Posted by: Peadar Ban | October 16, 2019

“All The Way To China!”

I always wonder how I should dress when I leave the house on Tuesday and Thursday.  I sometimes go to the most odd places.  Take yesterday, for instance.  It would not be too cold.  The sky was bright.  And, so I dressed for the weather, and wore a newish pair of sneakers, comfortable shoes, which I figured would be good for a nice walk.

Driving over to meet my friend, I passed a blocked street, where at the far end, I noticed some large construction vehicles, a band of brightly colored workers busily operating large machines and stalling traffic in all directions from “sea to shining sea”.  It’s nothing I haven’t been seeing all over the downtown area for at least…well, forever it seems.  I thought it might be a good place to visit with my friend who would be awaiting me to arrive any minute for “Adventure”.

I arrived just as they were starting to eat their lunch.  My friend Yosef let me in.  His brother Philip was already in his high chair, and waved a big hello to me as Josef offered me a seat next to him. He, Philip, even pronounced my name…more or less.  He is entering the dense forest of human language, and hasn’t yet found the right way to go.  And, since Mama was, as yet, not here in the kitchen we chatted for a few seconds.  I spoke, and he smiled.  He sputtered and I smiled. He has not managed to form the words needed for a good conversation quite yet.

But, soon enough, she appeared, and served her boys.  Philip (I think that is how it is spelled) finding his fingers weren’t doing well enough, or perhaps at that moment he had decided to advance just a little further into growing-up, demanded a fork with increasing vigor and force.  It may have been what he experienced speaking about such grown up subjects as lunch and “outside” with me, and knives, forks and spoons.  He wanted one of those things, a fork, after Mama inquired of him.   He got the  first three letters, but “k” was wanting and Mama wasn’t in her  “interpretation” mode.  Philip, figuring that she needed help, raised his voice, repeated “FORF” in a commanding voice, and pointing in a kingly gesture to the silverware near the sink, repeated it again “FORF” and pointed again.

Close enough!  He got his forf and began “tucking away”.  Most of it got to the right place.  And, only once did Mama, in a bit of a rush since she had to get her hair cut, as she told me, need to play catch as the fork flew from the little guy’s fist to God knows where.  Mama appeared from somewhere and retrieved the instrument, and disappeared.

A  nice young lady from the college up the road where the adults in this family both teach, bound for Oxford she told me, which has a wonderful Catholic community along with a great section, or something, on what interests the young lady most…old things people wrote…appeared as if by magic and took over.  I returned to watching.

After lunch, Josef, promising to show me the surprise he had wanted all day to show me, hurriedly put on his sandals, and nearly dragged me out of doors.  I waved goodbye to Philip, and followed my friend onto the porch, looking for the surprise.  I supposed it might be another “pet”, the last ones being a frog and after that two crickets,  or some strange keepsake, a valuable stick, or another of the dozens of baseballs we have collected over the past few seasons since we started ‘Hanging Out” together.

But, no.  That would not be it.

Outside on the porch, maneuvering between and over an assortment of small shoes and smaller toy automobiles, one or two containers of random things, the odd bat and ball glove, I stopped while Josef bent over to put on a pair of sandals.  “I have something to show you,” he said, and drew a medium sized plastic box over towards me, proceeding, while tugging with one hand on sandal and foot, to empty this box of its contents: rocks.

“See?”  He asked.  Well, of course I did.  They were, I told him, valuable rocks; and wondered where they had come from.  “I will show you,” he promised with a smile, putting on the other sandal with much more ease now that he had both hands free.  Before showing me the surprise though, which I thought would be the next thing, he showed me the contents of the box of rocks, one by one.  He took them out and arranged them on the floor, saving the last one for the best, an old black piece of asphalt which was, he told me quietly and almost reverently a bone from an ancient T-Rex, a genuine fossil.

What was the T-Rex fossil went back into the box and then he led me across the yard to his surprise.  It was a large hole.  A hole big enough to hold two small boys and their digging equipment.  He jumped down into the hole and began shoveling dirt in every direction like a puppy digging for a bone.  It flew down the little hill, over his shoulder into the hedge and once or twice on me.

“What are you doing?” I asked.  “I am digging to China!”  More dirt files out.  In between shovels of dirt going every which way, he continues, “Come on, you can help!”

Now, those of you who know me will remember that I am quite an awful lot closer to 80 than 5; and the last time I worked on such a job as a dig to China was a year or so before Truman was elected to be our President

I stood outside the hole, and asked him if he could hold on just a bit.  I had something to tell him. And for the next ten or so minutes, we had a long discussion about toh time and cost and danger of digging a hole to China, telling him it was something I had tried to do long, long ago, with no luck.  It was no use.  Even when I asked him about how his father might feel about a hole all the way to China in his back yard; right near his patio in fact!

Getting to China was more important he told me, and his father would not mind at all.

So, I joined him in the hole.  But, very soon discovered another valuable fossil, another T-rex backbone.  And, this changed everything.

After some serious discussion of the magnitude of our find, we both decided it was better to wait for scientists to come and authenticate (a word he liked) the find, and make the place a famous archeological site.

A better idea occurred as we talked.  We would take the tools and his wheelbarrow, go across the street to the park and dig in the swamp.

And so, we left, after making sure the place was secure.  It gave me time to think how to stay out of the swamp.  And, keep my new shoes clean.




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