Stranger yet was one of the comments. It is the only time I have ever deleted a non-spam comment. I even phoned my brother before I deleted it, thinking it might have been him trying to be funny. It wasn't. The anonymous comment said "What a horrible thing to say." I have no idea what horrible thing I said. Perhaps it was a newer reader who doesn't know one of my children is an amputee and was offended by my reference to the box of legs we have in our storage room. I was 95% successful in not letting it bother me for the rest of the day.
Writing that post brought back a lot of memories from my childhood. I grew up on a farm in Northern Idaho, but just barely. Our home was about three miles from the Washington/Idaho border, and the nearest town was actually in Washington. This town was where we shopped, did business and went to school. And like every other small town across the face of the planet it had its share of "local characters."
|Looking out towards our Idaho farm in the distance|
It just so happens that one of The Characters in our town was Mr. K, the undertaker. He was a very unique individual. I sort of think you would have to be to have that job, especially in a small community where your customers (present tense) had also been your friends (past tense). Mr. K had a zippy way of walking. He put a lot of life into his stride, possibly to compensate for the lack thereof in his clientele. He almost always had a big smile on his face, and I seem to remember him whistling a lot. He looked a bit like a white version of Sammy Davis Jr.
Mr. K liked to joke around. My favourite story is one my dad told me. Our small town had a bowling alley. This was common back in the 1960s. The bowling alley had a coffee shop attached, and this was the local meeting place for the men of the community. The would sit and drink their coffee, smoke their cigarettes (also common in the 1960s), and worry about the weather (they were mostly farmers). One day Mr. K was having coffee with them. One of the farmers lit up a cigarette and the minute he did Mr. K reached into his pocket, pulled out a measuring tape, and sized the guy up like he was measuring him for a coffin. To this day I think of this every time I see someone use a measuring tape.
The K family had a monopoly on death in our community. Mr. K dealt with the bodies and Mrs. K dealt with the flowers and make-up. Strangely, or maybe not since after all he was one of the town characters, when I was in my teens he and Mrs. K divorced, but they continued to live in the same house, with him taking care of the bodies and her taking care of the flowers. They had three children, and the daughter was in my class at school. We were not close friends, but I did occasionally go to her house to play after school, and I distinctly remember being creeped out if I knew there was "a customer."
|The elementary school I attended, along with Mr. K's daughter|
Peer pressure was their business strategy of choice. When my grandpa died, glossy pictures of outrageously priced caskets were shown to my grandma, along with the names of the prominent citizens who had been buried in them. In a way I guess I can't blame them. After all, in a town with a population of just 1000 people there was only so much business they could expect to do in any given year.
Since their funeral business potential was rather limited, they wisely decided to branch out. There was no use letting that hearse sit idle for so many days of the year, so it also ended up being used as the town's ambulance. It wasn't until I was in my teens that this changed and the town got a real ambulance, complete with a volunteer team of medics.
Mr. and Mrs. K are long gone, but the monopoly is not. One of Mr. K's sons now runs the business. His wife, however, does not do the flowers and make-up. But she is an ordained minister, and when I went to the funeral of one of our farm neighbours a couple of years ago there she was, up front and centre leading the service while Mr. K stood quietly at the back making sure everything went smoothly.
|My brother John and me in front of our old high school when we were home visiting a couple years ago.|