Digger O’Graves is just one of many names my subject uses. He’s been called Santa Claus, The Judge, and a passel of other monikers, too. To me, he’ll always be one of the bandits who stole my heart.
Digger and his friends committed that crime on my son’s seventh birthday. At the park to rob a train – over and over again, all day long – the men stopped by to wish my boy a happy birthday.
At the time, my son was aboard the train with his Papa and his sister…and so, the bandits hatched a plot.
Soon, the train ride was over. The robbers waited for the perfect opportunity. When they saw my little guy approaching, they stomped on over toward him.
“Are you Spenser?” bellowed one man.
My son was surprised and a bit taken aback. He warily nodded. His big sister, the protector, stepped in front of him and asked what was up.
“Spenser’s a wanted man. He’s due before the Judge. Pronto.”
With that, another man slung my boy over his shoulder and off they went.
From bandits to lawmen in the tilt of a hat. Digger became the Judge and proceeded to quiz my son. A wrong answer would result in a hanging.
My daughter was given the okay to help answer the questions. Together, the kids struggled to provide thoughtful responses to trick questions.
Each query drew another bead of sweat upon the brows of my offspring.
“Well, you’ve tried hard, boy. I’ll give you that much,” said Digger. “Most men would hang for the answers you gave me. Still, I don’t find it an easy task to hang a man on his birthday, so I’ll give you one more chance. Are you ready?”
My son nodded slowly.
“Okay, son, here we go. Who had the best birthday in town today?”
My boy’s face lit up, he began bouncing up and down, and he yelled, “I did! I did! I did!”
The former bad boys of the untamed West gathered around him and wished him a very happy birthday. Then, Digger took a single bullet from another man and presented it to my son.
“This here’s a special bullet, boy. You ever find yourself in trouble around these parts (this park anyways), why you just show this here bullet to the man or woman who has a problem with your behavior. They’ll recognize this as one of mine and they’ll know who to call. I’ll vouch for you any time. Somehow, I don’t think I’ll ever hear from anyone because you look like a nice young man.”
Spenser grinned from ear to ear and promised to be a good boy – always. Said he never wanted to go on trial again.
Of all the photos of the men, I think I like this one most because it shows Digger trying to stare my son down. Kinda hard to do with a twinkle in his eye, don’t you think?
Joanie (San Diego, CA, USA)
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