“You know I put that old television set out in front of my house the night before trash day and it was gone in less than an hour.”
“I’m happy for them. If their resourceful enough to take some one else’s trash and make money from it, good for them. Their only overhead is tools and gas for their vehicle because they don’t pay anything for their products.”
Solomon scratched his chin and rested his palm on the rake he was using. Our conversation sparked an old story in his mind. I’m forever grateful he shared it with us.
“You know there was a man in our neighborhood we called The Scrap Man. This man rode all around all of the neighborhoods everyday collecting old appliances, furniture, tools and equipment. He knew the trash schedule of every neighborhood so he was there collecting before anybody else. He knew how to get money out of almost everything. He took apart motors, repaired them and used them for something else. As kids we used to go in his yard and eat the fruit off of his trees. He would run us off but that didn’t stop us from coming back when the new season came. The man rode around in the same truck for over thirty years with a knot of money in his front pants pockets, shirt pockets and glove box.”
My friend was concerned about the old man’s safety, riding around with a bunch of cash, collecting peoples’ trash.
“You mean to tell me that, that old man road around with all of that money on him and nobody tried to rob him or anything?”
Salmon removed one of his work gloves, smiled and wiped his brow before answering.
“No, everybody knew him and his family and boy he had a big family. Nobody was gonna mess with The Scrap Man and if somebody did everybody else might deal wit ‘em. That’s how the neighborhood was back then; people looked out for each other. The Scrap Man had a lot of kids but he had this son, one of the younger ones. He found a lot of trouble and he was kind of the black sheep of the family. The Scrap Man brought that Black Sheep Boy back home to live with him so he could keep an eye on him. He gave him a little work to do and kept a roof over his head. The rest of the brothers and sisters looked down on him and treated him worse than everyone else in the family. But he didn’t care. That Black Sheep Boy was slowly getting his life together. He got to spend plenty time ‘round his daddy, soaking up wisdom and learning about his business.”
Solomon paused to take sip of his sweet tea; he was growing parched under the Florida Sun. I waited patiently for the conclusion to his tale.
“In The Scrap Man’s backyard he had more than just fruit trees; he had what we kids called statues in his backyard. There was TVs, washing machines, dishwashers, dryers, refrigerators, microwaves and stuff lined up everywhere. The Scrap Man went out there and tended to his statues everyday. One day The Scrap Man died. All his kids and kin came from everywhere to get what they felt they deserved. So they went through the house, his pants, shirts and truck getting all they could. Some of them were talking about selling the house; so that Black Sheep Boy was told he was gonna have to find somewhere else to live. That joker was low, missing his daddy and trying to figure out where he was gonna live once the house was sold.
He walked around in that backyard around those statues trying ta feel closer to his daddy. Then he started going through the statues. He figured he could fix them like his daddy. Low and behold in each of those washers and fridges and stuff was money.”
Solomon chuckled and smiled.
“Yes sir. There was money in every one, stuffed in the corners and cracks and what not. And, he got it all. Every dime was now his. That Black Sheep Boy now had a whole lot of white wool.”
We all laughed. Then I chimed in.
“Well I guess that proves that one man’s trash can truly turn into another man’s treasure. That Black Sheep Boy came out okay, huh?”
“You can bet he did. He took all that money, moved away and ain’t nobody heard from him since. Some folks say he bought a condo down in West Palm. Well, wherever he is I bet he ain’t being treated like no Black Sheep Boy no more.”
We all laughed as Solomon picked up his rake and started clearing leaves once more. That story reminded me of what a roller coaster life can be. Sometimes you’re up and others you may be down. No matter where you are on that roller coaster you should be good to folks. Because, the same one you look down on today, you may have to look up to tomorrow.