One summer, not long after Buzz’s Pa disappeared over the border with that dancer, me and Buzz counted what we had in our vacation money jar and it came to a grand total of seventeen cents. I kid you not.
The truth was that we never really went anywhere other than town. It was just nice to think that, if we had wanted to, we could go to the North Pole (Buzz’s idea).
I told Buzz that before I went to the big roundup in the sky (I heard the pastor say that once and I’m not real sure what it means) that I wanted to see the Grand Canyon.
Buzz thought it stupid that I wanted to go and see a ‘hole-in-the-ground’ as he put it, when we could be standin’ on top of the world. Whatever we decided - seventeen cents wasn’t gonna get us anywhere real fast.
Then Buzz looked at me in one of those cockamamie ways that he does when he’s got an idea so good that he thinks his head might just blow up there and then - (that’s the way Buzz talks and even Doc Smith, the best doctor in town, said there ain’t nothin’ they can do for Buzz, talkin’ the way he does).
So Buzz looks at me with those crazy eyes and says that if I wanna see the Grand Canyon then all I need to do is just follow him.
Okay, I’m thinkin’ that Buzz is goin’ a bit stupid ‘cause of his pa and all, disappearin’ the way he did. But what the heck, I said I’d follow him anyhoo (truth is, I’d probably follow Buzz over the edge of a cliff, if the circumstances were right – I kid you not). Probably will give that a try one day just to see what happens.
Buzz borrows his lil’ sister’s bicycle and the two of us sit real uncomfortable on the thing. I’m hopin’ that the Grand Canyon ain’t as far as people say, on account that my bee-hind is startin’ to go real numb.
And before we know it, we’ve stopped at Cooper’s Valley and Buzz looks at me as if to say, ‘behold one of the wonders of the world’ – actually that is what he did say - but I didn’t want to tell you that, in case you thought Buzz had gone moon-crazy.
So I look at him real strange ‘cause I ain’t sure what’s goin’ on with my bestest pal, but I think he knows what he’s doin’. I tell him that Cooper’s Valley ain’t the Grand Canyon and Buzz just spits on the ground and gives me a huge grin. He says that I know that, and he says that he knows that, but there are some folks who don’t know that and that they’re the kinda folks we’re lookin’ for.
And I say ‘How so Buzz?’ (Mainly ‘cause I like sayin’ ‘how so’) and he tells me that we charge the good folks of town (and by folks he means the kids) a nickel to see the Grand Canyon and then we take them out to Cooper’s and there you have it – they’ll never know the difference.
And after Buzz gave that lil’ speech, he kinda rubbed his hands as if he’d found the secret to makin’ money. Maybe he had, who’s to say?
Anyhoo, the followin’ Saturday, Buzz rounds up several kids who are doin’ their usual game of kickin’ rocks about Main Street. Now the catch in all this is, that the kids didn’t have no nickels, or any money. As one of them said, “d’you think if I had a nickel, I’d be kickin’ a rock around town?” And you gotta admit the kid had a point.
So instead of the money, Buzz accepted an old painted stick, a rock that they had been well and truly kicked, and a stick of chewin’ gum. All to take the kids out and show them the Grand Canyon.
The kids all sat on the back of Buzz’s lil’ sister’s wooden trailer which he’d tied to the back of the bicycle. It took the two of us, what seemed like hours, to pull them kids on that trailer.
When we got to Cooper’s Valley, the kids were all excited and some were shoutin’ about how big the Grand Canyon was and Buzz just looked at me, as if to say ‘I told you so’.
What we didn’t know was the kids knew what we were up to (as usual, we didn’t know that they knew) until they told us to go into the Grand Canyon first and then they’d follow us – ‘cross their hearts and hope to die’.
We had only just got to the bottom of Cooper’s, when the town kids waved down, shouted what sounded like ‘suckers’ and then jumped on Buzz’s lil’ sister’s bicycle and trailer and headed back to town.
I tell you, it was one long walk home and at the end of it, Buzz’s Ma made us give the seventeen cents to his lil’ sister.
Last I saw Buzz, he was standin’ outside his own home with a big sign hangin’ around his neck which said in bright red paint:
“I ain’t never seen the Grand Canyon”.
I think his Ma made him do it.
bobby stevenson (and Buzz) 2015