Friendships can begin in strange ways. That’s exactly what happened with Ronald Morgan and me.
A large shower tree dominated our yard. When it blossomed, the sky came alive with yellow flowers. The branches meant adventure for a young climber, providing a platform for forts or a place to spy upon people walking below. But one of the unique aspects of this shower tree was the size of the hard black beans. Up to two feet long and one inch in diameter, these objects were a nuisance to anyone mowing the lawn but a delight to me. I’d crack them open and extract the sticky seeds, leaving a succulent mess on the lawn. On more than one occasion these beans became weapons of mass destruction: swords, missiles, guns, and led inexorably to the great bean war.
Eleven-year olds are territorial. I guarded my yard and shower tree against stray cats, dogs and, of course, uninvited human intruders. So one day this new kid in the neighborhood showed up and stood across the alley staring at me. Someone stuck out a tongue, someone called the other a name. We faced each other like gunfighters in the middle of a dusty western town. I reached down, picked up a bean and hurled it at the evil stranger. He dodged, retrieved the bean and shot it back just missing my head. The duel was on. We assumed positions, me behind the trunk of my trusty tree and the invader behind a wall across the alley.
It was the right season to stock us with an ample supply of ammunition. Beans began to fly back and forth across the alley. We both intended to draw blood, inflict a severe wound, make the other cry and beg for mercy.
I was never so alive, intent upon victory, dancing, ducking, daring my enemy to show his face.
Then someone grabbed my arm. “What do you think you’re doing?” my mother screamed.
How could I tell her that it was my sacred duty to protect the old homestead from cattle wranglers or space invaders?
“Just a little bean war,” I said, biting my lip. She dragged me out into the alley and called out to my antagonist.
“You boys quit this fighting and shake hands,” she commanded.
We eyed each other like we had seen something a dog left on the curb.
“Shake hands,” came the repeated command.
Two dirty hands unwillingly reached out and grasped.
That was the beginning of a wonderful friendship.