A huge, pedestal clock stands in the center of our small town. It is surrounded by a wrought iron fence and flanked on either side by the split street. It was placed there when the town was first established and has been untouched as a memorial to days gone by. Even though hair salons and specialized craft stores inhabit the buildings along Main Street, thankfully the wonderful, decorative store fronts have been preserved.
If you move to our little town or just simply visit, you will see a man standing by the clock.
He is known as “the greeter.”
The first time I saw him from across the street, he gave me a polite nod and a timid, brief glance from his downcast eyes. I didn’t give him a second thought. It wasn’t until a few months later that I actually took notice.
When a young man walked out of a restaurant to smoke a cigarette, I asked him if he knew who the man was. I jokingly asked him if he was the “clock guardian” because he was always there.
The young man said “all I know is that he has been there for as long as anybody can remember.” He put out his cigarette, told me to have a “good one” and walked away.
I started walking uptown for the sole purpose of finding out about this man. I thought “he might make a good story.” I watched him while making mental notes that I filed away in what I hoped would be my massive collection of information.
Now and then, he takes the almost perfect pose of a baseball pitcher. He looks left, right and straight ahead, with the intensity of a professional. He approves or rejects imaginary signs from a non-existent catcher. When he sees the sign he wants, he swings his arms back and forth but then pauses as if a time out has been called.
I have never seen him actually throw a pitch.
Who is this mystery man? Is he perhaps a veteran or maybe a wall-street tycoon who abandoned the rat race for the simple life in a sleepy little town? Could he have at one time, long ago, actually been a professional baseball player? Is he a store owner? Is he homeless?
Determined to put my best, self-taught investigative reporting skills to work, I made it my mission to find out more.
I started with the basics. I visited every store and started asking questions. The answers were unanimous from both shop owners and patrons. Nobody knew anything about him except that “he has been there for as long as anybody can remember.”
There seems to be an unwritten rule that he is never to be approached but I would not be deterred by rules, whether written or unwritten.
I put on my big girl panties and decided to walk up to him and start a conversation. If nothing else I thought, I’ll try to get a picture but I was stopped cold by a sudden, uneasy feeling. Even from a distance, it was almost as if I was about to violate something sacred.
I backed off and I could hear him mumbling something incoherently and he immediately went into his “pitching” stance. He was so believable, I was momentarily afraid of actually getting hit with an invisible ball.
With some distance between us, the uneasiness subsided. I didn’t get a picture but I was even more determined to get answers.
I had been unsuccessful with the shop-owners and their patrons so my next step was the library. I combed through all the records that were available. There was absolutely no mention of this man in any newspaper article or any other public record.
I couldn’t make sense of there being no evidence of somebody who had been around “for as long as anybody could remember.”
I went to the police station and talked to a very nice officer. When I started quizzing him, he said “oh, yes…the greeter,” but he offered no information. His official statement, like all the others was “he’s been here for as long as anybody can remember.”
Was this a stock answer? It was the same answer from everybody I questioned.
That answer was not good enough. I wanted to go back uptown when it got dark. I wanted to know where this man slept. This little town proverbially “rolls up the sidewalks” at night. I couldn’t imagine that he slept next to the clock. He had to sleep somewhere and I was going to find out where.
To be continued……………