Ole Mr. Johns is a story very dear to my heart. Ole Mr. Johns is based upon my grand-uncle, my mother’s uncle, who was a hero to me and my cousin. Our uncle was a proud Pullman Porter traveling across the whole country. His final run was from Chicago to Los Angeles on the Southern Pacific Railroad. I never got to see him much as he was always away working but when he was home it was magical.

My grand-uncle was a tall, thin, wiry, dark man with an expression that was always pleasant. I don’t remember him ever frowning or being angry. He was a man of all trades, fixing anything and everything that needed repair in the neighborhood. He was liked and respected by everyone, but he was ours.

My Ole Mr. Johns told stories. He had so many to tell about his trips, the places he had been and the things he had seen. He would have a large smile on his face as he reminisced about his latest adventure. We learned about New York City, Miami, Florida, and many other places long before we would ever see them for ourselves. We mostly enjoyed the stories about his trips to California told when we were old enough to treasure them. I knew of groves of oranges, the blue and warm shining Pacific Ocean and mountains so high that they cast shadows over the strawberries that grew beneath them in the fields. We learned of a place called Hollywood but more magically than that we learned of a small desert town called Las Vegas. We just knew we would go there one day. Every time my grand-uncle returned from California he had a small gift for us. In our small hands he would place a large, round, shiny, silver dollar that came from Las Vegas. He made us feel so rich from the love he showered us with assuring us that we too could do and be anything we wanted to.



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