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December 24, 2017

Mystery Gift

In the fall of 1959 I was caught in a search for status. I was in Mrs. Lena Belle Brewer’s second grade class. It was the second year I had entered the big yellow bus to matriculate with those sophisticated kids in the village of Roseville. Our farm was ten miles from Roseville in the very Northwest corner of the district. I was always an outsider not being from Roseville. I was from the much smaller place of Smithshire. It may strain your imagination but as a small boy I did not have white hair. I was a stocky little kid with a crew cut. No one ever described me as skinny. I think towards the end of first grade some kids were getting wristwatches. I became convinced I should have a wristwatch keeping up with the Rosevilliens, so to speak. On the farm our primary seller of toy dreams was Patton’s True Value Hardware store. Colorful small catalogs appeared some time before Christmas. We did have color in the world of the late 1950’s; it had just appeared after World War II. History before that was a place where people lived in dull and fading black and white. 

Timex watch

We loved toy tractors, trucks, and tricycles early on. One year I had sent my folks on a hunt for a toy barn with a haymow. There were many toy manufacturers who seemed ignorant of the fact a proper barn required a haymow. Maybe this was a harbinger of my spending so much time stacking hay bales in those mows. Christmas 1959 my heart was set on a wristwatch. I knew receiving every wish was not a possibility; sometimes it couldn’t happen. Usually though if one gift was not too impractical or too expensive, it would happen. My mother put the wrapped presents under our tree. We were not allowed to tear or undo the wrappings, but guessing the contents from long observation of size, shape, and rattle was tolerated. I had developed a knack for prediction of the contents. There was one gift in a large box I hadn’t paid it much attention. It looked practical maybe jeans or a coat. Another gift my mother was sure I would not guess because I had never asked for it was a utility truck. The truck came with an attached auger and a trailer with utility poles. I had not asked for it, but somehow I guessed it from my memory of that Patton’s catalog and the rattle of the poles. There had been no small box, and I had decided a watch had been too expensive. I had no idea what a watch cost but I feared it must be too high. My mother gave me the big dull looking box. I opened it expecting socks combined with a jacket.

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