With a touch of W.C. Fields in him, my Dad called all kids in our neighborhood little squirts. He told them he never had to work because we had a money tree, which was a small lemon tree about 5 feet tall. Of course he would find money, mostly coins and bills, on the branches, sticking them into his pockets. The kids would run home and tell their moms Mr. McMillan doesn’t have to work because he had a money tree. Sometimes he would tell them to go home and tell their mothers they wanted to see them. One girl came back to tell Dad that their mothers didn’t want to see them. He would say, “Imagine that.” My Dad wasn’t going to toss a ball or big time wrestle with us kids- he was already in his late 50’s, but the little quirts in the neighborhood kept coming back for more because he talked to them with lies, jokes and insults.
My parents threw cocktail almost weekly and they demanded my sister and me to come down stairs to “make an appearance” saying, “How do you do you do. Nice to see you Mr. & Mrs. Grownup who have no desire to talk to me either.” The big people would like to ignore us, too, to get back to the big people conversation. But there were a few of these big people who called us by name, who told me not to take any wooden nickels and give me one. Bob Compton pulled a dime out of my ears, and asked me if I had robbed any banks lately. He even taught me to juggle.
Once as the bourbon glasses were clicking and the talking of the adults was as loud as train passing, Mr. Compton took time to tell me about when he caught three trout undersized. I wanted to go back up stairs to play but I wanted more to hear a story. As he threw some peanuts into his mouth with the ice in his Jack Daniels clinking in his other hand, he started laughing before he got to the funny parts. I was wonderstruck that this big tall man, who sold life insurance or something, was telling a big story to me. The other adults in the room were now reaching the higher pitched laugher from the 3rd round of drinks but with me, this big fellow had me in the silent woods of his story. So, he says, he caught a trout about 12 inches and he state limit was 15 inches or more. He threw it on the ground for dinner but then saw the game warden puttering toward him on his johnboat. “So I stepped on it pretty hard,” taking a sip of his drink and popping a few more peanuts in his mouth. “That trout was now about 13 or 14 inches, so as the warden was tying his boat up on the shore, I gave one last jump on the fish with all my weight.” He jumped high up in the air to show effect and when he landed, he jarred the floor and all the big people looked over at us, disapproving. But Mr. Compton only was thinking about that poor trout with his tongue stuck out, his eyes bugged out and now flat as dollar bill. He smiled and proudly showed the warden his 15-inch fish. And again to illustrate the story, he stuck out his tongue and bugged out his eyes. The fish and I were bigger now, too, A big grownup told me a story spitting peanut particles and sucking his ice for the last drops of the whisky.
Jesus didn’t have a Jack Daniels in his hand but I sure he had the same big as a house impression for the little squirts who wanted Him to touch them. All the big adults tried to make the kids go away just like the adults would kick us off the tennis courts or get the heck out of their gardens. But Jesus shut the big adults up and called the kids over. He wasn’t spitting peanuts over their faces but I’m sure He told them some stories and He prayed for them. They remembered for their whole lives the day an adult, who was God, took them into the deep woods of a story. Maybe Jesus even jumped up in the air telling the story of the man walking for the first time. They remembered it was just them and the big person. They felt for the first time that they were as important as the big noisy world of grownups. Maybe they went home telling their moms about how Jesus finds His money inside fish mouths.