Thursday, November 10, 2011

I really do love the vastness of the internet some days.


Wednesday, November 2, 2011

The Legend of Bucky: A Malvern Boy's Rite of Passage

It was called the rest home by most in town, but it certainly wasn't the type of place that the elderly go to shuffle up & down hallway corridors aimlessly, or lay in bed waiting out their last days on earth. The group home across the street from Granny's house, across from the Leader Office and directly behind Randy's Tastee Sweet (better known as "The Suck" to many). It was named Nishna Cottage, and it was home for a collection of ex-junkies, the mentally disabled, and other various adults with mental and physical disabilities that had appeared to have been forgotten about by family, if they had any left that would even still claim them. The structure itself had served as a hotel in the late 19th early 20th century. It was on the payroll as a state institution, loosely affiliated wit the Glenwood State Hospital & School, a fifteen minute drive west of town. Residents, from what I could tell, were free to come and go as they pleased. A handful of regulars could be seen wandering around downtown most days, and for the most part all of them seemed well-mannered.

 One of the most recognizable residents of the group home was known as Bucky, a, balding, elderly man of medium build, with an uncomfortably short, shuffling gait, and extremely thick, Coke-bottle glasses. Bucky would shuffle noisily down the Main Street sidewalks en route to his customary sitting spot next to the soda machine in front of Mulholland's Grocery Store. The soda machine actually sat in the doorway of the old main entrance to the building, perched up one step from the sidewalk. On Sunday's, Bucky would be dressed in his customary Sunday best; a well-worn navy blue suit, paired with either a regular or bolo tie, typically finished off with a cowboy hat. The downtown traffic was light on Sunday's, but Bucky would be there as an unofficial Sunday greeter.

 Bucky's vice was chewing tobacco, preferably out of a pouch. I seem to recall Levi Garrett as his preferred brand. He would earn his tobacco by offering to sweep the sidewalk in front of Mulholland's Grocery Store. It was a fair and understood business transaction. It was a favorite childhood pastime, a rite of passage for Malvern's male youth for decades, to summon the courage to engage Bucky at his sitting spot to tell him, cautiously, "Bucky, your chew's made out of horseshit & grass!!" Such a proclamation to Bucky didn't really count as being successfully done unless you had a friend who was there to witness it and vouch for you to others, typically later on in the day up at the pool. It was the visceral reaction from Bucky that was the whole point of this juvenile exercise. "Why, you little son's-a-bitches! Get outta here, you!", in his crackly, muddled, high-pitched voice, peering red-faced and wide-eyed through those impossibly thick, cloudy spectacles.

 Some said that Bucky would chase them for a block, his cane wielded like a weapon. For purposes of added dramatic effect, it was common for boys to embellish such tales. There's no way Bucky could physically chase someone away. You could certainly get a reaction from him, though. I still can't look at a pouch of tobacco behind a convenience store counter and not think about what that stuff is made out of. I doubt any other boy who made his summertime living on riding his BMX bike up & down the brick streets of Malvern in that 30-plus year span of Bucky being a downtown regular can, either.