The Water Bearer

Already Hollywood was flickering across America, and radio was beaming to homes everywhere. The last great agricultural century, the momentous 19th, had given way finally to the gleaming, ferocious 20th.

For men like Jim, men who’d been boys during the country’s reconstruction, who had participated in the great mythic West, it was a sad time, a lost time.

Old even then, Jim had been moving from flophouse to flophouse for several years, taking temporary jobs, all the while unconsciously moving east; completing a circuit started when he was 17 and had jumped a train to Denver.

He stopped moving for a day or two when he reached Bonne Terre, a mining town south of St. Louis. He’d been born in St. Louis, and like a salmon, I suppose, he had made it his goal to return there before he died.

While in Bonne Terre, though, he heard of a wealthy gentleman seeking to hire a man to maintain his house and grounds. Outdoor work had always appealed to Jim, and he went out to the man’s property, a few miles from town, and applied for the job with a Mr. Krieger, the lawyer who was managing the man’s affairs.

He was hired on the spot, paid a week in advance. That afternoon, he moved his meager possessions to the groundskeeper’s cabin, set off from the main house behind a copse of dense evergreens.

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