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Reflections

I saw so regularly an old man sitting by the roadside that I began to feel I knew him, though we never spoke. He sat there from morning, through midday sun and into the afternoon, somehow comfortable on stony soil, beneath a mango tree. He would raise a hardened fist as his greeting every time I passed.

A time ago, before radios, televisions and telephones, the roadside was an important place to be. It was a river of life that news flowed on. But while some people sat by the roadside to be part of the passing day, gossiping and looking for news; other people used the road side as a place for work, in a tiring trade of pounding stones; breaking rocks down into gravel for construction, working by the side of the road where the government trucks could come to them, having hauled their rocks from fields and river beds in wheelbarrows and carts.

Like this old man, you could tell people who had lived this trade because their hands were so very hard. They worked with a five-pound hammer, on their pile of stones, under a tree, a tattered awning or the broad sky alone.

Now on the roadsides it is only farmers you’ll see; selling their fruits and veg. But even after the last harvest of stones, the old man remained by the roadside, accustomed to his place and waving at me when I passed.

Today while driving my children to school I slowed down by the mango tree so they could wave back at the old man, and so that I could tell them the story of how people pounded stones for a living.

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