Pat Heston

The hometown of my youth was a traveling salesman’s Mecca. From Fuller Brushes to arthritis cures and magic elixirs, you could cash in on the populace if you were but half-way decent at your job.

One September Saturday, a young man—well-groomed, clean shaven, with good posture—was making his way through town block by block, street by street. He wore black horn-rimmed glasses, a part directly down the middle of his black hair, and sported a black suit and tie, accentuated by a freshly pressed white shirt.

I know. I, along with my younger brother, was orbiting my mother’s skirt when the salesman came to the door. My mom’s hair was still in curlers though she had on a skirt, blouse, and shoes. Promptly, he asked if she would be interested in purchasing some authentic Irish lace. She thanked him but said no. He accepted the rejection and moved on.

Still somewhat early, but later that morning, my mom—and we two orbiting kids—were at my grandmother and great-grandmother’s house when there was a knock at the door. My grandmother asked my mom if she would answer it. She did. There stood the same traveling salesman.

He backed away momentarily, checked the street address number by the front door, then quickly launched into his sales pitch for authentic Irish lace. As we kids orbited the moon that was mom, she listened kindly and patiently to the man before once more refusing. He left, but not without glancing back once over his shoulder as if still trying to figure out what was going on.

Later, my mom and her boys were visiting my grandmother and grandfather on yet another street. There came yet another knock at the door. My grandfather was downstairs working. My grandmother was busy the kitchen. My mom was asked to open the door and see who it was. She—with our orbiting assistance—opened the door. Guess who it was? Yep—the same salesman, Irish lace and all. Once more, he backed away and checked the address, then wiped his glasses with his handkerchief, started to speak, thought better of it, then turned and walked away, occasionally glancing back as if trying to interpret what he had just seen.

Later, so the story goes, he stopped by Mrs. Blackwood’s house. Mrs. Blackwood, who was usually scantily clad until at least noon (especially on a Saturday), opened the door in her didn’t-leave-room-for-much-imagination nightgown. The salesman, startled, backed away. Suddenly, the dog of the house—named Mister—appeared and began barking. That’s when Mrs. Blackwood yelled, “Get out of here, Mister!”

The young, frightened salesmen zipped off the front porch like a Fourth

Of July bottle rocket that had just ignited, followed closely by the yelping, snipping dog that had slipped through the open doorway. That’s when Mrs. Blackwood screamed, “Mister! Mister! Come back and I’ll give you a treat!”

The four-legged mister promptly returned home. The two-legged mister was never again seen—in Greenville.