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Aaron Johnson: We all need an advocate

My Uncle George was a big man. He stood about 6-foot-6 and when asked his weight, he would reply with a booming voice, “I weigh 300 and plenty!”

I don’t recall anyone pressing the question any further. He made a good living servicing the maintenance needs of factories, bus shops, and farmers.

His favorite customers were always the farmers.

Many years ago, he took his three sons, my brother and me to call on farms in northwest Alabama. We rode farm-to-farm admiring the massive equipment and the cheery disposition of each farmer as they planted.

On this day, we found a suitable place for lunch on the corner of farms no doubt owned by the same families for generations. A blacktop crossed a dirt road and there was a tiny café where local farmers met for meals and good country conversations.

Situated near the back of the café was a long, high table with a game inside. The table was actually more of an open box with a raised wooden platform in the bottom. The surface of the raised portion was beautifully smooth wood with markings on each end.

The goal of the game was to gently slide silver disks the length of the raised platform and stop on a marked number. If the other participant had a disk there already you could slam into it, thereby taking their place. It was an indoor version of shuffleboard.

Carefully distributed over the surface of the raised platform lay a perfectly placed, fine layer of silicone or sand. This layer provided a slippery surface upon which the shiny silver disks would easily glide.

Stationed at the game were two young men, dressed in faded jeans, ragged tee shirts and boots worn at distinct angles. They obviously were hired hands on any of the local cotton farms. Both wore trucker hats that boldly advertised “Cat Diesel Power.”

With a pack of Red Man in one back pocket and an oversized billfold in the other, they were consumed with the game. Profanity rolled from the two as one bested the other in turn.

I was the oldest of the crew and given instructions to keep the rest under control and wait on the arrival of a tray full of burgers, fries, and drinks. As I corralled the younger cousins into a couple of well-worn booths, the youngest, Jason, wandered to the gaming table.

The table met Jason’s eye, and curiosity bested him – not that he put up much of a fight. Just as I took notice, he reached over the outer wall of the box and, with a single finger, made a single mark across the playing surface, disturbing the perfect quality of the gliding surface.

The two young men exploded in profanity directed fully on a 5-year-old. It seemed that the outcome of their collective futures were on the next slide of a one-pound silver disk.

In both surprise and shock, Jason withdrew quickly, backing into the legs of Uncle George. Calmly, Uncle George placed his right hand on Jason’s right shoulder, moved him from in front of his legs to behind them. With a firm but calm voice he looked at the two young men, now dead silent, and said, “Whatever you have to say to him, you say to me.”

Silence filled the entire café and the young men suddenly took an interest in the slanted heals on their boots. The rest of the café watched in smiling silence.

After a few seconds, that hung like a fog, both boys decided it was time to get back to the cotton fields and left in an old Dodge truck with a tag hanging by a coat hanger.

Sometimes we find ourselves outnumbered, outmatched, and out of options.

Sometimes we all need an advocate.

Aaron Johnson is a contributing writer to Yellowhammer News

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