I waited thirty minutes, gave up, and started walking toward the river when a thin, dark, shabbily dressed boy of about ten years of age crossed the street and joined me.
“Mr.,” he said. “Can I axe you a question?”
“C.W.,” I said. “Is that you?”
“I don’t know no C.W.,” he said. “I just want to know.”
”Know what?” I played along.
“Would Harbard or Yale be the best place for me?”
“Harbard or Yale. When I go to college, I got to make the right choice.”
“You’re talking about the Ivy League schools, Harvard or Yale, I assume?”
“Yeah. Ain’t they the best?”
“Some say so, but tell me why do you think you could go to one of them?”
“Cause they the best, and the man on television say I have to make good choices if I’m gonna pull myself up like he done.”
“What man on television?”
“That man runnin’ for president.”
A fog was beginning to lift. “So you want to improve yourself?”
“That’s right. That’s why I come to Little Rock.”
“Where are you from?”
“Down in the farm country, outside a place called Turkey Scratch,” he paused. “You know that white man named Levon Helm?”
“I’ve heard of him.”
“That’s where he from.”
“What about your schooling?”
“We ain’t got no school there. They buses us about an hour to school and back ever day.”
“And you want to go to Harvard or Yale?”
“Got to,” he announced with finality. “That’s what that man on television done.”
“And if you don’t?”
He thought for a minute. “I might end up like you.”
I ignored that. “What do your parents say?”
“My daddy, he run off when I was born,” he said. He stopped and picked up a discarded beer can from the gutter. “My mama used to work, but the chicken plant closed. She don’t talk much now.”
“And you think you can go to college wherever you choose?”
“That’s what that man say.” He dropped the beer can into a trash receptacle on the street.
“Just by choosing to?”
“He called it ‘jerking myself off by the bootstraps’”.
I pretended to look at a tiny bud on a tree while I composed myself. “I think he said pull yourself up by your bootstraps.’”
“Whatever you say. Can you help me? It’s important.”
“What could I do?”
|Young folks, remember choices are|
important. Take parents for example.
I chose a father who was a governor.
It worked out great for me.