Cono meets a “Colored Man”



Cono Dennis and his sister, Delma

1934:  We walk into the barber’s shop and Dad shakes hands with Mr. Kindle. The place looks pretty much the same as Grady’s in Ranger, but instead of a boxing poster, there’s a framed picture of President Roosevelt. Something else different too. There’s a colored man standing in the corner holding a rag. Dad walks up to him, shakes his hand and says, “How ya doin,’ H?”

  “I’m jest fine, Mr. Wayne. How ‘bout yerself?” They shake hands.

   “Any better ’n I’d be dead.”

  “Well, that’s fine then, jus’ fine,” H. laughs.

 “H., this is my boy, Cono.” H. bends down, looks me square in my eyes and says, “We’ll, it’s a real pleasure Little Dennis, a real pleasure.”

 I like how he’s Squatting so he can see my eyes. Like we’re playing on the same team. I don’t have to look up to him and he doesn’t have to look down on me. I stare back into his eyes where I can see right into the middle of him. What I see is safe and comfortable. So I say, “I ain’t never met a real colored man before.” I hear Dad laugh.

   “‘S’at right?”


  “Yes, sir,” corrects Dad.

 “Yes sir,” I say.

“Well, Little Dennis, I’ve never met a young man so strong and smart lookin’ as you.”     Dad gets in the barber’s chair and H. pulls up a stool to start shining Dad’s old black shoes.

I like the way H. looks at me, like I’m worth a jar full of quarters.

Excerpt from No Hill for a Stepper


4 thoughts on “Cono meets a “Colored Man”

  1. I remember the first time my girls saw a black person, the children happened to have very blond hair. My daughter sat behind them in church and she kept reaching to touch their hair. In those days, (70’s) many blacks had natural hair styles. After service they were very sweet and let her touch their kid’s fluffy heads then they all ran off to play. The parents were wonderful and understanding. The mother explained there had been someone white way back down the line and the kids got the recessive gene. Some say kids know no prejudice, that’s true but they do notice color differences, but like these, once the curiosity was satisfied, off they went.
    My oldest son, was very blond and he always wanted to be “black” like the rest of us. He has a cousin who is the same and she dies her hair black for the same reason. He just keeps his head shaved. When I was a kid in Alabama, the girls kept darkening their skin and tanning all the time. It seems no one is ever happy as is.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Reminds me of To Kill A Mockingbird 🙂 Must be the accent.
    I’ve lived in Africa since mid-80s, it’s hard to remember not being [friends / friendly] with Africans, with their different accents depending on from which African country they are. There are a distinct differences among the South Africans, Zambians, Zimbabweans, Congolese, Nigerians and Malawians (those being form my own conversations).
    But, my little one, about 2 years ago, was so fascinated with the difference in hair that she couldn’t stop touching a little boy’s head. Luckily, the boy didn’t mind. 🙂


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