Grover Valentine was the second wisest man that ever lived. I know this for certain, because Solomon asked God for a discerning heart to distinguish between right and wrong. God answered and said “I will give you a wise and discerning heart, so that there will never have been anyone like you, nor will there ever be”. So since he added the clause “nor will there ever be”, one must draw the conclusion, that Grover must be second in line.
Grover was this old coot that lived on the corner near my house. He had a wife named Alice who stayed at home and watched kids whilst Grover headed off to work at the Karg’s Brothers leather mill. We all sought out Grover for his infinite depth of knowledge on all things. If we had a question about worms, ants, stars, sun, moon, or quantum physics, Grover seemed to know the answer. I often saw Grover seated on the front porch with a gaggle of neighborhood kids around his feet, peppering him with questions. I specifically remember one long explanation of how birds fly, involving paper airplanes and a diagram of the hollow bones in the birds body.
At this point I must explain the strange paradox that was Grover’s house. All of the houses in the neighborhood looked like the sort of houses you would expect to see next to a leather mill located on the stinky old Cayadutta Creek. Not so with Grover’s house. It was a neatly painted dark green saltbox house with bright white trim and a picket fence. The grounds around the house were trimmed with precisely kept flower beds and rose bushes. A group of kids approaching this house from our drab neighborhood was like Hansel and Gretel happening upon the gingerbread house.
Grover’s wife Alice was equally amazing, from a kid’s perspective. During summer vacation, we would repeatedly ask Alice when Grover was getting home from work. If I had kid’s hammering me all summer long with the same inane questions each day, my response would most likely be to chase them off with a stick. Alice’s response was to give us cookies. She must have cooked all day, because there was always a cookie-ish smell emanating from their house.
Next to Grover’s house was a small garage, that was really a shed, since it was filled to the ceiling with eleventy three tons of ancient crap. One day, the gang was walking by and we saw that Grover was cleaning out the shed/garage. He had stuff strewn all over the lawn. Such a collection of gadgets, you have never seen. All sorts of strange tools for fabricating who knows what were laid out in neat rows. At the back of the garage was an ancient Henderson motorcycle. I am pretty sure that Grover regretted revealing this fact to the boys in da hood, as from that day forward, he was asked daily to fire it up and give us all a ride. That never happened, but I do remember dreams of riding that motorcycle past my jealous friends, wearing a leather helmet and a pair of goggles.
I don’t remember what happened to Grover and Alice, as we moved out of the old neighborhood when I started junior high school. They would have to be 100 years old by now, and sleeping in the hall of some nursing home with their mouths wide open. I prefer to think that Grover finally did pull the old Henderson out of the shed, fire it up, and then rode into the sunset with Alice on the back.