RC Colas in the Irises
Occasionally, I remember a childhood experience that
I have not recalled since childhood. The memory is still clothed in child
hood logic and emotion. Sometimes when reexamining such an experience
with adult logic I arrive at new conclusions and new emotions that had
never occurred to me before. This is such a tale.
I lived in a small town neighborhood on Madison Street with friends my age in every direction. We would assemble and play in the streets and any yard large enough to contain us. Some times the owners ran us off their property, especially when we trampled flowers or broke things with flying baseballs or sticks. On Jefferson Street, where my pal Kenny lived, just behind my home, was a very large, old, scary looking home. In it lived a little-old, white-haired lady, Mrs. Davidson. We seldom saw her, were pretty frightened of her for some reason, and would run when she made herself visible. Her yard contained the only pataugwa (Indian cigar) tree in the neighborhood, which was surrounded by what seemed like acres of irises. On a fairly regular basis we had to sneak in and climb the pataugwa tree to harvest the Indian cigars for smoking. This was always a scary adventure since being caught in the tree by Miss Davidson would surely lead to instant death, especially since getting to the tree required trampling through her irises.
On more than one occasion she shouted at us causing near cardiac arrest, as we made gallant escapes into the nearby woods, where we maintained a cardboard club house, thanking God a clean getaway, and another day of life.
Then one day the most magical thing happened. As Burt and I stood watch while Kenny climbed the tree I felt something slick under my feet. Leaning down to look I discovered an RC Cola tucked in the irises. Such a find in those days for me could be compared with the discovery of gold at Sutter's mill, kicking off the great gold rush. Before I could catch my breath Burt lifted another from the flowers. Oh My GOD!! A quick search turned up a third one for Kenny who very quickly forgot about the Indian cigars and dismounted the tree almost as fast as when we warned him of Miss Davidson approaching.
A week later after regaining our courage we returned to the tree
actually more interested in searching the irises than in Indian cigars,
just in case we had missed something. Sure enough, we found three more big
beautiful RC Colas. Over the course of the summer we did this over and
over, occasionally finding not only RC Colas but also other
goodies like candy bars. Strangely enough, we never were that curious
about where the goodies were coming from. To us we had discovered a magic
iris patch that somehow sprouted RC Colas and candy bars.
I remembered this experience just recently, having not thought about it since childhood. For the first time I began to ask myself about the real source of treasure. There can be little doubt that Miss Davidson was placing them there for us and for the first time I realized that she was not scolding us at all. She was just trying to be friendly. The RC Colas must have been her last ditch effort at participating with us. I hope she had some idea how much we enjoyed getting the colas. I wish there was some way I could go back and thank that wonderful white-haired lady for making three little boys very happy.