Me and Buzz and Growin’
One night, me and Buzz were lying out back in his mama’s yard just hanging. We wanted to go hiking across the top of Yellow Ridge but his mama was having none of it. Since Buzz’s pappy had gone, she was feared people coming to her house and stealing things; to be honest with you, his mama had nothing worth stealing.
So there we were looking at the stars, we must have been about five years old and right there and then I convinced my friend that the fireflies were little people and the lights were their little city. I kind-a guessed back then that Buzz wasn’t gonna be no Einstein.
Now Buzz would tell you that he’s a gnat’s wing taller than me but he ain’t telling the truth. All thru’ schooling he was always the small one – I guess he thought back to the fireflies and was hoping that he wasn’t the smallest thing on this here planet.
Nope, between you and me and the kitchen stove, I was always the first between me and Buzz to feel the rain, I swear on a stack of bibles that’s true.
Then one day he grew more than me and I was kind-a suspicious until I check and see he’s been messin’ with his boots, stuffin’ them with old socks so he looks taller.
In his naked feet he still ain’t bigger than a grasshopper – I tell ya he could look one right in the eye.
I swear that boy has an inferiority complex, at least ways that’s what Stevie (the cleverest kid in school) told me. Not too sure what it means.
One day Buzz says to me ‘Jay, ain’t it time we headed over to Duchess County a spell’ and of course I asked him if that was where all the short kids went these days.
He said nothing until his fist hit my face. He was that quick that I didn’t see nothin’ till it was right there on the end of my nose – which was now as flat as Corry Mitchin’s chest.
Of course I ain’t for hittin’ my best friend, on account that he’s so stupid – no sir, so I did what anyone would do, I threw his boots into the river. Even the Sunday preacher would have said I had a right.
No man should put a fist to his best friend’s nose.
Buzz keeps saying that on account of his good looks – only his mama told him that – that maybe we should think of headin’ out west to California.
I drag him to the old barber shop to show him on the Civil War map that hangs on the wall there, how far it is.
Buzz says, ‘it can’t be more than 11 or 12 inches at most’ and that wasn’t too far – from where he was standing. Can you believe my best friend, just how stupid he is?
So the upshot is, me and Buzz are heading out west just as soon as he finds another pair of boots.
Guess he’s scared he might get beaten up by the grasshoppers on the way there.
Me and Buzz and The Grand Canyon
One summer, not long after Buzz’s Pa disappeared over the border with that dancer, me and Buzz counted what we had in our vacation money jar and it came to a grand total of seventeen cents. I kid you not.
The truth was that we never really went anywhere other than town. It was just nice to think that, if we had wanted to, we could go to the North Pole (Buzz’s idea).
I told Buzz that before I went to the big roundup in the sky (I heard the pastor say that once and I’m not real sure what it means) that I wanted to see the Grand Canyon.
Buzz thought it stupid that I wanted to go and see a ‘hole-in-the-ground’ as he put it, when we could be standin’ on top of the world. Whatever we decided – seventeen cents wasn’t gonna get us anywhere real fast.
Then Buzz looked at me in one of those cockamamie ways that he does when he’s got an idea so good that he thinks his head might just blow up there and then – (that’s the way Buzz talks and even Doc Smith, the best doctor in town, said there ain’t nothin’ they can do for Buzz, talkin’ the way he does).
So Buzz looks at me with those crazy eyes and says that if I wanna see the Grand Canyon then all I need to do is just follow him.
Okay, I’m thinkin’ that Buzz is goin’ a bit stupid ‘cause of his pa and all, disappearin’ the way he did. But what the heck, I said I’d follow him anyhoo (truth is, I’d probably follow Buzz over the edge of a cliff, if the circumstances were right – I kid you not). Probably will give that a try one day just to see what happens.
Buzz borrows his lil’ sister’s bicycle and the two of us sit real uncomfortable on the thing. I’m hopin’ that the Grand Canyon ain’t as far as people say, on account that my bee-hind is startin’ to go real numb.
And before we know it, we’ve stopped at Cooper’s Valley and Buzz looks at me as if to say, ‘behold one of the wonders of the world’ – actually that is what he did say – but I didn’t want to tell you that, in case you thought Buzz had gone moon-crazy.
So I look at him real strange ‘cause I ain’t sure what’s goin’ on with my bestest pal, but I think he knows what he’s doin’. I tell him that Cooper’s Valley ain’t the Grand Canyon and Buzz just spits on the ground and gives me a huge grin. He says that I know that, and he says that he knows that, but there are some folks who don’t know that and that they’re the kinda folks we’re lookin’ for.
And I say ‘How so Buzz?’ (Mainly ‘cause I like sayin’ ‘how so’) and he tells me that we charge the good folks of town (and by folks he means the kids) a nickel to see the Grand Canyon and then we take them out to Cooper’s and there you have it – they’ll never know the difference.
And after Buzz gave that lil’ speech, he kinda rubbed his hands as if he’d found the secret to makin’ money. Maybe he had, who’s to say?
Anyhoo, the followin’ Saturday, Buzz rounds up several kids who are doin’ their usual game of kickin’ rocks about Main Street. Now the catch in all this is, that the kids didn’t have no nickels, or any money. As one of them said, “d’you think if I had a nickel, I’d be kickin’ a rock around town?” And you gotta admit the kid had a point.
So instead of the money, Buzz accepted an old painted stick, a rock that they had been well and truly kicked, and a stick of chewin’ gum. All to take the kids out and show them the Grand Canyon.
The kids all sat on the back of Buzz’s lil’ sister’s wooden trailer which he’d tied to the back of the bicycle. It took the two of us, what seemed like hours, to pull them kids on that trailer.
When we got to Cooper’s Valley, the kids were all excited and some were shoutin’ about how big the Grand Canyon was and Buzz just looked at me, as if to say ‘I told you so’.
What we didn’t know was the kids knew what we were up to (as usual, we didn’t know that they knew) until they told us to go into the Grand Canyon first and then they’d follow us – ‘cross their hearts and hope to die’.
We had only just got to the bottom of Cooper’s, when the town kids waved down, shouted what sounded like ‘suckers’ and then jumped on Buzz’s lil’ sister’s bicycle and trailer and headed back to town.
I tell you, it was one long walk home and at the end of it, Buzz’s Ma made us give the seventeen cents to his lil’ sister.
Last I saw Buzz, he was standin’ outside his own home with a big sign hangin’ around his neck which said in bright red paint:
“I ain’t never seen the Grand Canyon”.
I think his Ma made him do it.
bobby stevenson 2017