During the waning years of the depression in a small south eastern Idaho community, I used to stop by Mr.
Miller's roadside stand for farm-fresh produce as the season made it available. Food and money were still
extremely scarce and bartering was used extensively.
One particular day Mr. Miller was bagging some early potatoes for me. I noticed a small boy, delicate of
bone and feature, ragged but clean, hungrily apprising a basket of freshly picked green peas. I paid for my
potatoes but was also drawn to the display of fresh green peas.
I am a pushover for creamed peas and new potatoes. Pondering the peas, I couldn't help overhearing the
conversation between Mr. Miller and the ragged boy next to me.
"Hello Barry, how are you today?"
"H'lo, Mr. Miller. Fine, thank ya. Jus' admirin' them peas......sure look good."
"They are good, Barry. How's your Ma?"
"Fine. Gittin' stronger alla' time."
"Good. Anything I can help you with?"
"No, Sir. Jus' admirin' them peas."
"Would you like to take some home?"
"No, Sir. Got nuthin' to pay for 'em with."
"Well, what have you to trade me for some of those peas?"
"All I got's my prize marble here."
"Is that right? Let me see it."
"Here 'tis. She's a dandy."
"I can see that. Hmmmm, only thing is this one is blue and I sort of go for red. Do you have a red one like
this at home?"
"Not 'zackley .....but, almost."
"Tell you what. Take this sack of peas home with you and next trip this way let me look at that red marble."
"Sure will. Thanks, Mr. Miller."
Mrs. Miller, who had been standing nearby, came over to help me. With a smile she said:
"There are two other boys like him in our community, all three are in very poor circumstances. Jim just
loves to bargain with them for peas, apples, tomatoes or whatever. When they come back with their red
marbles, and they always do, he decides he doesn't like red after all and he sends them home with a bag
of produce for a green marble or an orange one, perhaps."
I left the stand, smiling to myself, impressed with this man. A short time later I moved to Utah but I never
forgot the story of this man, the boys and their bartering.
Several years went by each more rapid than the previous one. Just recently I had occasion to visit some
old friends in that Idaho community and while I was there learned that Mr. Miller had died.
They were having his viewing that evening and knowing my friends wanted to go, I agreed to accompany
them. Upon our arrival at the mortuary we fell into line to meet the relatives of the deceased and to offer
whatever words of comfort we could. Ahead of us in line were three young men. One was in an army
uniform and the other two wore nice haircuts, dark suits and white shirts...very professional looking.
They approached Mrs. Miller, standing smiling and composed, by her husband's casket. Each of the young
men hugged her, kissed her on the cheek, spoke briefly with her and moved on to the casket. Her misty
light blue eyes followed them as, one by one, each young man stopped briefly and placed his own warm
hand over the cold pale hand in the casket. Each left the mortuary, awkwardly, wiping his eyes.
Our turn came to meet Mrs. Miller. I told her who I was and mentioned the story she had told me about the
marbles. Eyes glistening she took my hand and led me to the casket. "Those three young men that just
left, were the boys I told you about. They just told me how they appreciated the things Jim "traded" them.
Now, at last, when Jim could not change his mind about color or size...they came to pay their debt.
"We've never had a great deal of the wealth of this world," she confided, "but, right now, Jim would
consider himself the richest man in Idaho." With loving gentleness she lifted the lifeless fingers of her
deceased husband. Resting underneath were three, magnificently shiny, red marbles.
|Written by W. E. Petersen,
and published in the
The older I get, the more I enjoy Saturday mornings. Perhaps it's the quiet solitude that comes with being
the first to rise, or maybe it's the unbounded joy of not having to be at work. Either way, the first few hours
of a Saturday morning are most enjoyable.
A few weeks ago, I was shuffling toward the basement shack with a steaming cup of coffee in one hand and
the morning paper in the other. What began as a typical Saturday morning, turned into one of those
lessons that life seems to hand you from time to time. Let me tell you about it.
I turned the dial up into the phone portion of the band on my ham radio in order to listen to a Saturday
morning swap net. Along the way, I came across an older sounding chap, with a tremendous signal and a
golden voice. You know the kind...he sounded like he should be in the broadcasting business. He was
telling whoever he was talking with something about "a thousand marbles". I was intrigued and stopped to
listen to what he had to say.
"Well, Tom, it sure sounds like you're busy with your job. I'm sure they pay you well but it's a shame you
work sixty or seventy hours a week to make ends meet. Too bad you missed your daughter's dance
recital." He continued, "Let me tell you something Tom; something that has helped me keep a good
perspective on my own priorities." And that's when he began to explain his theory of "a thousand marbles."
"You see, I sat down one day and did a little arithmetic. The average person lives about seventy-five years.
I know, some live more and some live less, but on average, folks live about seventy-five years."
"Now then, I multiplied 75 times 52 and I came up with 3900 which is the number of Saturdays that the
average person has in their entire lifetime. Now stick with me Tom, I'm getting to the important part."
"It took me until I was fifty-five years old to think about all this in any detail, and by that time I had lived
through over twenty-eight hundred Saturdays. I got to thinking that if I lived to be seventy-five, I only had
about a thousand of them left to enjoy."
"So I went to a toy store and bought every single marble they had. I ended up having to visit three toy
stores to round-up 1000 marbles. I took them home and put them inside of a large, clear plastic container
right here in the shack next to my gear. Every Saturday since then, I have taken one marble out and
thrown it away."
"I found that by watching the marbles diminish, I focused more on the really important things in life. There is
nothing like watching your time here on this earth run out to help get your priorities straight."
"Now let me tell you one last thing before I sign-off with you and take my lovely wife out for breakfast. This
morning, I took the very last marble out of the container. I figure if I make it until next Saturday then I have
been given a little extra time. And the one thing we can all use is a little more time."
"It was nice to meet you Tom. I hope you spend more time with your family, and I hope to meet you again
here on the band. 73 Old Man, this is K9NZQ, clear and going QRT, good morning!"
You could have heard a pin drop on the band when this fellow signed off. I guess he gave us all a lot to
think about. I had planned to work on the antenna that morning, and then I was going to meet up with a few
hams to work on the next club newsletter. Instead, I went upstairs and woke my wife up with a kiss.
"C'mon honey, I'm taking you and the kids out to breakfast."
"What brought this on?" she asked with a smile.
"Oh, nothing special. It's just been a long time since we spent a Saturday together with the kids. Hey, can
we stop at a toy store while we're out? I need to buy some marbles."