Wayfarer | 28 May 2009 | 46 Comments

A boy was walking home from the corner shop, running an errand for his dad. He loved the way the grass cut up between his toes and tickled the underside of his feet, sometimes a little too sharply. Its coolness after the hot asphalt was great but not when it was really freshly cut. It was okay today, though, because Mr Buckley cut it last Saturday.
Right then he saw a shilling pointing at an angle towards him. He it held up to look at the merino; it could buy him twenty cobbers or thirty freckles. A bag that’d be the biggest bag of sweets that he’d ever had. The shilling was more than he ever had. He put a hand into a pocket to take out father’s change. It was much more than the shilling, but for him, his shilling was just as valuable.
He thought of turning back towards the shop but something deeper inside said he’d better go home first. Being out alone was on condition that he didn’t go out of the way. Straight there and straight back.

His dad was in the driveway still unloading bricklaying tools from the ute. The biggest man he knew; over six feet. “Six two” he’d heard his mother say. And full of the biggest muscles he’d ever seen. He looked up at his father’s deep sun tanned skin and sun bleached golden hair. Brick dust and smears of dried cement still covered his clothes, arms and legs. His boots were caked in the stuff like hard grey icing.
“I’m back. Here’s your change. And your smokes.”
“Put them over there for a minute.”
“Dad, look, I found a shilling”
“In the grass at Buckley’s place”
“Well, looks like someone’s dropped it coming back from the shop. You’d better take it round there in case someone’s looking for it”
“But it’s mine. I found it”
“No son. It belongs to someone else. Take it back and give it to McLeod, let him give it to the person. If nobody claims it then you can get it back off him.”

There was never any arguing with his father. What was said was done. He returned to the shop, all the while feeling cross over the injustice of it and the loss of a shilling’s worth of sweets.

“Mr McLeod, I found a shilling outside Buckley’s. Dad said to give it to you in case someone lost it.”
“Rightoh son. I’ll look after it.”

The boy handed it over watching it disappear into the man’s hand. He turned and left the shop.

He returned the next day.
“Mr McLeod, did anyone take that shilling?”
“No son.”

The following day he asked the same question.
“Yes. It was Old Mick Derby’s shilling. I remembered he was in here a little while before you, so I asked him if he was a bit short. He said he’d lost a shilling or I’d short changed him.”

Old Mick Derby was the town drunk. He’d stagger up and down the road in his century old clothes with old fashioned braces, four-day growth, hacked voice and pitiful “old person” smell. He was poor and sad and lonely but content with his lot regardless. He grew vegetables in a huge garden, more than he could ever eat, and gave them away to neighbours. All you had to do is send your son over with a cardboard box. Sometimes the box of vegetables included a fresh chicken, gutted and feathered, if the son would just hold it down while he fetched the axe.

“Oh” came the boy’s deflated reply; it must have spoken volumes to the shopkeeper because just then he leaned under the counter and brought out a cobber.
“He’s your reward for being honest, son.”

The boy’s eyes lit up as the cobber spilled into his hand."Thanks Mr McLeod”

Something changed in the way the shopkeeper treated the boy from then on. The boy noticed it each time he visited but it took him a while to realise why; he was just a kid but he’d earned a man’s respect. That, and the fact every once in a while Mr McLeod would slip him a cobber, perhaps to remind him that he’d done something good.

This story of a father teaching his son the meaning of honesty stayed with him as vividly as told above. He can still feel the stiff grass outside Buckley’s place, still see that shilling with it’s merino head shining in the sun as he turned it, and the taste of disappointment of not being allowed to keep it. And he can still feel the pride in having done the right thing and being respected for it. Somehow, it made that bad taste not so bad after all.
I retell this story to point out that we are compelled to respect good people. Honest people. And that it’s linked to self esteem and self worth. Honesty is integrity.

46 Comments so far | Post a comment

Unfortunately, this bout of high and mighty didn’t have too much hold on me. Perhaps I was feeling a little guilty in the lead up to this :)
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way gotta say I love the way you tell a story. keep it up. Cheers Cammo

Brilliant Way.  Personal experience?  I hope I can instill the same kind of honesty and values in my own kids.

honesty for its own sake, without any thought for reward.
Now there is an ideal we all should aim for.

“Now there is an ideal we all should aim for.” -Sibron”

Agreed, but does anyone bother?
I would find it very difficult to to pinpoint a time in my life where my good deeds are recognised for what they are. No, I don’t mean reward, I mean for the sake of simple honesty.
Recently I was undercharged $4 on a $10 meal ( a significant difference) and immediately told the cashier of the mistake. He told me at the end there are few people who are as honest. I hope the point sticks.
The fact seems to me that honesty is not an ideal people aim for simply because it negates any perceived advantage.
“Small victories”, it would seem, are the mini goals of peoples lives. To come out on top, no matter how minuscule the advantage.
Good work can also be seen this way, too. If you are seen to be going beyond your capacity to complete a task, it seems expected, because if you just come across the line, it is a less-than-adequate outcome (to co-workers) even if the work is completed satisfactory.
Honesty, integrity, and self sacrifice appear to be expected of us from the 3rd person perspective, but feel short-changed when someone is less than honest, or takes advantage of your good will and effort.

It seems to me that this world is built on double standards. No wonder you don’t see any selflessness in the everyday.

I will, however continue to practice an honest conscience and action. Maybe someone will pay it forward one day.

Great story!  I know that I’m always disappointed when my friends’ response to seeing me putting my name on something is to scoff and ask why I’m bothering.  “If I lose it and some selfish scumbag finds it, there’s no harm in putting my details on it.  But if an honest person finds it and wants to return it to me, they won’t be able to if I don’t put my name and number on it.  And remind me not to lose anything around you.”

But the real reason I’m posting is to ask, just what manner of sweet is a cobber?

How true :)

A cobber is a small square semi-hard caramel chew coated in chocolate. It’d be about 3/4” on two sides and 3/8” thick.

They used to be my favourite :)

Love the cobbers!!! Fantails are the closest now days, but not the same…

Nice story Way.

I think the reward for honesty needs to be found within yourself.  Looking for the acknowledgement from others is only seeking to reward your honesty.  Honesty needs to be, and often is, a selfless act.



The boy in the story was about 7 or 8. He wasn’t after the reward; he wanted to keep the shilling. His reward of a cobber came unexpectedly from a man who knew the value of such things but it’s not the central point. It’s not a story about recognition for doing the right thing it was a story about how a father taught his son to be honest. To the boy, the right thing was to keep the shilling! The side story was how the shopkeeper treated him thereafter and how the boy discovered the value of honesty, not through reward… that honesty is a thing people value and respect. There’s no “looking for acknowledgement” in there, Wongdai.

CARNALDESTRUCT | 08:25 am - 29 May 2010

Terrific story as always Way
Thanks for sharing mate :)

where is the part about homies dissing his fly girl then he earning street cred by getting medieval on the brothers?

An uplifting and inspiring story.  Thanks.

Nice story as usual Way.  I’m old enough to remember being able to buy more than one Cobber for a penny, but I didn’t like them much, I’d get two large rainbow balls for a penny.  Probably a choking hazard now.

Cut the spam man!

I didn’t realize we had these blog bits on TOG, until just now.

I like this story :D I try and keep a humble face about working hard and calling things as they are, and not let the ego take over. Yes the recognition is nice, but it’s not about the recognition… and the kid’s dad knew it too.

Once was a time that a man’s word was as good as any gold or silver. When bartering was an honest way to repay debts; working off a purchase by stocking shelves, for example.

Good ponder material. :)

Good story with a good moral. made me think of the tails my grandfather would tell us after sunday dinner.

This post is very interesting. Thanks :) By the way, students can always buy research papers online and forget about their academic problems.

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