“Old Man Clarno” as a strange man. Thin form years of hard farm work under a hot broiling sun, he looked like a brown stick figure. His tan skin was stretched over his sharp angular frame. He had a sparkling smile but he rarely used it. Life was hard. All he had was a small one room shack and a tiny strip of farm land.
I say he was “strange” because he did not do things the way other people did. For example, he did not grow strawberries like other people. He had one patch under his window and a second smaller patch way at the other end of his land. Why two patches?
I did not care. With no money to buy strawberries that second patch became my target. I would sneak down out of the trees and steal handfuls of juicy sweet red strawberries. Somehow, stolen strawberries are sweeter than store bought. Once in awhile, “Old Man Clarno” would come running out waving his shotgun. I would run for the hills with birdshot flying over my head. He was a lousy shot.
It never occurred to me until years after his death, he knew who I was yet he never complained to my parents. All he had to do was tell my dad I stole his strawberries and my little narrow butt would have been hamburger. Why did he not report my ventures into crime?
“Old Man Clarno” was not strange, he was kind and intelligent. Obviously he wanted me to “steal” the berries. Not only did it keep me out of his other strawberry patch but it added a little excitement and drama to both our lives. I had the thrill of being a little wicked boy and the sweet taste of stolen berries. He had his cash crop safe from pillage.
The other day my wife’s teenage sister came running into the house all excited. She had just stolen two mangos from our neighbor’s tree. Of course I told her it was wrong to steal, but I did not make it a big deal out of it. I was remembering my own “outlaw” youth. I let her and her sister enjoy the sweetness of their stolen prizes. I then quietly went next door and paid our neighbor double what the mangos were worth. I made him also swear never to tell her I had paid. Why spoil the thrill of living dangerously?