When I was four Lucas McCain, “The Rifleman,” and Steve McGarrett, head of “Hawaii Five-0,” were the standards of measure for gods. They were Kings among mere men. That was, until the afternoon Dad had me open the doors to our brand new console cabinet colored television set from which a most coveted Lucas McCain rifle fell to my feet thus turning the aforementioned duo into a trinity.
Ok, honestly, the rifle did not mirror The Rifleman’s exactly. Meaning, it was not a Winchester model 1873 nor did it have the capital D-shaped modified cocking lever. In truth it was a cheap plastic 410 but who cared? My .38 revolver made out of a wooden hammer and shoulder holster made of a belt and a piece of rope did not mirror McGarrett’s either.
I had a girlfriend named Connie Stevens, not the Connie Stevens, rather, the five-year-old. She was my first kiss. She had the sweetest lips, prettiest face and most lustrous auburn brown long beautiful hair ever. We “were norna get married.” We had no idea what that meant but we were sure “norna” do it. We played, rode bicycles together, walked holding hands, and we were in love inseparable and fearless.
My new rifle having really bolstered my firepower, no harm would ever befall neither Mrs. McCain/McGarrett nor me. “Monserts,” as I called monsters back then and Bad Guys beware.
I was so enamored with her. Connie was my friend with whom I was unfazed by, carefree in and utterly oblivious to the world around me.
Case in Point:
On a sunny central San Joaquin Valley day in Huron California, 1966, Connie and I, my two sisters and our Moms were returning from the store. I of course had my rifle in tote although I do not think I was “The Rifleman” that day. I think I was John Wayne, “on point,” patrolling “The Sands of Iwo Jima.” I don’t recall where I picked up that term, probably from watching old war flicks with Dad, at any rate, I just remember being “on point” out front protecting the women folk being the only man along.
Just ahead on the left I spied a pair of work boots lying on the ground. Coming closer I saw a pair of blue jeans lying directly behind them. As Mom got closer and noticed the boots I heard her say,
“Oh look…those look like they might fit John."
John, my Dad, was a police officer with the Huron Police Dept. but was off duty that day.
The Chief of Police, Clarence Enos, pulled up and began speaking with Mom in what had to have been more than a half hour later. I say that for a couple of reasons. The first being, again, it was 1966 so cell phones did not exist. Even if they did, I am certain Mom did not have one. Moreover, since the “Sands of Iwo Jima” in reality was dust alongside the railroad tracks behind an empty warehouse district, someone had to have made their way to a phone. And last, just as an aside, I’m betting that Chief Enos’s response time was doubtless to departmental handbook specs; so, I’m thinking arriving at least a half hour after he got the call is a safe guess.
In the Bible God commands us to love one another and bear one another’s burdens. He says man plans his way but his steps are of the Lord, and also man will have the fruit of his own doings. However, people are incapable of unconditional love and often times our own burdens are hard enough without us taking on the burdens of another.
We plan our way, which is wise, but we also mistakenly think we have complete control of our lives. We are the captains of our ships; we are the masters of our destinies all the while never realizing we are neither. To be in complete control of one’s life one must control two things that are beyond our control those being the unknown and the unexpected. We do not control those two things nor can we, thus we truly control….nothing.
John Mellencamp wrote, “There’s a good life, right across this green field. And each generation stares at it from afar. But we keep no check, on our appetites. So green fields turn to brown like paper in fire.”
Along the years, I have thought back to that day many times. Usually when I catch myself being selfish, impatient, judgmental of others or especially when I get the fruits of my own wrong doings.
We moved countless times when I was young and soon after, I never saw Connie again. I do pray the years since have been kind to her. Much later in life I saw something that gave me a fuller understanding of what happened that day long ago however, the four and five year old mind does wander, so, although we never talked about it, I know what I saw that day. I wonder what she saw.
Prior to shifts end that morning, Dad released a man from the drunk-tank he had arrested the night before. He had a string of alcohol related arrests and spoke little English. I wonder if he was born here. Was he an immigrant from Mexico? Did anyone love him? Did he feel like nobody loved him? I wonder if he had anyone to help him bear his burdens. Did he at one time have everything but lost it due to his drinking? Had he gotten the fruit of his own doings, or was it perhaps none of the above. At any rate:
His name was Juan Corosco. And he was the man in the blue jeans over the work boots I spied lying on the ground that beautiful carefree central valley day long ago in my imaginary “Sands of Iwo Jima” –and he was dead.