Tin Man

by John Rudden

As a kid and an adult, I lived next to St. James Lutheran Church at 2 Aster Court. My wife Claire and I as newly weds in the '60's were impressed at watching the teenagers of St. James gleefully painting the 8' hurricane fence that surrounded the rear church yard and the shorter fence that protected the church property.
It gave us a good feeling to see such joyous volunteerism with brush and roller. The paint was a very expensive metallic silver that glowed in the daylight as the brushes flew in and across the thick wires of the old fence.  Boys and girls together working for their church and most importantly, God.

We went out on the side deck that faced the side of the church on Florence Ave. Some kids were singing the popular songs of the day with "do-wops" and "ching-a-lings."  One parishioner missed with his brush (accidentally or intentionally--I don't know) and painted a big blonde boy. 

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The blonde looked at his shirt and saw his blue sleeve and wrist only to see a bright silver.  He smiled at the donor and gently sunk his brush in his bucket of quicksilver and slowly removed the loaded instrument. He lifted his long, silver arm and reached towards the fence as if to continue his assignment but instead he made a lightening move towards the offending youth's face. Instantly, he proceeded to paint in upward and downward strokes a boyish Tin Man! Within seconds, sides were taken, girl, boy, boy, girl. Gender meant nothing for who could tell what sex the participants were after a good dunking in shinny paint?

Soon the brushes proved insufficient for the task at hand. Buckets and cans of the liquid silver were dumped upon combattants heads. St. James had its first gang war without a punch being thrown. The brush and roller had replaced daggers, dirks, dangerous instruments and fists.  An audience quickly gathered and cheered on the silver people. I invited strangers up to my deck (stoop) to get a better view of the event. No where in sight were the church elders to mediate the disaster and get the volunteers back to the original reason for being at church, like painting a fence!

After a few violent minutes of artistry the combatants paused for a second or two and broke into laughter at the scene before them and shook slippery hands. The cleanup began with the original spirit that brought them together in the first place. They did all this while slugging down some silver bottles of Pepsi and Coke. In a short while the fences were sparkling as were the grassy ground, the sidewalk and the St. James young adult's club. They even painted over the, "Curb your Dog" sign but that's another story!


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Last changed: March 09, 2005