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Some Kids I Have Known
Fun at Foraker, Marshmallows

The second world war was over and, although the little town of Foraker was certainly isolated, removed from the beaten path out there on the prairie plains, the radio news had kept the folks fully informed as to bombings and misery a continent away. No one stood up in the middle of the floor and announced the war was over, but the lighthearted ways in which the grown ups were behaving made it clear there was decidedly a difference in the world now. Mattie, who was the age of nine years, was observing the sweet changes in the folks around her.

Even Grampa, who was at the last part of the eighties in his life, had a lighter step. There was altogether a difference in his conversations with Grandma. He no longer stood shaking his finger at her vowing to vote against her favorite candidate. The old gentleman who dressed in a worn suit, was still a gentleman it was clear. He somehow could fumble for his watch and chain, hold it in his hand, balance the cane with his other hand, and shake his finger at Grandma, all at the same time. Now, he appeared not to have the time as he was busy about getting to some place or another on foot. The little town was called Foraker after a politician and had nothing to do with the amount of land. However, it probably wasn't much more than four acres. Grampa could certainly get to any part of the town easily on foot.

Mattie's boy cousin who was a teenager in highschool was preparing for his valedictorian speech. While Mattie listened, she, despite her tender years was learning what he was going to do. In the way of children she kept the enlightenment to herself.

"Friends," her cousin practiced his speech, "Friends!" He repeated. "Romans, and Countrymen!"

Now Mattie knew nothing about ancient history. The words, graduation, valedictorian, speech? Well, they were all just words. For those of us who are adults now, it would be well to make a note of how a child learns as quickly, indeed, as that well known sponge.

"Friends, Romans, Countrymen!" "And, Mrs. Whipkey!" Her cousin added a flourish of a gesture, swinging his arm out and away from himself in a wide arch.

"Friends, Romans, Countrymen, Mrs. Whipkey, and the rest of you worms out there, "Good Night!"

"Oh the shame of it!" Gramma despaired.

"I just never thought our grandson would have done such a thing!" Grampa agreed.

"Did you hear what Warren said in his valedictorians' speech?" Mattie heard her girl cousin ask someone on the telephone.

If the times had not of been gifted with the relief of the war having ended, her cousin might have been very sorely punished. However, everyone was just too, into the pleasures of not having the awful war hanging over their head they were little concerned with a smart aleck kid, misbehaving over a graduation speech.

Another miserable part of the war had been the rationing of food and products. It was almost impossible to own the things people had always had in adequate amounts. Automobile tires were at what they called "black market" prices.

"What's that?" Mattie wanted to know about a black market. "Is that something to do with the color of tires?" She asked her cousin.

"Just never you mind?" "You sure are a nosy kid!" "What do you care?" Mattie's older girl cousin frowned down to her.

So, Mattie didn't ask any more about black markets. It still seemed to be an interesting something or other. "Must be something very good, if I'm not supposed to talk about it?" She shrugged her shoulders and forgot about the word.

The sharpest happening to mark the ending of the war remained in Mattie's memory for her whole life time. This event had to do with rationing. As always she was keeping her eye on the boy cousin, who was the master of great speech giving. He was having more fun, it seemed, than anyone else. Now, as he quietly walked up to the dining room table in the middle room, he was very cautiously placing a can at the middle and center of the table. The can was of a different look than those in the pantry. There was a festive way about it and it was a bright color. Marked boldly across the tin was the word, "MARSHMALLOW." The can would have probably, been ignored if not for the word. Anything of such high sugar content was and had not been on the shelves for all of the war time. In fact, Mattie did not even know what marshmallows were. The can stood out against the dark polished wood of the piece of furniture. The teenage boy softly walked away from the room and just by the way he moved Mattie knew there was something up. She kept quiet. Secretly, somehow, she knew there was some fun in the making.

First on the scene was the husband of her girl cousin. He was a young man, tall and strong. When he came in it was with just a few steps he covered the area from the front door to the table, such was his stride. Almost as if he was directed to the can on the table he reached out for it. Picking it up he loosed the lid, screwing it back and forth until it came off. The trick of having a giant snake come out of a can is an old one. But, with a child, who had never seen it before it was too funny.

The scenario of an adult, normally so in control of the world, that they could make a child feel small and not so smart, being surprised in such a way was to Mattie's thinking, altogether grand.

One by one, she watched the adults each carefully replace the lid, setting the can back on the table, waiting for the next person to bite the same bait. It was a little thing, of course. These were the times speaking of simple fun, practiced by those who were enjoying the world now free of the hated word, "war." How long had her cousin owned the can of fake marshmallow? How in tune he was with good timing to introduce the joke at this moment when the heaviness of their depression was lifted at the news of the peace time.

This all happened at what now seems so far away and long ago in the tiny little town of Foraker, Oklahoma, located somewhere in Oklahoma, sixty miles from nowhere.

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