Sunday, October 05, 2008

Eddie Boone by Dr. Jack Casner

(Note: Our friend Jack Casner shared this special story with me some time ago. With his permission, I am happy to be able to share it with you.)

A friend of mine sent me a story about "Special Olympics" and my mind was drawn back to Eureka, Kansas, in the mid to late 1940’s.

I expect that all Eurekans will remember Eddie Boone. Eddie had a nice job where he was his own boss; he delivered "handbills" from door to door. I don't know how much he was paid, but he normally had several different sheets to deliver: always a Princess Theater "Show-bill", usually at least one grocery ad and, often, a mimeographed ad of some kind from one or more real-estate/insurance offices.

Sometimes Eddie had as many as eight different handbills to deliver. He was making a pretty fair wage for Eurekans during the 1940s and his mother (Remember Boone Nursing Home?) helped him save it so he wouldn't be without resources after she died.

I worked for Eddie for several summers - he paid me $1.00 a day. We walked all over Eureka and I doubt he EVER missed a house. He showed me how to fold the packet so we could just sail them up onto a porch – we could make better progress that way. We would cover the east side of Main one day and the West side the next.

I expect everybody who remembers Eddie recalls him making his rounds – as regular as the Postal Service and working harder than a mail carrier at that. Like them, he made his rounds without regard to the weather. He did the same in the winter, even with heavy snow – covering the entire town by himself then.

There's something else: Eddie was very conscientious and honest to a fault. He had a different way of looking at the world; a way that was totally different from anybody else's.

For example, Eddie could mimic the whistle of quite a few different birds. He didn't use the "correct" name for birds, but he used his own: a cardinal was a "Redbird"; a sparrow was a “liddle bird.” It seemed to me that Eddie almost had a personal acquaintance with some birds. He knew several places where one of his redbirds could be found
and as we walked along he would whistle and get an answer. Same for other birds. Damnedest thing I ever saw.

Another thing that struck me was that dogs who had a personal vendetta against mail carriers (why DOES this always happen?) would not bother Eddie. When I was working one side of the street and Eddie the other, I was also safe. If a dog came barking at me, well, Eddie would just yell "Hey, bid dawd!" and the dog would calm down.

I think the best part of working for Eddie was lunchtime. We'd usually get a candy bar and a coke and sit and talk a little. I've said that Eddie had a unique way of viewing the world and I will never tell anybody what we talked about because it's too precious to me, personally. I will say one thing, though: Eddie told me about his "girlfriend" – somebody named Regina. He always perked up when we were approaching her house and she would come out to the porch as often as not. Eddie blushed then - so did Regina. They said "Hi" to each other and I knew that I could sit down for a couple of minutes. Eddie used my lack of movement as a pretext to break away by looking over at me and yelling "Hey! Jat! Ledd go!" Then he'd move off and I was back on duty.

I wasn't aware of Eddie's death, but I happened to be in town, visiting my folks, on the day of his funeral. I was sitting in the Silver Dollar, nursing a beer, and I heard someone sitting several stools down say to Burke: "He was a good boy. He never did nuthin' to hurt anyone.” I looked at Burke and asked who the guy was talking about and he confirmed what I thought. I left that place with tears in my eyes.

Tears are in my eyes now.

Jack Casner