Cobb

Many years ago now, when I was still a sprightly middle-aged young thing, I was driving home from an appointment in Antrim when I saw an ancient old man on the side of the road with his thumb stuck out. As I sped by him, I thought, “Holy mackerel, that man has got to be 100 years old!” Of course, I turned around to pick him up. The man struggled to get in my car, so I went around to the passenger side to give his brittle bones a gentle hoist up.

The man grinned a toothless grin and said, “The name’s Cobb.”

I said, “Well, hello there, Cobb. Where to?”

He said he was heading to the American Legion Hall in Hillsboro for the day. He perched happily on the passenger seat and started talking non-stop. He told me that he was 97 years old and worked all his life on the B&M (Boston & Maine) railroad in Hillsboro before it closed down. He was proud that he had been a brakeman for the Hillsboro line, and he regaled me for the 15-minute drive with stories of what it was like to work on the railroad in its heyday in the beginning of the 20th century. A very educational monologue, I must say.

When we got to the Legion hall, Cobb again struggled to get out of my car, so I went around to the passenger side to give him a hand. When his feet hit the ground and he stood up, his pants fell down. Fell. Right down to the ground. He had on some ratty old boxer shorts underneath.

Cobb looked at me with his rheumy eyes and said, “Aw, my damn belt is too big.”

I knelt down in front of him and pulled up his pants and tried to cinch his belt tighter around his tiny waist to prevent him from further embarrassment. As I was fumbling with his belt, I happened to look up into the front window of the Legion hall. There were about twenty men with their faces practically smashed against the glass. Have you ever seen those cartoon faces where the eyeballs pop out on springs? That’d be them…every single one.

When Cobb finally walked through the front door, I heard hooting and catcalls and whistles. One drunk voice hollered out, “Holy shit, Cobb! That was friggin’ awesome!”

~from Bad Beaver Tales: Love and Life in Downeast Maine by Carol Leonard, 2018

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