Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Because I Can

There is an older gentlemen who goes for walks around the neighborhood. No one knows how old he is.

“There are just some questions that can’t be answered,” he says. He doesn’t go to a job for a living. He walks around the neighborhood in the morning, in the afternoon, and in the evening. He sometimes walks around the neighborhood after midnight. Most people think he is retired, he looks old enough to be, while other people say he is a famous author no one around these parts have ever heard of because most of the people in this neighborhood don’t read. Those who do read, spend most of their time reading the Racing Form before placing their bets at the track up the road.

The older gentleman is always dressed like a gentleman. He always wears a necktie, even if he isn’t wearing a jacket. He dresses with comfortable formality. He is never hatless. A driving cap in spring, a panama in summer, a fedora in autumn and early winter, and a woven wool watch cap during the coldest months. His shoes are scuffed from all the walking he does, but they are always polished and good repair. They must have cost twenty-five dollars twenty years ago.
It isn’t strange to see most of the elderly neighbors taking their daily constitutional strolls around the neighborhood. Regular exercise is a normal part of a healthy lifestyle. Being engaged in the neighborhood means getting out and about. Many families sit out on their front porches during the warmer months. They talk to the pedestrians going about their routes, whether they circumambulate the neighborhood for recreation or to run errands to the pharmacy or the grocery or the Chinese take-out kitchen on the corner of Orchid and Broad Streets.

What is exceptional about the older gentleman is not that he is older, and it is not that he appears to be a gentleman. Most of the retired older men who walk around the neighborhood are gentleman. What is remarkable about this man is that he always walks with a fairly large Rottweiler by his side. The dog does not have a leash and the older gentleman does not carry a plastic bag to pick up after his dog. There is no need for either.

The older gentleman is in complete control of his dog, more so than other pet owners. Where the man goes, the dog follows. Where the dog goes, the man goes with him. The older gentleman will call his dog to the side of the curb when another dog or fellow pedestrians approach, and the man will put himself between the dog and everyone else. The Rottweiler has never been known to be interested in either barking or biting, but good manners require the older gentleman to defuse any potentially frightening situation. He stands tall and straight in his necktie and vest with a relaxed composed smile on his face.

I was passing him with my daughter this morning. She has just learned to walk. We both know the older gentleman and his dog as passing acquaintances. We live in the neighborhood, too. We walk about every morning as my daughter becomes acquainted with her surroundings. After saying hello, as we always do, the older gentleman commented that my daughter had finally got her balance right. “None too soon, either,” he said. My daughter petted the dog respectfully. The dog licked her little hand as the man watched carefully.

“I think you’re a good mother,” he said. “Every time I see you I think that.” I thanked him for his estimation. “I try,” I said.

“That’s all we can really do,” the older gentleman said. “You always have a smile for everyone. Your daughter does, too. The apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree when the tree is strong. This little girl,” the older gentleman said, “she isn’t going to upset a cart or spoil a barrel. I can see that.” He patted my daughter on the head and gave her a quarter for being a good girl.

A butterfly flew by and my daughter started chasing it. It was time to say goodbye.

The man said, “A smile is the most powerful thing we have as human beings. I try to keep a lifetime of smiles in me. You should, too. Whatever you don’t use, your daughter will pick up.” He smiled at me as I chased the butterfly with my daughter.
Story written by Whalehead King

About this story: This story was inspired by a post I made on Facebook. When my friend, Whalehead King, read the Facebook post, it inspired him to write the above story. His story is based on a true event, and further illustrates that our writing can come from anywhere, whether a fictional event or a real one. Below is the post I made on FB.

There is an older gentlemen who goes for walks around the neighborhood. While this is a normal thing, since when people get older they need to move their bodies more, what is remarkable about this man is that he has a fairly big-size rottweiler by his side. He is in complete control of the dog (more so than other pet owners as he will pull his dog to the side and put himself between the dog and other walking pedestrians). Anyway, we called out "Hi" to each other as we usually do, as he made a comment about Jaq walking on her own. Then, he said, "You are a good mother." My only reply to that was, "Thanks. I can only do what I can." As the gentleman walked away, he commented to himself. "She always has a smile for everyone." As life is, a smile is the most powerful thing we have as humans, and more people need to use it.


  1. Great rework of a good story.
    It's amazing what a positive attitude and a smile can accomplish.

  2. Does the gentleman still do his daily walking?
    What a tribute to you as a Mother...your kindness showing through the way you are raising your sweet child...and your smile/and hers.
    Sending you love, Michelle.
    Thank you for sharing both stories.
    They touched my heart.

    1. Yes, Jackie. In rain, snow and shine he walks his dog slowly around several blocks at least twice a day.

  3. This is a wonderful little story. Every neighborhood needs nice old gentlemen of wisdom! And so true - a smile is a great gift to bestow on somebody. It costs so little, but can mean so much.

  4. This is a great post, Michelle. I love both parts - your initial excerpt as well as what came out of it. Great imagery, and so appropriate for this time of year.

  5. beautiful. thank you so much for sharing this vignette.

  6. I came over from Lime's journal; I did enjoy reading this story; I like how he had control of his dog, even off leash, and the dog did seem to mind him. Being a dog owner who has had their dog attacked three times by dogs off leash, I always get a bit leery walking by dogs whether they are on leash or not; somehow I think walking by this man and his dog, I would not be leery.


    1. Betty: I get the same leeriness when being around big dogs. I was bit by a neighbor's dog when young. So the fact that I can walk by this guy's Rottweiler with my daughter without problems speaks volumes. Thanks for stopping by!

  7. I just love that story. Both of them.
    And it is so true. My mom and dad always told me to smile at everyone because you never know what a person is going through and how much a smile might mean to them. Such an easy way to brighten someone's day and yet not many people seem to want to do it.
    Lovely post! :)

  8. Here via Lime. I like both versions of the story. I very much appreciate people who are respectful of the fact that their dog might cause concern. I have a big scar on my leg from a dog bite and I want to know the owner is in control of the dog.


People want to comment here?'s your two-cents, Bub. Spend it wisely!


Related Posts with Thumbnails

ESPN NHL Standings