As artists are their art’s ultimate sacrifice, so Tony used himself up, serving family, fellow man, and God
Coveralls Behind The Door
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With solemn intensity the two men faced each other. The man behind the counter in the tiny Mississippi Delta country store held a pack of cigarettes; his customer flipped a coin.
The man behind the counter said, “Heads,” — the only word spoken. Pocketing the smokes, the customer walked out.
“What was that all about?” I asked the guy standing next to me.
“Aw … that’s just Tony and Dan, performing the same gambling ritual they’ve performed for years,” he said. “If Tony wins, the price is doubled; if Tony loses, Dan pays nothing. Both claim they’re ahead.”
Nobody cared — least of all Dan. Like countless others, he didn’t stop at the store just to make purchases: He stopped to see Tony, the man behind the counter.
One sad day, Tony passed away and left us heartbroken. Why was he loved by so many before his death, and why has he been missed by so many since that sad day? The coveralls behind the door explain.
Like all Delta folk, Tony was close to the land, revering it as heart, soul, provider: The land … sown in spring, tended in summer, reaped in autumn, rested in winter.
As immigrants, Tony’s forebears came to America, heeding the call of the Mighty Lady with a torch: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”
They settled in the Delta, making their way in a strange land, first as day laborers, then sharecroppers, and finally as landowners and shrewd businessmen. They prospered. Obeying God’s commandment to be fruitful, they raised large families and tilled the soil, making it yield.
Their capacity for hard work was limitless. As a boy, Tony’s chores began at sunup and ended at sundown, with school in between. He reached behind the door for the coveralls, put them on and went to work. His family plowed, chopped, and gathered. Tony learned to love the land for what it is: heart, soul, provider.
The family’s efforts bore fruit surpassing their fondest dreams. The farm grew, and the little country store profited. It was popular because folks could stop there to eat, meet friends, and relax after a day in the fields. But mostly it was popular because of the man behind the counter.
Figuratively speaking, Tony’s coveralls were always behind the door, always handy when others needed him.
Hungry? He prepared delicious food. Need a laugh? He told a joke. Broke? He loaned money. Need comforting? He listened, advised. Tony loved his land and his store. He loved people, he loved his work, he loved his church. He loved.
Tony used the gifts God gave him, especially the ability to brighten others’ lives. For this reason, he lives on in the hearts of family and friends.
As artists are their art’s ultimate sacrifice, so Tony used himself up, serving family, fellow man, and God.
Tony — the man behind the counter — earned the eternal rest he now enjoys. He no longer needs the coveralls behind the door.