downright uncomfortable. It brought back a terrible memory and he vowed the next time somebody said they were proud of him he would belt them up side the head.
Sam was a farmer and president of the Ruger Valley Farmer’s association. He just finished an exhausting two weeks at the state capitol speaking to every legislator, governor’s cabinet member, and any one who might be able to influence legislation including mistresses and prostitutes. All his hard work paid off. The state agreed to dam a small portion of the upper Rugar Valley to create a reservoir to control floods in the spring and create a water supply for the dry months.
It was at a big dinner in honor of Sam at the Rugar Valley Grange. Henry Watson stood and gave a brief speech. At the end he said those words ‘we’re so proud of you.”
Everyone stood and applauded. Sam sat and all he could think about were those words and how angry they made him. Soon the applause abated. Sam sat as if someone else was receiving the award. He looked visibly angry. The applause finally stopped and murmuring began. Sam appeared rude and ungrateful.
Some where wondering what more could have we done for Sam. The whole evening and meal was in his honor.
Sam looked at their faces; some confused, some angry, some concerned.
These were his friends and they had no idea what was bothering him. This was not the Sam Drayton they knew.
Some were slipping into their coats to leave.
“Please stay for another moment,” Sam called out with his hands cupped around his mouth.
Some sat and others just stood in place, but the room became progressively quiet until only a cough or sniffle was heard.
“I’m sorry folks. I got some pride to get rid of. I came here 40 years ago and bought a small piece of ground. This was a good place, all good people. Nobody ask me where I came from or where I’d been. All ya had to do was work hard, help your neighbor, and keep your nose clean and you was okay with everybody in the valley.”
“But I got ta tell ya something when Henry said we're proud of you it was reminder of what happened a little more than 40 years ago. It’s what drove me out here. Ya see I’m from Ohio. I’m a farm boy.”
“Back in the day I was quite a basketball player. In my senior year we were playing in the state semifinals. My school was down by five and in the last minute of the game I scored six points to give us a shot at the title game. I was on top of the world.”
“The next night we was tied at 50 each. With seconds left. The other team had the ball, shot and missed. I went up for the rebound and tipped the ball in their basket. We lost the game 50 - 52.”
“Pandemonium broke out. Our team was divested beyond words. The coach of the other team came up to me after the game. He was so excited he didn’t even know who he was or where he was at. He put his arm around me and said, ‘we’re all very proud of you.’ The next day that was the headline.”
“I dropped out of school, gave three years of my life to Uncle Sam, and settled out here. I could never go home. That’s a stink I’ve had to wear all these years and I’m sorry for not being grateful for those words, ‘we’re proud of you.’ All these years I was prideful and held disdain for those words no matter how well meaning they were.”
“But ya know what? Stink eventually wears off. And so does pride. Thank you my dear friends.”