the old man called her, the product of her family dairy farm; missing teeth and waddle’s as she walks down the street.

The old farm woman, she had him a wheelchair, all wracked with deformities and pain; never once with the old man in such a state did the farm woman, or another, offer any comforting aid. At times, rumors can be one of God’s contrary blessings, as the old man’s health, in spite of his years of human service, was just fine.

One day, on a lark, I decided to take a walk around the neighborhood; lived here for a few years and never have done such. This being a quiet Sunday afternoon, the family out visiting with friends, I stayed home to get some work done; but the day is just too good to waste away inside.

The neighborhood is quite large, only a couple of connecting street’s making this walk a long one. The thing that I liked about this neighborhood is that it’s not one of those cookie cutter neighborhoods, very old style; I like that.

On the last leg of my walk, I see old Uncle Tom sitting in his front yard, just looking out at the sky, the street. I walked up and introduced myself, after which I mention an old house with a dilapidated old picket fence that is in desperate need of repair.

He looks at me, smiles, pats his knees, takes a breath, then says take a seat; have plenty of time, so I sit down. This neighborhood is old, he tells me. The house you are asking about, that was the ranch house, for years, that house and mine were the only ones around here; nothing but cattle as far as you could see. The family, in the depression sold some of the land off, and that included this house. I bought the house and a small parcel of land from the family, soon the contractors started building. Uncle Tom was a neighborhood history book.

Then he paused, funny that you should mention the picket fence. It was always just my wife and I here, no children, one of us couldn’t plant the seed right; it happens. But last night I had a dream, a white picket fence and gate, the Mrs. standing in the gateway; she was just smiling that beautiful smile she always gave me. Then the dream was over, miss that woman.

I could see his love for her, the more shallow people take the way he is living more as grief; but it’s not, it’s love. We talked some more, looking up the street, I could barely see my family pull into the driveway, so I shook Uncle Tom’s hand and bid him well.

One day soon after, someone asked if any of us had seen Uncle Tom, it had been a while, but the answer was no; we hadn’t.

Soon the street was filled with police, fire equipment and an ambulance; soon after that the coroner showed up, all in front of Uncle Tom’s house. One of the neighbors checked on him, saw him slumped over in a chair, he had been dead for about a week.

Poor old man a neighbor said, he never had anyone in his life, must have died from lonelloneliness, feel sorry for the old boy.

After listening to the comments of the neighbors, I began to think of the little time that I had spent with Uncle Tom that afternoon. Guess that’s the surreal reality of today’s world, Uncle Tom was never alone, he always had his beautiful wife’s heart beating in him to give him peace. From what I could tell he was content, probably thinking that sooner would be better through the years; but he was content and never grumpy with all the kids around the neighborhood.

Don’t know why people can’t look deeper into life than they do, everyone is in such a hurry to go nowhere; they are in such a hurry that they are speeding right past the true meaning of life. Guess it’s like a friend always says; societal conditioning.

I keep thinking, and smiling, given his dream. I can almost see Uncle Tom fade around the corner, where his beautiful bride takes his arm; then they both step in loves unison steps arm in arm, through that gateway attached to a white picket fence; together.


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