It was a perfect day. A June morning on the Ridge—warm sunshine, birds in chorus, the air filled with distant pleasant sounds of children playing throughout the neighborhood. What could be better than that, especially if you’re 9- and 10-year-old boys with a full day of carefree ambling beckoning before you? It had required much pleading and a few tears to obtain parental agreement for Donald’s two-day stay with Darryl. Years would pass before it occurred to either of them that there might have been fatherly collusion in the final consent…
The boys awoke, dressed and wolfed Virginia’s breakfast, eager to be out and about. Big Sherman interrupted their exit at the corner of the front yard, inches from freedom. “Boys,” he said, “I need you to help me measure here. Just take a minute,” he added. They took turns holding the tape while Sherman measured the front walk. He measured it from fourteen different angles. He pondered. He muttered, lost in thought, and measured yet again. Finally he seemed satisfied and his eyes cleared. “Wait here,” he said. Darryl and Donald glanced at each other and at the road to freedom, unease building in their hearts.
His return with a sledge hammer in hand did nothing to boost their optimism. “Let’s see how tough it is,” said Big Sherman, and he hefted a mighty swing. “Crunch” went a piece of concrete sidewalk. Another swing, another crunch. In short order he had utterly destroyed a three-foot section of a forty-foot concrete walk. “But it only had a few little cracks,” Darryl protested. “It’s cracked,” said Sherman. “Now I want you boys to try it.”
Darryl went first. Sherman carefully observed the inertial difference between his 190-pound swing and Darryl’s 65-pounder. Darryl’s feet left the ground on his first swing, he scratched the concrete on his second swing, and crunched off a small corner on his third. “Good,” said Sherman. “You boys ought to have this done by noon.” “Can we go then?” we asked. “Then we’ll cart the pieces away,” said Big Sherman, and he disappeared into the house.
It was a horrible day. The hot summer sun baked the Ridge in sweat, the bigmouth birds would not shut up, and every other kid in the whole world was out and gone—carefree and idle. Donald wished he was in Oaktown and Darryl wished he was dead. They observed that Big Sherman sprouted horns and tail around mid-afternoon. Even as they labored, the walk extended itself to ten thousand feet in length. At long last, the walk in ruins and carted away, they were paroled to supper. Shortly they dragged off to bed and, despite charliehorses in arms and legs, slept like the dead. Next day Big Sherman proudly poured a new concrete walk. That sucker is still there to this day. Damn walk.
Being a true account of certain events that took place
in the village of Pleasant Ridge, Kentucky