Texas

Commentary: “Three Red Balloons” is a Thanksgiving story.

This isn’t a Texas story, but I’ve decided to leave my traditional subject for today to share a story that seems especially fitting for the Thanksgiving spirit. The author is anonymous.

I was at the grocery store on the corner buying early potatoes. I noticed a little boy, ragged but clean, eagerly appraising a basket of freshly picked green peas.

Thinking about peas myself, I couldn’t help but overhear a conversation between Mr. Miller (the owner of the store) and the boy in thin-kneed jeans next to me.

“Hey Barry, how are you today?” Mr. Miller asked.

“OK, thanks. I just adore these peas. They definitely look good.”

“They’re good, Barry. How is your mother?

“Great. You get stronger all the time.

“Good. How can I help you?”

“No, sir. Just admiring these peas.

Would you like to take some home? Mr. Miller asked.

“No, sir. Nothing to pay for them.

“Well, what do you have to trade me for these peas?”

“All I have is my prize ball.”

“Is that right? Let me see,” said Mr. Miller.

The boy handed it to Mr. Miller and said, “Here it is. She is a dandy.

“I see. Hmmmm, only this blue, but I prefer red. Do you have this red at home?

“Not Zakley. But almost.”

“I’ll tell you what. Take this bag of peas home, and next time let me take a look at this red ball.”

“Of course it will be. Thank you Mr Miller.

Mrs. Miller, who was standing nearby, came over to help me. With a smile, she said, “There are two other boys in our community who are just like that, all three are in a very difficult situation. Jim just loves to haggle with them for peas or apples or tomatoes or whatever. When they return with their red balloons, which they always do, he decides that he doesn’t like red after all, and sends them home with a green or orange balloon grocery bag when they arrive on their next trip. to the shop.”

I left the store smiling to myself, impressed by this man. I soon moved to Colorado but never forgot the story of this man, the boys and their exchange for marbles.

Several years passed, each faster than the last. Just recently I happened to be visiting old friends in that community in Idaho, and while I was there, I learned that Mr. Miller had died. They had a visit that evening, and knowing that my friends wanted to go, I agreed to go with them.

Upon arrival at the funeral home, we lined up to meet the relatives and offer them the best words of comfort we could.

There were three young people ahead of us in line. One was in an army uniform and the other two had nice haircuts, dark suits and white shirts, all looking very professional. They approached Mrs. Miller. Each of the young men hugged her, kissed her on the cheek, spoke briefly with her and went to the coffin.

Her hazy light blue eyes followed them as one by one the young people stopped briefly and placed their warm hand on the cold hand in the coffin. Everyone awkwardly left the viewing room, wiping their eyes.

It’s our turn to meet Mrs. Miller. I told her who I was and reminded her of a story she told me years ago about how her husband traded marbles for balls. She took my hand and led me to the coffin.

“Those three young men who just left are the boys I told you about. They just told me how they appreciated what Jim “traded” for them. Now that Jim couldn’t change his mind about color or size… they came to pay their debt.

“We never had the great riches of this world,” she admitted, “but right now Jim would consider himself the richest man in Idaho.”

She held up her husband’s fingers. Beneath it lay “three exquisitely shining red balls.”

Happy Thanksgiving everyone. – V.F. Strong.

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