By W. E.
This story first
appeared in the October 1975 Ensign Magazine
One day Mr. Miller was bagging some early potatoes for me. I noticed a small boy, delicate of bone and feature, ragged but clean, hungrily apprising a basket of freshly picked green peas.
paid for my potatoes but was also drawn to the display of fresh green peas. I am a pushover for creamed peas and new potatoes.
Pondering the peas, I couldn't help overhearing the conversation
between Mr. Miller and the ragged boy next to me.
Barry, how are you today?"
"H'lo, Mr. Miller. Fine, thank ya. Jus' admirin' them
peas ... sure look
"They are good, Barry. How's your Ma?"
"Fine. Gittin' stronger alla' time."
"Good. Anything I can help you with?"
"No, Sir. Jus' admirin' them peas."
"Would you like to take some home?"
"No, Sir. Got nuthin' to pay for 'em with."
"Well, what have you to trade me for some of
"All I got's my prize marble here."
"Is that right? Let me see it."
"Here 'tis. She's a dandy."
"I can see that. Hmmmmm, only thing is this one
is blue and I sort
of go for red. Do you have a red one like this at home?"
"Not zackley ... but almost."
"Tell you what. Take this sack of peas home with
you and next trip this way let me look at that red marble."
"Sure will. Thanks Mr. Miller."
Mrs. Miller, who had been standing nearby, came
over to help me.
With a smile she said, "There are two other boys like him in our
community, all three are in very poor circumstances. Jim just loves
to bargain with them for peas, apples, tomatoes, or whatever. When
they come back with their red marbles, and they always do, he
decides he doesn't like red after all and he sends them home with a
bag of produce for a green marble or an orange one, perhaps."
I left the stand smiling to myself,
impressed with this man. A short
time later I moved to Colorado but I never forgot the story of this
man, the boys, and their bartering.
Several years went by, each more rapid that the
previous one. Just
recently I had occasion to visit some old friends in that Idaho
community and while I was there learned that Mr. Miller had died.
They were having his viewing that evening and knowing my friends
wanted to go, I agreed to accompany them.
Upon arrival at the mortuary we fell into line to
meet the relatives of
the deceased and to offer whatever words of comfort we could. Ahead
of us in line were three young men. One was in an army uniform and
the other two wore nice haircuts, dark suits and white shirts ...
all very professional looking.
They approached Mrs. Miller, standing composed
and smiling by her
husband's casket. Each of the young men hugged her, kissed her on
the cheek, spoke briefly with her and moved on to the casket. Her
misty light blue eyes followed them as, one by one, each young
man stopped briefly and placed his own warm hand over the cold pale
hand in the casket. Each left the mortuary awkwardly, wiping his
Our turn came to meet Mrs. Miller. I told her who I was and
mentioned the story she had told me about the marbles. With her eyes
glistening, she took my hand and led me to the casket. "Those three
young men who just left were the boys I told you about. They just
told me how they appreciated the things Jim 'traded' them. Now, at
last, when Jim could not change his mind about color or size ...
they came to pay their debt."
"We've never had a great deal of the wealth
of this world," she
confided, "but right now, Jim would consider himself the richest man
With loving gentleness she lifted the lifeless
fingers of her deceased husband.
Resting underneath were three exquisitely shined