Ol’ Mr. Barner

Ol’ Mr. Barner

Every day of the school year, a man known only as Mr. Barner sat on the front porch of his ramshackle house, rocking gently back and forth. He waited, peering out at the lonely two-lane highway which ran in front of his tin-roofed home. As he rocks, he watches for the one thing that makes his day – the one thing that he can rely on, Monday through Friday, September through mid-June. And then he sees it – the long, yellow vehicle he has been waiting for. As it rumbles past, Mr. Barner lifts the fly swatter and waves. The driver of the school bus waves back, as do some of the children. And then they’re gone, but he knows they’ll be back in the afternoon, and he’ll be out there again – rocking on the porch, waving his fly swatter at the children, who get a quick glance of the rotund old gentleman. Will they remember him? Will they ever know what it is like to sit and wait for such a small bit of excitement in their day? He thinks about these things, as he waits for the bus to return in the afternoon.

We children – my brother, sister, and I – do remember Mr. Barner. We never met him and, in all honestly, the only way we knew his name was because of the name “Barner” painted in a childlike scrawl on the mailbox by the side of the road. Did Mr. Barner wave to other people passing on the road? Probably. But I really don’t remember seeing him as we drove past with our mother, on the way to town. Highway W was not heavily traveled, as it only led to our little community of Pontiac, Missouri, population 28. The chances to wave that fly swatter were probably pretty slim, but at least the school bus could be relied on twice a day, five days a week. And it didn’t even matter if it was raining, because the porch on the front of his small house was covered. Rain or shine, Mr. Barner was on that porch, rocking, waving, waiting. There it is, coming around the curve, the bright yellow reason to get up each morning. He lifts the fly swatter and waves. Then they’re gone …

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