Guest Writer – Poem

by Van Young

Sonny Riley

(1944)

With my two bits allowance in hand, I hurried into Rileys

And invested in a Donald Duck comic book and Batman.

Laying two dimes on the glass checkout counter, I turned

To walk over and climb up on the stool to order a cone.

*

My skin was almost coal-black and my hair, tight-curly hair.

Back in Missouri, I was called “cute” as the women made a fuss.

But in Buchanan this day, I heard someone refer me to as a n***.

And with no cone, I walked out wondering what a n*** was!

*

(1950)

Seven years later, lighter and taller, I entered Riley’s looking for a job.

Less time in the sun took care of the big problem back in ’43 so I got the job!

The clerk who referred to me as a n*** was still there but he said nothing.

Sonny, my boss, was unaware of my first visit situation and I remained quiet.

*

Being a paperboy was a pain, so I found Sonny’s antics made the new job fun.

He forgave me when I forgot to report the first day, a day made for bicycling!

The two young ladies and I, riding in the hills, heard Sonny driving behind us.

He motioned for us to stop and said, “Put the bike in the trunk and climb in. It’s job-time!!”

*

Most folks who knew him could trust him to do the right thing at the right time!

The winter of ’51 snowed the Youngs in a few miles west of town and the car wouldn’t start!

Dad walked the three miles to town to his job but told Sonny who picked us up for school.

I’ve had many bosses in my long life but none of them come close to our friend Sonny!

*

I discovered soon that Sonny didn’t have that prejudice for folks like most folks did.

He made a” fries and burger man” out of me in no time but getting there was a problem.

I lost a few pounds when I left study hall and ran eight sweaty blocks to beat the customers.

I can still hear the pinball machines in the next room where most of the guys hung out.


*The Buchanan Chronicle wishes to provide a venue for guest writers to be showcased. We may edit but only for typos, language, or length; as we desire to present submissions as received.*

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