Your Liberty is Our Interest

Small, Cruel World


by John Knapp

My wife, Bobbi, faithfully leaves our house every weekday morning at 7:10 A.M., to go to our daughter’s house, which is 10 minutes towards town, to keep our grandchildren. Then, our daughter, Katee, races the other 2 miles to town (Branford, Fla. Pop. 708) to teach 1st grade at our little local elementary school.

Yesterday morning my wife called me about 5 minutes after she’d left, in a bit of a tizzy. She told me she had passed a man who was out by his mailbox, standing next to a lawnmower, right next to the highway. She told me she thought he had waved at her as she drove by, but as she went on down the road and turned the corner, she began wondering if it was a neighborly wave or a wave summoning help. She asked me if I wouldn’t drive down there to check it out, just to be sure.

So, I put my shoes on and followed her trail. Sure enough, in a couple of miles, I came upon a little old man, all of 5’3″, and his quiet lawnmower. He was frantically waving me down. I pulled off the road next to where he was, right next to his mailbox post. I didn’t know the old man, though I’d bought a watermelon or two from him in summers past, off the back of his truck, which he always parked at the road end of his driveway. I remember back then he told me he loved selling watermelons.

Before I had even exited my truck, he was profusely thanking me for stopping. He didn’t have a tooth in his head, and he spoke with a very heavy New York accent. He was exasperated, shaking, practically in tears. I don’t know how long he’d been standing there, but he was helpless, holding onto the back of his mower seat. At first, I thought he’d had a stroke or a was having a heart attack.


“Help me!” he cried. “I can’t walk!  My mower ran out of gas. I just came out to get my mail. I’m 91 years old. I can’t even walk to my gate! My nurse is coming at 9:00, and my physical therapist is coming at 10:00. No one would stop.” He was frantic with worry. The gate on his driveway was only 30 feet away.

I finally realized his inability to walk was chronic. I tried to calm him down. I took him by the hand and arm and walked him slowly over to the passenger side of my truck and helped him get in. I went and retrieved his mail from a crevice next to the seat of his lawnmower. I got in the truck and said, “I live just around the corner, and I have some gas in a can….”

“No!” he interrupted me. “I have some gas. Just take me down my driveway.” So, I turned the truck around and pushed his gate open far enough to drive through.

His house was at the far end of his property, maybe a half-mile off the paved road. He was still a little agitated from the fix he’d just been in. I was trying to stay up with his end of the conversation, which was a little difficult. Agitated, toothless, New York accents aren’t my forte. I had to really concentrate.

“I worked for your President’s father,” I thought I heard him say.

“How’s that again?” I asked.

“I worked for President Trump’s father, Fred. I was a foreman on one of his construction crews for years. I knew Donald Trump. I knew Donald Trump’s older brother, Fred, Jr. He was a pilot. Donald was just like his father, working all the time. Fred, Jr., was a whole different kind of person than Fred and Donald. Fred pushed Fred, Jr., too hard, and drove him to become an alcoholic, and he died a young man.”

It was an incredible, incredulous moment.


We had gotten to his house by now. There was a gas can sitting on the back of his open truck bed. I got out and moved it to my truck bed.

“I can’t drive anymore,” he said. “They took my driver’s license away.”

There was a 2-wheeled handicap walker at the bottom of the ramp, which led up to his porch deck. He stayed in my truck while I went up to knock on the front door, to rouse his wife and apprise her of what had happened. I handed her the mail, and he and I drove back out to the lawnmower, which I filled with gas. I helped him up onto the lawnmower, which was difficult. He was obviously exhausted from his earlier predicament .

His mower cranked up on the first try. I followed him back up his driveway. He parked his mower right next to his walker at the bottom of the ramp. I put the gas can back in his truck bed, and walked behind him up the ramp to make sure he didn’t fall. He wanted to pay me, but I declined. He wanted our phone number, which I wrote down for him on an envelope his wife produced. I told him to be careful, to keep enough gas in the lawnmower. We shook hands and I left. As he had asked me to do, I pulled the gate closed just before I pulled out onto the highway.

I came straight home home and Googled ‘Fred Trump, Jr.’ There wasn’t much information there.  It said Fred Trump, Jr., Donald Trump’s alcoholic older brother, died in 1981 at the age of 43. It also noted that some say that’s why Donald Trump is a teetotaler.

The one-time watermelon salesman, the former construction boss for an American President’s father, the poor broken-down old man, out of gas out at his mailbox, was spot-on in his recollections. And my wife was his Angel.

And, still it is….a small, cruel world……


John Knapp      August 15, 2017  

August 16th, 2017 at 10:46 am

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