August 28th…“TELL ABOUT A UNIQUE PERSON WHO LIVED IN YOUR HOMETOWN WHEN YOU WERE A LITTLE BOY GROWING UP IN SOUTHERN MINNESOTA.”
He may have rolled into town inside one of the many railway freight cars that stopped at our village in southern Minnesota. Or, he may have been a son from a local farm family. Either way, Beryl “Lightning” Lark was a colorful character that found our small town of Kiester, Minnesota to his liking and called it home for the most part of his adult days.
Somehow, over the years, Beryl was tagged with the nickname, “Lightning”. And, from my childhood recall, it likely did NOT pertain to him being speedy on his feet by any means. When it came to physical attributes, that literally poor man had to merely open his mouth to show that there weren’t many real teeth in attendance, per se, but only a vacant dental cave with a single stalagmite and stalactite here and there in his cavernous smile.
One thing for sure, “Lightning” never looked like he was starving. Through his various means of garnering some sort of income, Mr. Lark became one very roley poley man. That fact became seam-splitting obvious when he’d try to fit into a lady’s dress while riding one of his bikes through various parades in our town over the years.
Amongst the various parade entries of marching band, fancy decorated floats and sparkling cars……….there’d come old “Lightning” on a bike, pulling a child’s wagon and throwing candy to the kids in the crowd along the way. With about a six month supply of dirt all over his body, he was quite the sight wearing a lady’s frilly hat with a matching dress on that very soiled body. His burgeoning belly had burst out the side seam of that dress that was wayyy too small and revealed sections of his “personal landscape” as he wiggled n jiggled by.
Our farmer parents, on occasion, would hire one of the local businesses to come out to our farm with their special machinery to grind field corn, which we then, in turn, would feed that more easily chewable food to our cows and other livestock. Good old “Lightning” had been given the opportunity, by the business owner, to earn a few dollars as one of the crew of the grinding service that day.
Other feed grinding workers on the crew, that late afternoon, had already gone home to their families, but not “Lightning”. With no family to rush home to, “Lightning” meandered up to our mother’s kitchen and engaged her in conversation while she prepared our savory family supper that evening.
Since Mr. Lark was a bachelor with a microscopic source of income, he was limited to taking up residence in an itty-bitty shack that was either near or actually IN the town’s junkyard. So you see, as a man who had to fend for himself in the food department of life……he was in no hurry, whatsoever, to want to leave the tantalizing aroma’s of our mother’s delicious cooking and that warm, cozy kitchen of ours. Being the generous soul she always was, it didn’t take Mom long to realize that this long-winded talker was hoping for an invitation to stay for supper with our family.
From Mom’s kind heart came these words, “Lightning, would you like to stay and have supper with us?” Spoken through his toothless mouth and with an accompanying speech impediment, his classic response to Mom’s invitation has become a staple in our family ever since his utterance of ……“Well, thince ya twithed mah arm, SURE! I’ll thtay fer thupper!!”
Mom had to squelch a giggle in reacting to “Lightning’s” quick response to her invitation. When Dad had finished milking the cows, he arrived upon the sweet aromatic scene of supper on the table and our guest of honor for that evening…….Mr. Beryl Lark. Generous were the pleasant portions, that evening, of food, friendship and fellowship with “Lightning” that made for a pleasant moment to remember for this Norwegian Farmer’s Son.