When Rodney Black was a child in Cherryville, his fatherâ€™s hobo friend, Caleb Farmer, came to visit.
It was in the midst of World War II, and his father had not seen Farmer for 10 years. Their only contact was through penny postcards that Farmer sent from all over the United States.
That year, however, Farmer sent one asking to come visit his childhood home for Christmas.
It was Black who went to pick Farmer up from the train station and bring him back to the cozy little house.
After a joyful reunion, dinner and more than a few sips of white liquor, something unexpected happened â€” Farmer fell out of his chair and soon died.
â€œThis has been something that was talked about in our family, and you marveled that something like this could happen and why it happened,â€ Black said.
Since Farmer was a hobo with no relatives to speak of, Blackâ€™s family raised money for a proper burial.
As Black writes in his story â€œMr. Farmerâ€™s Homecoming,â€ which was published in â€œOur Stateâ€ this month, â€œSome said that he died from Popâ€™s hot room, some from Momâ€™s rich food and some from the white liquor. But I think that Caleb Farmer just came home to die.â€
The story was Blackâ€™s first attempt at writing. The memory came to the 69-year-old when he was suffering from life-threatening bronchitis.
â€œOver a three-night period the story came to me word for word just like someone was typing it in my head as it happened,â€ Black said.
He shared it with friends and family who told him â€œYou need to do something with this.â€
And so he sent it off to â€œOur State,â€ not thinking much of it.
â€œI thought that it would end up in a wastebasket,â€ he said.
Instead, it became a published story, which was raved about by both friends and strangers. Black even received a call from a woman in Washington praising the story.
â€œSome people send things off forever and donâ€™t ever get published,â€ Black said. â€œIâ€™m pretty proud of it.â€
Black says heâ€™s now using up his 15 minutes of fame. Whether or not heâ€™ll write again remains to be seen.
Now a Crouse resident, Blackâ€™s busy enough with his upholstery business. Besides, before this story, heâ€™d never written anything in his life â€œexcept a letter to the editor.â€
Still the success of writing down this memory has made him wonder if he has others worth telling.
â€œThis was just out of the blue, and I donâ€™t know if I have another story or not,â€ Black said.
by Sarah Grano