Every small town has its elected mayor; for the majority of my childhood ours was Joe Huddle.
But it was Ted who commanded our block and earned the nickname of “Mayor Ted.”
He was in his sixties, a busy body that somehow knew everyone’s business, and with a hearty greeting of “Hello There” to anyone walking down the block, his booming voice would carry for what seemed like miles and then echo back moments later.
No matter when you walked out of your front door, it seemed that Ted was always waiting for you with a conversation that dragged on and on forever. No one had the heart to walk away from him or tell him that they needed to get going, so the conversations often made several folks late.
One of those folks was my old man.
It never failed that whenever he was in a hurry, Ted was there to slow him down.
I watched my dad one Sunday morning when we were on our way to church as Ted talked to him.
My dad was never one for gossiping, so Ted naturally shared all of his.
My dad didn’t care about the upcoming sales at the supermarket, so Ted told him all about flyers in that morning’s paper.
I watched as my usually mild-mannered dad bit his bottom lip as if he was trying to remind himself not to snap and his leg began to shake like Elvis; a sign that you were getting on my dad’s last nerve.
Eventually, my mother and sister came out the front door. Mom rescuing us from the conversation with quick hello that she followed with, “c’mon now, we don’t want to be late for church.”
Church was just as ordinary as any other Sunday, though because my dad was still irritated it caused him to do something completely out of character that he never would have even thought to do any other time.
He went into the church’s storage room on the way out the door and stole their basketball.
When we got home, sure as the day is long, Ted was waiting right there by our front porch.
Dad handed him the basketball and Ted immediately started dribbling it on the sidewalk as he walked away and down the street.
That’s when Dad looked at me and said, “Now whenever we hear that ball bouncing, we know to stay inside.”