I was wrong


It’s taken awhile, but I’ll admit it. I was wrong. Such admission by yours truly is rare and will surely make The Wife smile. But when I say that I was wrong not once, not twice, but three times? Well, The Wife will do her happy dance. Sadly, her dance will be short lived because me being wrong was over 50 years ago.

This story begins where many do, a long long time ago on a familiar street not so far away. I grew up in a typical family on a not-so-typical street called Flamingo. It was a neighborhood full of kids with funny nicknames and funnier personalities. But the nicknames and unique personalities didn’t just apply to kids; some adults had them also – like Walter P. Holcomb, Train Conductor.

Rumor had it Mr. Holcomb moved from England after retiring from 40 years as a train conductor. Now why anyone would move from England to retire on Flamingo Street, I don’t really know for sure, but back then I had a few guesses. It could’ve been because we had the best trees one could climb up and then ride back down to the ground. It could’ve been because of Ice Blue, the swimming hole formed by a sharp bend in Cripple Creek. Or could’ve been simply he wanted to be close to the train tracks in his retirement.

Mr. Holcomb was the first person to build a house on Flamingo, and he picked the only lot that backed up to the train tracks. Guess he was so used to trains, he just couldn’t sleep without hearing them. Or it could’ve been he liked collecting bent pennies. The Flamingo Street Express came speeding past everyday at 4. If you lined the tracks with pennies, the train rolling over them bent and then tossed the pennies into the fields on either side of the tracks.

To say Mr. Holcomb was one of the most unique characters that called Flamingo Street home would be an understatement. He installed an old train whistle in our school bus. One pull on the rope let out a blast heard up and down Flamingo, alerting folks the bus was coming to a stop. Two pulls let out two blasts, the doors closed, and the bus moved to the next stop. When he wasn’t driving our school bus, he rode a scooter while wearing a hat and scarf.

Anytime during the winter when Mr. Holcomb was outside, driving the school bus or riding his little blue scooter, he wore a hat, scarf and — of course — his handlebar mustache. I, for one, thought that was really strange. Why would anyone wear a hat with flaps that could be pulled down over their ears? Add to it a checkered scarf and riding around on a scooter? Mr. Holcomb just looked silly. Looking back some 50 years later, I can see just how wrong I was; Mr. Holcomb wasn’t silly. He was just cold. Turns out he was also something else — really, really smart.

Last week The Wife bought me another scarf. It was the third one she’s bought me over the last 16 years. I didn’t want to look silly like Mr. Holcomb so I haven’t worn any of them — until last week. With the recent sudden drop in temperatures along with a stiff breeze, I decided to finally wrap a scarf around my neck and don the hat with flaps The Wife bought me on our last vacation. Going downtown, I hoped no one I knew would see me and laugh. What happened was truly surprising.

My friends and complete strangers I met that day complimented me on my choice of scarf and matching hat. They all thought I was really smart to wear such warm clothing. I said I wasn’t that smart, but The Wife sure was. She’s the one who suggested I wear them. Except for that one time back on Flamingo Street when I was tumbling around in the dryer, it was the warmest my neck and head have ever been.

So I now officially send Mr. Walter P. Holcomb a wholehearted and sincere apology. Wearing a hat and scarf is not only stylish and warm, it’s really smart. Now it’s time to start shopping for a scooter. I think mine will be electric and fire engine red.

[Rick Ryckeley has been writing stories since 2001. To read more of Rick’s stories, visit his blog: storiesbyrick.wordpress.com.]