“Tell him just a minute, I’ve got to find my purse.”
The “policy man” is one of my earliest memories, standing on the front porch just outside the screen door, waiting for Momma to find her purse.
And the 26 cents due that week on the burial policy.
Life insurance? Out on the rural route?
Obviously you’ve never been there, done that. Which I have, looking through the screen at a really big man — I was four years old — who had on a nice, gray-felt hat and wore a tie.
He also had this little book he marked in to show that Momma had found her purse.
For the burial policy, not life.
In those years, out on the dirt roads and water from the well, the deal was take care of “life” in this world, go to church on Sunday, put your trust in the Lord to keep his word:
“You’ll have a new body, you’ll have a new life.”
Oh, one other thing.
Sometime along in December the “policy man” would give Momma a Liberty National Life Insurance calendar for the next year and a hand-held fan. The calendar always had a nice picture of The Lord’s Last Supper, the fan a picture of Jesus.
Momma hung the calendar in the kitchen, carried the fan to church on Sunday.
There are also memories of my mother sitting at the kitchen table and counting her change the night before the “policy man” was due. Having to bury one of her own on credit was something she simply couldn’t abide.
It was in those years I decided what I wanted to be when I grew up.
I didn’t want to be a policeman. I didn’t want to be a fireman. I didn’t want to be a cowboy. None of those frequented Choccolocco Valley in those years. What I wanted to be when I grew up was a “policy man” with Liberty National Life Insurance.
While our “policy man” always had a dust-covered car (dirt roads do that to cars), it always had good tires and the “policy man” wore very nice, very shiny shoes.
I think it was the tires that impressed me most. Shoes from along about April into October were unnecessary, but my memories hold several photos of sitting on the side of the road while my dad “fixed a flat.” You didn’t leave home without a jack and three or four “hot patches.”
(If you don’t know what “hot patches” are, well, I lost you along about the third graph of this little essay).
Anyway, a couple of flat tires on a round trip to Anniston (from way up in Choccolocco Valley) seemed the norm.
But the “policy man” was not the only door-to-door who showed up on our front porch way back then.
Truth is, the ice man was, on a daily subsistence basis, more important than the “policy man.”
The ice came in 25- and 50-pound blocks, dependent on the size of your ice box.
Keeping the milk, butter, and eggs in a kitchen ice box was a big step up from lowering same in a big bucket into the well out back.
And there is a special place in my “adult” memories, the milkman.
The reason for special is the blonde and I had the same milkman for like the first 10 years of our marriage. His name was Mr. McDonald and whatever apartment we lived in, “Mr. Mac” was there.
It was not unusual to leave the door unlocked for “Mr. Mac.” He came early, stocked the fridge, and locked the door on the way out.
Anyway, thanks to “Mr. Mac” for keeping the milk sweet and thanks to my mother that somewhere in “my stuff” I have a piece of paper that will pay $250 on my funeral.
At today’s prices for farewell parties, that might open the grave ... but I wouldn’t bet on it.
And I don’t have the faintest idea as to why I even got into the pulpit this morning.
George Smith can be reached at 256-239-5286 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org