Mosquitos buzzed and hummed throughout the thick, humid summer air of the backcountry. Swarming, diving above and around the canoe of Dallas Brewer. Dallas, himself, drifted along in his canoe beneath the backdrop of the tangerine sky, the sun setting like a ball rolling down the side of a hill. A few pink clouds lay scattered throughout the sky in a perfectly random pattern. A scene so perfect that Mother Nature decided to duplicate it in the shimmering waters of the river. The old wooden canoe underneath Dallas split through the reflection sending ripples of color throughout the water before settling back down to its spitting image of the heavens above.
The canoe creaked underneath Dallas as he made his way down the river. He had owned that canoe for many years now and was one of his only possessions, along with the clothes on his back, his burgundy corduroy hat, an oar, and his beat up banjo. His consistent actions and attitude were what made him so recognizable throughout the county. All the locals were familiar with Dallas Brewer and respected him greatly. None knew where he came from or where he was going, but all were happy to see him when he came drifting through their part of town.
Today Dallas found himself in the town of Oakmont, a small community near the border of Pederson County. The town was home to no more than 2,000, most of whom were employed by the new automobile factory that opened up a couple of miles down the way from Oakmont in the bustling city of Van Buren, a small, but fast developing city. Most of the townsfolk elected to walk to and fro work since it wasn’t too much of a hassle and few actually could afford a car anyways, so it was not like they had much choice in the matter anyways.
Dallas had watched most of the Oakmontites make their way back home from the factory what he figured to be nearly three hours ago. There were a few stragglers here and there, each giving Dallas a smile and wave as they made their way past him, receiving a friendly tip of the cap from Dallas in return. With the sun setting, Dallas figured that all had made their way home from a long day of work, already settled in around the dinner table, enjoying time with their families.
As he lay there in his canoe, looking up at the sky, Dallas heard the sounds of grass rustling underfoot, causing him to slowly look up over the side of the canoe and out onto the river bank thirty feet away, his long, scraggly dirty blonde hair, glowing in the sunlight. He was met with the sight of little Benjamin and Thomas, two brothers that he had befriended from Oakmont.
“Well how do you do boys?” Dallas called out to the duo.
“Oh hey there Mr. Brewer, what brings you out here to Oakmont?” Benjamin called back in response.
“Oh nothin’ in particular. Jus’ goin’ wherever the wind takes me. How ‘bout you two boys?” Dallas explained.
“We came out to meet our parents halfway on their way home from work,” Benjamin answered.
“What, they didn’t come home earlier with the others?” Dallas asked.
“Naw, they called ahead and said that they were gonna be home a little late. Figured they had a long day, so we decided to cheer them up by meeting them down here,” Thomas explained.
“Why, that’s mighty nice of you boys. Awful dangerous to wait out here by yourselves at your age, especially with the sun goin’ down. Why don’t I wait with you boys?” Dallas offered.
“That’d be great Mr. Brewer! Thank you!” Benjamin replied.
“Wonderful,” Dallas grabbed his oar from the bottom of the canoe and paddled over to the river bank next to the two boys. He slowly got out and pulled the canoe up onto the shore. He then reached back into the canoe and pulled out his banjo by the neck before walking over to meet up with the two boys. Dallas walked the boys over to a grassy hill nearby and laid down in between the two boys, Benjamin on his left, Thomas on his right. Dallas hummed and strummed as the trio looked out across the horizon at the setting sun.
“Beautiful, ain’t it boys?” Dallas said.
“Sure is,” The brothers said in unison.
“This is why I am out here boys,” Dallas stated.
“The sun?” Benjamin questioned.
“Not just the sun, Benjamin, but the whole universe and everything inside of it. With the way the world seems to be going these days, focused on working and surviving as opposed to living and enjoying, people miss out on moments like these. Moments of such beauty and awe. So I figured that I gotta enjoy them for the people who don’t get to,” Dallas explained. “Yeah, haha, it’s hard work but, hey, someone’s gotta do it,” Dallas chuckled.
“That sure sounds relaxing and awesome, Mr. Brewer, but my parents say that school is important and that we should focus on that instead. I wish that I could just drop out and be like you,” Benjamin said.
Dallas closed his eyes and smiled, his reddish-brown beard shifting with the muscles of his face. “It is quite flattering of you to wish to be like me, but for now, you must remain a student. I was like you before, passing out from boredom in the classroom, but one day I realized how important what I was being taught was,” Dallas said. “Take the sun for example, people back in the day used to think it actually went down and disappeared off the face of the Earth,”
“Well that’s crazy,” Benjamin said. “Everyone knows the Earth is round and revolves like a spinning top,”
“Exactly, which is why education is important. Believe it or not there are still people who think the Earth is flat like that. Now don’t you want to sound smart rather than silly like those folks?” Dallas asked the two boys.
“Well, sure. I’d get made fun of for bein’ that stupid,” Thomas said.
“Exactly boys. Education is more important than anything. Learning is what pushes the world forward. If we learn nothing, we fail to become better people than our ancestors or those crazy folks who think the Earth is flat. Which is why it is important to Learn. Learn as much as you can from as many people as possible. Each person you meet has the chance of teaching you a valuable lesson, no matter who they are. Whether they be a man begging for money on the street, or a successful businessman like the one who owns the factory your parents work at. Each one of them has a story and lesson to be told,” Dallas told the brothers. “And I know school may be tough work sometimes, but you gotta do it. Now I know what you may be thinking, didn’t he just go against what he had just said before?” Dallas chuckled once more. “School is a different kind of work. Learning is a different kind of work. It is a necessary tool to grow. The work I speak of is the work that folks like your parents do. Long, excruciating work that doesn’t nearly return what it took from you. And do not take this as me criticizing your parents, because what they do is important. They work for you two,”
“They do?” Thomas asked.
“I thought they worked because they liked it,” Thomas said.
Dallas laughed for a moment. “No Thomas, they do it to provide you two with an opportunity to become better than they ever were. They want you to succeed so you never have to do a day of hard work in your life. They want you to be able to sit on a hill watching the sunset every evening and not have to worry about money. They do it for you,” Dallas explained.
“I never thought of it like that,” Thomas sat thinking about what he was told.
“Many do not. Many take their parents for granted, so it is important that you do not follow that trend. Love and appreciate what your parents do for you and don’t waste the wonderful opportunity that they have given you. Others would give their life to have an opportunity like yours, whether it be to have a chance to get an education, or have parents that love or care for them like your own,” Dallas sat up looking back and forth at the two boys.
Just as Mr. Brewer finished his last thought, he saw Benjamin and Thomas’s parents in the distance walking towards them. Thomas must have noticed just as Dallas did, for he yelled out to his parents with joy. Benjamin sprung up and joined his brother as they ran to greet their parents. Dallas slowly got up and smiled as he watched the parents pull their children into their arms. He fixed the brim of his cap and meandered over to the family
“That was awful sweet of you boys to meet us down here,” The mother said smiling. “But you boys could’ve gotten hurt,”
“It’s okay momma, Mr. Brewer was here to look after us,” Benjamin explained, gesturing towards Dallas.
“Thank you so much for watching them Dallas,” The father said, shaking Dallas’ hand.
“It was my pleasure, you have some very wonderful kids Mr. and Mrs. Lawson,” Dallas smiled.
“That’s very kind of you, Dallas. Come on boys, it’s time for dinner,” Mrs. Lawson said, leading her family back to Oakmont.
“Thanks again Mr. Brewer!” The two brothers called out to Dallas as they walked away.
Dallas gave a slight bow “You’re very welcome, and don’t forget what I have told you!” He called back.
“We surely won’t!” Benjamin yelled in return.
Dallas slowly strode back to the hill and picked up his banjo. He gave it one last little strum before walking back to the canoe. He set the banjo gently in the bottom of the canoe before getting in himself. Dallas then picked up his oar and used it to push himself off the river bank, sending him floating once again down the river, and off into the beautiful sunset.