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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: Measure (01/10/13)

TITLE: The Day RA Finch Died And The Undertaker Tried To Measure Him
By Justin Atkin


“Six foot, ten and one half inch! I measured him last night.” is what I overheard the undertaker telling some old man as they stood out back the funeral home smoking cigarettes and killing time.

“Shoot, I remember him when he was a young feller. He was my wife Edna’s second cousin, you know. He used to come to the house, and he would have to duck to get in the front door. One time, he forgot to duck under that ol’ ceiling fan we have in the living room, knocked that ol’ hat off his ol’ baldhead”, said the old man laughing.
The old man rubbed out his cigarette on the bottom of his shoe and mumbled something about six foot, ten and a half inches, what a man.

They straightened their ties and walked towards the front door of the funeral home. I followed them through the door, and got in the line that stretched all way through the building. There must have been over two hundred folks waiting to see the man, the man that the undertaker had measured. The line seemed to be at a standstill and it gave me plenty of time to think. I thought about life. I thought about death. I thought, dang, six foot, ten and a half inches is a big man! Then I thought about all the people in line. They weren’t there that night because they wanted to see a six foot, ten inch fellow crammed into a wood box . They were there because R A Finch, was a man. A real man, the kind that are few and far between. That made me think…What is the measure of a man?

Some folks measure a man by his bank account, how successful is he? Some folks look at how many war medals he collected. But I believe a measure of man is so much more.

R A Finch had grown up outside of town on Rural Route 2 , near the Abbeville County line. Around the ripe old age of seventeen, He fell in love with a girl he met in town. He married that same girl the day after she finished high school in 1954. I remember one time, sitting on his front porch, he grabbed her knee and looked at me. He said, “son, she’s the only woman I’ve ever been with.” It made her blush.

Things were good in 1954 and he got a job at the cotton mill in town. It never made him rich, but it was steady work. He worked nearly every day of forty six straight years, except for the occasional three day family vacation they went on. It took every pay check to raise their three boys, an old mutt that took up in their yard, and a little abused girl that they adopted. I never heard him call her anything but Princess.

All those years,he came home every night, right after work. He‘d give his wife a flirtatious kiss on the cheek as soon as he walked in. He spent the rest of the evening with his children. He raised them to be God fearing men and women. He taught them. He taught things like the importance of hard work. He taught them how to clean trout, how to grow tomatoes , and the correct way to grip a football. He read them the book of Proverbs and showed them the Love of Jesus Christ. He told his boys “walk it of” and Princess, well, he just told her everyday how she was the greatest gift God ever gave him. He taught them to help their neighbors, black or white. He taught them to pray. He taught them to be honest and not to think too highly of themselves, even though he thought they were the greatest things God ever created.

He taught them things and didn’t even know it. They saw him cry when that old mutt died. They saw the way he stood by that high school sweetheart, through thick and thin, for 54 years. They saw how he sold his daddy’s pocket knife in order help the Johnson’s down the street put food on their table. RA made them who they are today.

That night, I looked down at R A in that casket. With a lump in my throat, I said to RA, “that dang undertaker’s a liar. Nobody can measure a man like you."

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This article has been read 525 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Bonnie Bowden 01/17/13
I liked reading this story. It really is a reminder of the way life is supposed to be lived.
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 01/18/13
This is a great story. You drew me in immediately and I found myself smiling as I read.

I did notice some little errors like the comma goes inside the quotation mark. A challenge buddy might help you catch those errors. If you need help finding one, PM me and I'll help.

Another thing that might help you turn a good story into a great one is to work on showing. One way to do that is to get rid of taglines like she said. Take your opening line. Instead of is what I overheard, try something like this. I leaned closer to hear the undertaker.
This way it paints a picture for the reader.

I think you did a grand job of using the topic in your story. One of the challenges is to come up with a different POV than everyone else. There have been several stories about the measure of a man. But you tackled it in a fresh way by having the mortician (the word undertaker makes me think of the Old West) literally measure the man. I love your subtle sense of humor. I think you have a knack for storytelling. I really liked how you wrapped everything up in the end. This was a delightful read.
Roxanne Howard01/20/13
I had a lump in my throat just reading this story. GOD Bless you.
Glynis Becker01/21/13
Wonderful entry! Loved the voice and the storyline. Right on topic and enjoyably written. Great job.
LaVonne Wood 01/21/13
I like your witty style in this story. It is sad that a man (or woman) is not usually measured by his heart, but by his pocketbook or his position of authority. Very good story. God Bless!
C D Swanson 01/22/13
Oh my...this made my heart sigh and made my eyes water. So touching.

God bless~
Terry R A Eissfeldt 01/23/13
Great story. Great truths without being preachy. Well done.
Virgil Youngblood 01/23/13
You are a story teller, for sure. Just a little polishing to eliminate a few typo's will bring it forward even more. Well done.
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 01/24/13
Congratulations for your HC in level 1 and for ranking 32 overall!
C D Swanson 01/25/13
Congrats. God Bless~
Judith Gayle Smith02/05/13
I would love to see this fleshed into a novel . . .