June 12, 2003
By: Ed Chasteen
Sun-News of the Northland
"Little things mean a lot." That was the title of Kitty Kallen's hit song back in the 1950s.
"Little things mean a lot."
That was the title of Kitty Kallen's hit song back in the 1950s. It came to mind today when I was riding out on Old 210 and saw a friend on his bike.
Irvin Williams and his wife, Alice, live at the top of the hill on the eastside of State Road EE. From 210 on a bike it's a long and twisting uphill climb to their house.
In the pasture off to my right just before I come to the house I see and hear the sheep Irvin raises. Just past the house Irvin plants a garden every year, adorned with a scarecrow and noisemakers to keep the birds away.
Today Irvin is on his bike collecting aluminum cans. He has a basket mounted on the back of his bike.
Irvin rides up and down Old 210 on a schedule of his own design and keeps the roadside clean. Sometimes we pause to exchange a few words when we encounter each other.
I come upon him from behind today. As I draw near, Irvin is dismounting to reclaim a can. He turns and sees me and says hello.
I return his greeting and keep on pedaling.
We each are on a mission.
We go to church together.
We had a Sunday School party in the barn beside his house several years ago, not long before a light plane crashed into it and destroyed it.
I like to think that Irvin gets the same warm feeling as I do when we chance to come upon one another on our bikes.
The chances are not good that on any given day we will meet, but it's an absolute certainty that sometime, somewhere on the road we will. Today is such a day.
And on such days the simple pleasures of small town life come abundantly clear to me.
Thorton Wilder's "Our Town" is without a doubt the simplest play ever performed. The only stage prop is a step ladder. This story of everyday life of one family in a little town took up lodging deep in my soul long ago when I first saw it.
Together with "Brigadoon," "Camelot," "Man of LaMancha" and "Les Miserables," "Our Town" has taken up permanent residence as the five-play repertoire from which I constantly quote and daily draw inspiration and direction for my life.
As I come upon Irvin today, Emily's question from "Our Town" comes to mind...
"Does anyone ever realize life as they live it, every single minute?"
The simple rhythms of everyday small town life carry no high drama and no great tensions. These things we need at times in our lives. Magical places that appear every hundred years, places where rain comes only after sundown, impossible dreams and knights in armor, amazing grace never explained and life changing-these we crave with a soul-thirst never quenched. But the bulk of everybody's life is lived between these dramatic moments, in the downtime best found in the repetitive and usually unrecorded little things that take place on back roads and small towns.
For example, I was biking back from Orrick on Old 210 the other day when I spotted a pickup stopped in the road ahead, blinkers flashing.
As I rode by, I heard the motor running. The truck was empty. Or was it?
Maybe the driver had passed out and slumped over. I wheeled around to take a look.
Then I saw him, climbing up out of the ditch and through the weeds just in front of the truck, cradling a rabbit on his left arm and stroking its back with his right hand.
"I hit this little fella, and I went to find him. Would you get that grey jacket out of the front seat of my truck?"
When I am back with it, he says, "Put the grey side up. When I have his confidence, I'll wrap him in my jacket and take him home to see what I can do for him."
He tells me his name is Jerry Sharp. He lives in the red brick house at the west end of the ultra-light airport just up the road from where we stand.
His tending to the hurt of a wounded rabbit did not make the evening news.
But it made my day.
When Irvin and I will come upon each other again I do not know.
I do know that he will be out on his bike again looking for cans.
I will be out again to see our town and to tease the multiple sclerosis that my doctor said would make me inactive.
Our town in some mysterious and magical way draws hope and pleasure from noticing the two of us out on our bikes.
Little things mean a lot.
Copyright © Sun-News of the Northland 2003