Every Saturday during the last days of summer, I sat out on my patio conversation set for a morning cup of coffee. Those days were always slow to begin, and so the mornings went by quickly. Sometime before 11:00 a.m., we would hurry off to the Main Street Guymon Farmer’s Market. As summer wound down in the Oklahoma Panhandle, I was saddened that the fresh supply of homegrown garden produce was coming to an end.
It was the next to the last weekend that the Main Street Guymon organization would block off 5th Street between Ellison and Main for the locals to sell their produce and crafts. It would be the last Saturday for some of the vendors, as the mornings grew colder and their gardens grew bare. We bought a thirty-five pound pumpkin for five dollars, and found just enough zucchini to cook our last zucchini pizza of the season. We took a little longer picking out what to buy, because there was less to choose from, and we knew we would not see some of these folks until next season.
Two men were selling honey grown in one of the men’s beehives. I knew both men, so we traded pleasantries, and then we traded stories. One of the men had a novelty cane made with pipe fittings, and when he flipped it end for end, it became a novelty golf putter. We talked about the same things that we have always talked about when we run into each other. We told the same stories that we always tell. We listened to the same tales we had heard before, and we behaved as if the tales were being told for the very first time. This is what you do when you see someone you enjoy talking with, but do not know them well enough to talk about anything else. That is what we did.
The man with the novelty cane began to tell me his Blue Pigeon joke. I may have heard him tell it once before. It’s the one about the time Guymon had a big problem with pigeons.
The city had tried everything to get rid of the pigeons, but the pigeon population continued to grow, and so did the mess they left on the buildings and sidewalks of Main Street. The city officials heard about a traveling man who guaranteed he could get rid of the pigeon problem, and at no charge, but on one condition. That single condition being that they could ask no questions or the fee would be $5,000. The city leaders agreed.
So, the traveling man came to Guymon, bringing only a single birdcage with him. The Mayor met the traveling man at the corner of 5th and Main, just a few yards from where we stood that morning at the Farmer’s Market telling stories. Then, the traveling man reached into his birdcage, pulled out a Blue Pigeon, and immediately released it up into the air. That Blue Pigeon flew straight down the middle of Main Street, and as it flew, all the other pigeons that had lined the building tops took flight and followed that Blue Pigeon. They followed him down to the stop light on the highway. Then, being led by the Blue Pigeon, they all took a right turn and flew on out of town, never to be seen again.
The Mayor was extremely impressed, and now he had one question he felt he had to ask. The traveler reminded him that the fee would be $5,000 if he were to ask even a single, simple question. The Mayor, being fully aware of the $5,000 fee, still felt that he had to know, and so he asked the traveler, “Do you have any Blue Illegal Immigrants?”
I did not laugh at the punch line. There was an awkward moment of silence.
The man explained the punch line to me. The other man mentioned that the joke might not be politically correct. I said that novelty cane is “really something.” We told another story or two. I bought a container of honey, and hurried off to pick out some other produce from the other vendors. That was the last time I saw the two men at the market. Only a few vendors showed up the last weekend. I guess the two must have decided not to sell honey that last Saturday.
I was glad I bought the honey when I had the opportunity, although I could give the man a call if I needed more. I have enjoyed the honey, but it turned bittersweet for me last week. The man who told the Blue Pigeon story passed away, a week ago, Saturday. I was stunned when I heard the news. I reflected on how I had just seen him such a short while before at the Farmer’s Market. He seemed fine; he was fine. We had traded stories. You just never know what the future holds. You just never know when someone will go. Just like that. You just never know.
I wish I had laughed.