Tuesday, March 15, 2016

The Ragman


“I’m gonna sell ya to the Ragman for a nickel.”  I knew my dad was only teasing me, but just in case, whenever I saw or heard the Ragman, I’d head for the woods.  I didn’t want to take any chances. As soon as I heard his tired song, “Rags.  Rags for sale.”  my heart dropped to my stomach, a quick look to ascertain the situation, (how far along the street he was), then I’d take off at a run towards the woods. That man was scary.  First of all, he rode in a wagon pulled by a big horse.  This is the 1950’s!  Everyone had cars.  But he used a horse?  Second, I never could understand what he was yelling.  I think it was, “Rags.  Rags for sale.”  I imagined he was speaking a foreign language because he looked like my idea of a foreigner.  He was a skinny bent over wizened old man with a dark, wide-brimmed hat pulled down over his face. I think he had a mustache.  Don’t all bad guys have mustaches?   Third, he had a thin, short whip, which he snapped.  The whip cracked like a shot.  I don’t know if he just whipped it in the air or on the horse, I was never close enough to examine the maneuver. Lastly, it took so-o-o long for him to come down my dead end street.  Then he stayed for a while at the end, turning the wagon around to trot ever so slowly, back up the street.  It seemed like the world stopped, when the ragman made his route.  I’d climb a tree to scout the area.  I’d watch his horse trudge along.  The song, “Rags!  Rags for sale,” would clang out.  The whip would crack.  My eyes would blink in response to each crack.  I’d watch his progress to the end of the street.  His turn-around lasted forever.  I think I mouthed words talking to the horse, coaxing him to turn.  (That’s it.  Turn.  Turn.  Go home.)  Finally, away they went.  “Rags.  Rags for sale.”  Snap-Crack!             Rags.  Rags for sale.”  Snap- Crack!              Rags.  Rags for sale.   Sssh.  I’d listen.  Finally, I could breathe.  He’s gone.  I was safe.  I was free.  The ragman didn’t buy me for a nickel.

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