This afternoon I was thinking about this old man from my childhood. Harry was the courthouse janitor and he bore a striking resemblance to the Straw Man in The Wizard of Oz.
I suppose it was for the posture as well as the hat that Harry reminded me of Straw Man. Harry was neither cheerful nor was he particularly grumpy. Perhaps weather-beaten or even life-beaten would fit as a better description of this janitor. It wouldn’t have been hard to fault Harry, in retrospect, for appearing either pissed-off or worse-for-wear. After all, he had who knows how many rooms and spaces were his to clean, including the clock tower on top of the old three-story structure as well as the courtrooms, offices and jail cells that were there during that time. Consequently, Harry had a bunch of keys.
Keys are what made me think of this old fellow. He had keys to every thing, every record, every matter and, yes, every miscreant in our county.
Our family was poor back in those days, but we were like the Rockefellers compared to old Harry. A child with less social instinct might have thought Harry was rich from seeing all the hardware one might find in the shack which housed Harry and his family.
Why in his yard one might find washing machines, and old refrigerators, tires, probably a propeller off a B-29 from World War II, the hood from a Chevrolet that was of an indeterminate age, old transmissions, batteries and assorted odds, ends and dirt. Harry also reminded me a little of the Pigpen character in Peanuts who was always drawn in the cartoon with dirt swirling about him, kind of an opposite of a white tornado.
But no matter how filthy Harry was, and how much crap was in his yard, I was nonetheless envious of those keys. Having been all up and down the stairs of every floor of that courthouse, I knew there must have been tons of secrets that the doors and cabinets and safes held in that place.
Today I drove to Houston and back to switch to a new work car. I had a 2010 Chevy Impala exchanged for a 2014 Cruze. Of course, it had a fancier key fob than I previously possessed. Why I can even start the car remotely. But I have to surround my Cruze keys with my Toyota Tacoma keys as well as the key to my office, key to the office building/elevator, my postal box key, the keys to my storage unit, bicycle lock and a P-32 military can opener that I’ve never been able to shake from my time in the service.
I have spares, of course, so I had to pair those off with my spare Cruze key. It has developed into quite the ordeal.
Looking back, I thought Harry the janitor must have had some wealth albeit less material than abstract. I should have recognized old Harry probably wasn’t old at all. He may have been my age or even less, though he had surely been burdened down from the life of poor white trash not to mention holder of the keys to the county castle and all it entailed.
Well, I guess thinking in such dimensions, that makes me wealthy. Guess I’ll go jingle my keys and dream of an island with some tanned bathing beauties.