The rumbling truck sound
sent us running on little girl legs,
between gushing giggles:
“The Pit Man’s Here!”
Funny how things turn up when the time is right.
I’ve been thinking about writing about the man I called, “The Pit Man” for years. I had started a poem that was never finished (see above). Then, over the weekend, my brother and I were back to sorting through boxes of old stuff at my mother’s. My brother found this solitary picture in a box of random stuff. He pulled it out and said, “Hey, is this the Pit Man?” I snatched it out of his hand excitedly and showed it to my mother. “Yes,” said my mother, “That’s him!”
When I was a child, my grandfather owned 18+ acres of land next to where we lived. He had owned the land our house was built on also, but gifted/sold it to my parents to start their family. The rest of the land was next to and behind our house and was leased out to a sand and gravel company. My parents ended up building their “retirement” home where the driveway to the gravel pit was. fifty years later the remnants of the chain are incorporated into the tree, and the rusty old cable is still coiled on the ground.
The arrival of “The Pit Man” was akin to a trip to the zoo for two five-year-old girls looking for something to relieve the boredom. He didn’t come every day, only when somebody ordered gravel, so his arrival was unpredictable and exciting. He would have to stop the truck in driveway to unlock the chain that protected it from unauthorized visitors. That gave us time to run over and greet him. He would always smile and spend a couple of minutes talking to us before proceeding with his work.
My memory is of a “James Dean” character: handsome, trim and tanned. The man shown in this picture resembles my memory that way Barrack Obama resembles Denzel Washington…NOT! I remember him in the heat of summer in a t-shirt: I remember staring at the tattoo on his sweaty arm while he smoked during a cigarette break…exotic! He didn’t speak like us. He spoke slowly; he said his “R’s”! A child’s first crush on an adult is a memorable life event. Funny how different our memories can be from reality, isn’t it?
Nowadays a mother would have to be wary of her daughter being around such a man; there seem to be so many brazenly bad people ready to hurt children. But back then, it was a different world. It was a small town; my parents knew him. (Funny that they even had a picture of him!) Finding it gave my mother the opportunity to tell me what she knew. His name was Lloyd; he was originally from the Ozarks in Arkansas. She doesn’t remember why he ended up in New England — that would have been a big move back then when people were less likely to move so far from where they grew up, but it was likely economics or because of a marriage. She said he would often speak of his birthplace with affection and wistfulness, and he hoped to get back there someday. He never did; he died quietly in our small town. But he is remembered fondly…
Maybe I am meant to finish the poem…my tribute to what he meant to a small-town five-year-old girl.