Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Old man in the neighborhood

We all had one

An old man who only came out of the house to yell at us.

When you played fast pitch with a tennis ball and hit it in his yard, no one wanted to get it.

His yard was where Wilson and Spaulding went to die.

He was always “Ol’ man” whatever- In our neighborhood it was Ol’ Man McCloud.

He was a tall, lean man with a widows peak and glasses. Never smiled. Never laughed. He looked like a school principal, not that any of us knew, because no one ever talked to him.

His lawn was immaculate, his cars were always clean, his trees were always trimmed. He was the one stand out Caucasian in our neighborhood- the lone upper middle class home owner on a street lined with lower middle class renters.

He never did or said anything to contribute to our view of him, as I said, no one ever talked to him. But in our minds, if we ever did, he would be mean and nasty.

We spent years avoiding him- watching balls and Frisbees and stuff sail over his fence and on his roof. Lost forever.

Mean Ol’s Mr. McCloud- Every street has one because every street needs one.

Years later, my brother and I were grown. He had a son of his own and his family moved into the house we all grew up in. I was over one day and I heard my nephew James talking to some of his friends- they were all about 10 or so, and they were talking about Mean Ol’ Mr. McCloud.

It seems that one of the boys had hit a ball over McCloud’s fence and they were arguing over who should go knock on the door and ask for it. My brother and I just listened and laughed- we knew what was up- that ball was gone for good.

While we sat and watched them argue, it was obvious that no one had the guts to face the Ol’ man on the street.

Just as they were about to give up and search for a roll of duct tape to make a new ball, we all heard a faint chuckle. We turned towards the fence to see Ol’ Man McCloud leaning over the fence, smiling at us.
He turned to my brother and I and said “It sems like yesterday that you two were playing out here”. Actually, it had been because my bother and me never did grow up, but we knew what he meant. What felt like years to a kid flies by in minutes as we get older. And he was right, it did feel like only yesterday that me and my brother, Scotty and Brian, David Williams, the Jacksons, and Mark Robinson (in my opinion the smartest guy in the world) were all playing in the same streets, losing balls and toys in the same yard as my nephew and his crew were doing now.

Mr. McCloud just watched. And smiled. Something I had never seen, or noticed, him do in my whole life.

He disappeared for a few minutes, then came out of his yard with a big box, had to be about 2 or 3 feet square. It was full of balls- baseballs, tape balls, tennis balls and even footballs. And a pool ball- the ivory kind. Don’t know how that one got there. McCloud came around the gate carrying this box and it occurred to me- he’s not as tall as he used to be. He’s a lot smaller- always thin, now he seemed, well, tiny.

He said “ya know, I’ve been finding these things in my yard for years. I was kinda hoping that someone would come by and pick them up, I didn’t know what to do with them.” It occurred to me, well, why not just give them to us? Then I remembered that every time he stepped out of his house or drove up in his car, we all ran like cockroaches when you turn the light on.

So we took the box, thanked him, and my nephew and his cronies were set for another season of playing "bottom of the ninth, bases loaded".

My brother and I stood talking and smiling with Mr. .McCloud for a little while, then, as the light faded we said our good byes.

After that, when visiting my brother, I always made a point to stop by and talk to Ol’ Man McCloud- it turns out he had a passion for photography, even gave me a couple of books on the subject as that was my bread and butter at the time. We would talk music- he had a jazz album covering the musical Fiddler on the Roof- sounds odd, but it was really quite good. We would talk about whtever- just stuff and junk as we used to say.

My brother moved from the house, I moved from the area, and, sad to say, I don’t know if Mr. McCloud still lives in that house, or lives anywhere for that matter.

But it got me thinking- every street needs a grumpy old man.

I hope to be moving soon. To a new house. A new city. A new state.

In honor of Ol’ Man McCloud, I resolve to be the Grumpy Old Man.

Look out Paulden, AZ- populaton three thousand four hundred.

And stay off my lawn!


Blogger wonderbread74 said...

Beautiful. I almost cried. So, was Ol' Man McCloud actually shooting child pornography of you guys all of those years. Did he come out with a big box of pictures of you naked on bearskin rug?

8/25/2004 10:40 AM  
Blogger Pops said...

No- but we did found out what happened to Ol' lady McCloud. Bye the way, what goes better with blue hair? Red or White?

8/25/2004 11:41 AM  

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