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The Best of Times by Melanie Bee Cee

Mikael looked out the window at the dusty town street. He was only five, and rather short, so stood on his tip toes to peer out. Buster was his dog, a terrier mix, who followed the little boy everywhere. Buster was quite sharp, and found jumping up on the bench gave him a far better view. The two were a common sight in the town, particularly because they often were seated behind the blind man with his little sign and big basket of apples for sale.

In 1932 what kind of jobs could a sightless man get? Mikael loved his papa and so came every day to the corner where his father sat, selling the apples from the big tree in Grandfather's small yard. Only five cents for a juicy red ripe apple. A bargain! But in Oklahoma in 1932, nickels might as well have been dollar bills for their scarcity. Not much money around in anyone's pocket.

Buster lay in the shade of the overhanging tree, where the man had set up his table and chair, and watched the children playing in the street. He perked up his ears at the scent, caught on the breeze, of another dog, somewhere far off. He listened for its bark, and answered sharply back when it came. Buster could be fierce in defense of what he considered his turf!

At the end of the day, the small can for the money was usually at least half full. Papa had lost his sight fighting in the Great War, and the small town honored him as best they could. Men passing by on their way to offices or the Saw Mill or other jobs tipped their hats respectfully, and loudly said "Good Morning Mr. Griffiths!" as they passed. The children sometimes came to buy a few apples to be taken home to their mothers for pies or apple crumble. If they did not have the money for apples, they would often trade some cheese or bread or whatever else they had to trade. Offers to chop wood or do some minor repairs around the little house were common too.

Grandfather, Mama, Papa and Mikael, along with Buster were very happy, even though their home was little more than a sturdy wood shack, which Grandfather had built with his own two hands when he came over from his old country. An addition of two small bedrooms accommodated Grandfather's son and wife and their child, Mikael. A few chickens, a good milk cow and a fat pig for butchering in the late Autumn were their main sources of food. Mama was an excellent cook and baker, and the little home always smelled like something good to eat.

Grandfather had been an orchardman and gardener to a wealthy lady in the Old Country, and he brought his skills with him to his new home. So fresh vegetables, most carefully preserved for the coming winter months by Mama, were always available. The apple tree was Grandfather's pride and joy, as he'd nurtured the seedling on the long sea voyage and then from New York Harbor to Oklahoma where he eventually settled. The tree thrived under Grandfather's expert care and the apples were the best for many miles around.

The little family didn't notice the lack of luxuries, because nobody else in the tiny town had many of those either. The age of one-upmanship hadn't come to the little town and neighbors were neighbors in both title and deed. Thus the community was friendly and helpful and kind to one another. It was a precious, golden time. Only the wisest noticed it slip away, because once it was gone, nobody remembered why it was such a peaceful and contented time, except those who felt the loss most sharply.

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