Yep, I’m rich!

Rick Ryckeley's picture

Never thought I would ever see so much money, and yet it was just lying there for the taking. All I had to do was get to it before my three brothers and the riches would be mine.
This was easier said than done when you’re the youngest and only 8 years old. Trickery would definitely be called for.
We stood in the parking lot of the Piggly Wiggly, frozen just for a moment at the sight. Not one, but two 20-dollar bills tumbled across the asphalt propelled by a stiff March wind.

Their origin we didn’t know, and to be honest, we didn’t care. Just like the coconut we used as a football all last summer, “finders-keepers” was the law of the land on Flamingo Street.
Only this time I wasn’t gonna eat the money and get sick like we did with that coconut. I was gonna spend every dime – or so I thought.
The Piggly Wiggly was closed for remodeling, and we were the only kids using the parking lot to jump our bikes over makeshift ramps. One thing was certain: whoever was the fastest among us would soon become the richest.

Up to that day, the only money we had was in the form of nickels, dimes, and quarters. Nickels and dimes came from empty bottles we found. During the summer, we foraged for bottles at the vacant lots on Flamingo Street and the Duke of Gloucester. After redeeming them at the local 7-Eleven, we made $5 each.

The liquor store gave us more money per bottle, but Dad told us to stay away ‘cause of what happened last summer.
Seems someone left a half-eaten coconut on a shelf and some folks got really sick.

The quarters we earned were from shoe money. Each pair of Dad’s Sunday-go-to-meeting shoes we polished and shined earned us a quarter. Needless to say, my Dad had the shiniest shoes in town.
It had taken over a year, but each one of us earned another $5 for shoe shining. So the $40 blowing around in front of us was to be fast, easy, and most importantly, my money.

Now we knew some of us would get hurt in the mad money scramble. But what’s a little blood spilt among brothers? And yes, blood is much thicker than water. I’ve got the scars to prove it.
Older Brother Richard got to his bike first, Big Brother James was next, and then Twin Brother Mark.
All started to peddle after the tumbling treasure. I had just jumped the ramp and crashed, hopelessly damaged beyond repair. The bike, not me. I was fine.

That’s why I was the only one running, and yelling for them to watch out for falling rocks and limbs.
Seems someone was throwing obstacles in front of their bikes to make them crash. I blamed Down the Street Bully Brad back then and still do now.
Just before my brothers reached the tumbling twenties, the wind suddenly shifted, lifting the money up and over their heads. Because they were all cashing in that easy money, they weren’t paying attention to what was happening around them. They crashed into each other, ending up in a bloody heap with nothing.

I stopped running as the two bills landed at my feet but was only rich for a short while.
For the next six years, Dad made us invest all our money in a local company. When I was 12, my stock was worth $500 and I asked him to sell, knowing that local company wasn’t ever going to be worth investing in for the long haul.
Besides, I wanted a quadraphonic stereo, something that would be around forever and surely only increase in value.

The experts say the stock market was up over 30 percent last year, and it’s set to have another record run.
I wonder how many of us are going to get bloody as we chase that easy money this time.
For me, I’m investing in a sure thing. Thanks to the housing bubble bursting, there’re a bunch of empty lots around town.
There’s probably a fortune in bottles just waiting to help pad my retirement.

So in what local company did yours truly have $500 in stock way back some 45 years ago? What company did I think wouldn’t be good to invest any more of my shoeshine or bottle money?

Yep, you guessed it — this Coke is for you.
[Rick Ryckeley, who lives in Senoia, served as a firefighter for more than two decades and has been a weekly columnist since 2001. His email is His books are available at]

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