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Parker  

As I was saying,  one of the worst parts of growing old is watching your memory slip away--
 bit by bit at first, then in greater and greater chunks as time passes.

    For instance,  I have absolutely no recollection of the first day that strange man came to live with us on the farm.  I don't even remember the first time we ever spoke to each other.  Yet,  he turned out to be a very important part of my life.

Parker in the sweet potato patch!!

    He was slightly past middle age and more than slightly overweight.  His toes pointed outward just a bit,  and he almost always had a self-satisfied grin on his face.  The unused part of his belt hanging down from the buckle made it pretty obvious that he had once been even heavier.  His name was "Parker."  I don't know if that was his first name or his last name.  I forgot to ask.  I also forgot to ask if he had ever been married or had any children.  I guess I was just never curious.  I never knew where he was from,  how far he went in school,  what he did for a living, what his religion was or anything else! 
    My Uncle George showed up with him one Sunday afternoon. Uncle George was some kind of big shot at the Leesburg State Prison Farm.  Parker was an inmate there.  He had been convicted of selling motor oil as Quaker State Oil when it was really some cheap inferior oil.  He had been paroled to serve out the rest of his sentence at our farm.  He didn't receive any pay.  All he got was food and a place to sleep.  He was really much better off on the prison farm,  but maybe he didn't like living there.
    Right up until I left for military service, we worked together seven days a week.  Every morning at five we started work together in the dairy barn.  I milked the seven cows [by hand] and Parker did everything else.  We talked to the rhythm of the milk going into the pail.  We talked about things I wanted to talk to my father about.  We talked about the depression,  about socialism, about life on the prison farm,  about poverty,  about President Roosevelt, about Henry Wallace,  and about the little ditch that ran through our farm.  His job after I went to school was cleaning out that damned ditch every day.  [ The old farm is a luxury housing development now. Mae and I go out there to walk around and cry occasionally.  That quiet little ditch is still running! ]
    I never got to know my father very well.  I don't think we ever had an actual conversation about anything.  He would just tell me what to do and how to do it.  Sometimes he would check in later to see if I had done it and to tell me that I hadn't done it correctly.  He wasn't a bad person.  That's just pretty much the way things were "back then."  In many respects I admired him very much.  He was very intelligent,  but he left school after third grade and never read very much.  He felt very threatened by anyone who knew things that he had never learned about.
    Several evenings a week we all played pinochle.  Mom and Dad were always partners.  Parker and I were always partners.  Little Jimmy ran around peeking at people's hands and squealing about what we had.  Pinochle is nice because you can carry on a full conversation about anything without messing up the game.  Dad always seemed to avoid subjects that would reveal how little he knew about so many things.
    I asked Parker one day how he knew so much.  He told me about a friend of his in prison who had been a professor before he got locked up for killing his wife.  Every time my parents went to visit my uncle in Leesburg,  I had them drop me off at the prison farm.  They had an outstanding herd of purebred cows there, and I used to help them register the newborn calves.  So,  I made it a point to find Parker's friend.  What a nice man!  He was the smartest man I had ever met.  He helped me write my PAD paper for high school.  It was about the failure of the League of Nations after first world war.  I never did find out why he killed his wife,  but I'm sure she deserved it.
    Parker and I went into the trapping business together.  I bought the traps and he did all the trapping and skinning.  We did quite well.  We also raised a field of corn together.  I ended up buying his half of the corn because I was raising 17 pigs at the time.  The only money he ever had the whole time he lived with us was the money we made together.  He spent it all on  warm clothes and "roll your own" tobacco.  He slept in an unheated room attached to our kitchen.  He used the old outside toilet. He liked a little sip of brandy before he went to sleep.  My parents were Methodists and didn't approve of alcohol,  so I had a friend pick up a pint for him once in a while.  He hid it under his bunk.

When I came back from the army, I didn't even ask what ever happened to Parker.

 I could have asked my parents or my uncle,  but I didn't.

I'm truly sorry. I really miss him.

He certainly deserved better.