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  • The last place I wanted to be was Wagoner, Oklahoma. I loved my grandparents but the drive from Austin to the Green Country of Northeastern Oklahoma was a long one, and upon arrival, I was stuck there. Besides that, my grandfather was a semi-retired Minister, which meant trips to the hospital and rest homes, attending church services, and maybe even going to a stranger’s wedding or funeral.

    We were sitting in the living room of my grandparent's home when Papa mentioned something about going down to the courthouse. In addition to being a Minister he was also a part-time bailiff and delivered papers for the court. I was bored to tears from the endless golf tournaments on their fuzzy old television and decided to go with him.

    My grandfather was a slow driver but that didn’t stop him from using all four lanes. He was a big talker too and liked to discuss things that used to be while pointing out their former locations.

    “Now, Robin Hood - (that was the nickname he gave me when I was a toddler and he never stopped using it ) - back in the 1930s you’d see huge wagons piled high with cotton coming down this road. It was a dirt road back then, not much of a road at all really, and when it rained it wasn’t a road - it was a stream. The wagons were so full”

    “Papa, you need to get back into your lane.”

    “that cotton balls flew everywhere. They all came down to Wagoner to offload to the trains. That might have been why they called it Wagoner”

    “Papa, that guy’s going to turn. You need to stop or speed up.”

    “because of all the wagons. I never thought of that before but that must be right.”

    Surviving the drive, we parked in front of the court house, a limestone edifice built during the New Deal (according to my grandfather). We went inside, picked up his paperwork, and then made our gradual exit. Papa had to stop and talk to several friends along the way and introduce me to each one.

    “Hello Doris. You remember my grandson? He’s a little bigger since you last saw him.”

    "Oh my, laws yes! Why I remember you when you were...(a little rolly-poly thing, knee-high to a grasshopper, tiny tiny and cute as a june bug, etc. etc.)”

    I smiled at each one and said how nice it was to see them again and counted off the seconds in my mind until I could detach gracefully.

    Walking back to Papa’s Buick, I spotted him. He looked like a speed freak, or a drunk just sprung from the county slam. I hated him on sight, and sure enough, he saw us and shambled our way.

    Before he could even work his line, Papa spoke to him, “Well, good afternoon. How are you doing this fine day?”

    “Uh... I’m fine, thank you. I was... uh... wondering. I haven’t eaten for a long time and if you could... uh... spare some change, it'd be greatly appreciated.”

    My grandfather pulled out his wallet but all he had was a ten.

    “Do you have any money, Robin Hood?”

    “No,” I lied.

    “Sorry man,” I said to the bum.

    The drunk saw the hardness in my eyes and turned back to my Papa.

    “Anything really. I haven’t eaten for”

    My grandfather handed him the ten dollar bill and I wanted to die.

    He smiled at the drunk and said, “God bless you, son. Now go get something good to eat.”

    “Thank you, Sir. And God bless you too.”

    The drunk dashed away and I tried to bite my tongue, but couldn’t.

    “Papa, you know that man is just five minutes from a bottle or a fix. And he’ll buy it with your money.”

    My grandfather smiled at me with the same smile he used on the drunk, “That may be true, but I don’t believe I was placed on this earth to judge that poor man. Maybe he’ll see it as an act of kindness and it’ll bring a little comfort into his life.”

    “Yeah, maybe, or maybe he’ll just get high.”

    “Maybe, Robin Hood. The Lord only knows.”

    We headed back home for more blurry golf. Papa talked about things that used to be and where they were located, but I was only half-listening. Perhaps if I’d listened more I would have found a little comfort in his words.
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