Melody Magazine

James Hubert Blake High School

Ol' Betsy

 

I walked down the paved streets protecting our milk money in my blue suede purse. I took notice to the brand new cars parked on the side of the street. You could tell they were new by the spit shine glare of the sun on the hood. Wait a couple of months, I thought, it’s barely gonna have so much as a twinkle. Of course with these rich folk and their maids it’ll probably last longer than that. I laughed to myself as I thought of how my father and I would wash the car every day just so momma would feel like an upper class woman. I clutched my purse close to stomach, keeping the coin safe and continued on my journey.

The best place in town to get milk is the old farm way in the back where farmer Jerry lives. No one on the upper side of town knows this of course, but I remember all the leftover milk jugs he gives our family when we can barely make rent. I promised him I’d pay him back for all the jugs, but knowing the economy that would have to wait a couple more years; the 1930’s weren’t lookin so good.

I reached the old abandoned railroad signaling the end of Kingsland, Georgia and crossed over them into the next town over. The metal on the tracks were rusted and peeling off at the sides. I kept close to the side down left keeping away from the snake holes. When I got across I staggered through the muddy terrain and took a sharp left through the woods. As I reached the end of the woods I saw an old man sitting on a rotting tree stump playing a homemade banjo. There was something in the way he played that banjo, something beautiful and passionate; something I haven’t seen in a long time. It reminded me of how my grandfather would sit on his old brown rocking chair and play me songs after all the farmin’ was done. The old man looked like he was in his mid-60’s and wore the remains of discarded fabric over his hallow frame. The only thing on him that looked fairly new were his shoes, but by the way they were squeezing his feet told me that they were never his. He may have looked homeless but he didn’t seem homeless; for his music seemed to take him somewhere no roof could ever replace.

He didn’t look up from his banjo but a slight nod of his head told me he knew I was there. I smiled and reached into my purse for the milk money and held it in the palm of my hand. I said a small prayer for him in my head and handed the nickel to him. He looked up at me and, with a shake of his head, denied the money.

“Aint no need to pay me little lady,” he said, “I gots all the stuffs I need to last me till the mornin.”

“But what about food, sure you must be starving out here.” I protested.

“As long as I’m with ol’ Betsy I’m as safe as any man could be.”

He smiled stroked his banjo with his fingertips. He then folded my hand back over the nickel and said, “You go on about your day now, a young lady like yourself shouldn’t be stayin’ out too late on this side of Georgia. It aint safe.” He said.

With that, I thanked him for the music and walked on toward farmer Jerry’s farm, sloshing through the mud staining my newly sewn dress; keeping the nickel clean.

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