By Joe Rector

While I mowed the upper lot of the yard, I looked across the road and saw a tractor at the neighbor’s house. Steering it was Steve Cox. We began first grade together, and both have lived within spitting distance of our boyhood homes. I sat on my mower, he sat on his tractor, and for the first time in years, we talked about things that happened and people we’ve known for years.

Steve and I had a few things in common. Both of us were boys who wore husky jeans, the name given for pants that were made for heavier boys. Neither of us ever missed a meal. Steve’s haircut was just like mine, a buzz cut. I’m not sure about his dad, but mine declared he wouldn’t allow me to have long hair or dirty shoes. Last, both of us needed orthodontic help. While my teeth made me look more like a beaver, Steve’s were just slightly protruding over his bottom lip.

One day during our third grade, Steve came to class late. He sat down in his seat, and I asked where he’d been. He replied, “To the dentist.” Then he opened his mouth to reveal an appliance on the back of his upper teeth. The thing looked like bars coming straight down, and I thought how painful it looked. Still, I was so jealous of him because he had begun the process of having braces put on his teeth. Not until I talked to him the other day did I find out how wrong my assumption was. The painful-looking thing was something inserted to keep him from sucking his thumb. He said the bars were sharp and stuck him when he tried.

Another Steve was in that class. Steve Buffalo and I were in the same classroom throughout elementary school, which ran through the eighth grade back then. He was another big boy. I always had “lunch envy” when it came to him. I’d get a sandwich out of my bag that usually had pink bread from a thin layer of potted meat while Steve withdrew one that had a coating of mayonnaise with pieces of sausage on top. One day he agreed to swap sandwiches since I had bologna. A celebration began as I sunk my teeth into that wonderful lunch.

Steve Buffalo was a fantastic student. We battled for a place in the spelling bee, but I never beat him. Buffalo also had the most perfect handwriting. Mine looked as if someone suffering from arthritis had painfully penned my homework. He was a nice guy who was friendly with everyone and seemed comfortable in his own skin, never worrying what others thought.

We three had our revenge on the more popular guys one time each year. That occurred at field day. One event, the tug of war was ours. Sure, we were overweight and not particularly athletic, but when another class grabbed the rope to oppose us, we turned our “bulk into hulk” and pulled them across the line.

I’m glad Steve Cox stopped by the other day. During that time, he talked more than he’d ever done during our lifetimes. My voting place moved from Ball Camp School to Amherst, so I missed Steve Buffalo, who for years has worked the polls.

It’s funny what memories come back through just a half-hour talk with an old friend. Steve Cox, thanks for stopping by. Steve Buffalo, give me a yell sometime.