My Mr. Crosby

At last count I have lived in twenty-two houses over the course of my lifetime. That’s a lot, really. Maybe that’s why I remember with greater fondness the ones that I lived in the longest.


One of those was the house on 5th and Elm in North Platte, Nebraska. We lived there from the time I was in first grade until the summer after seventh.


The house was a rental property sitting right next to the owner’s home. It was one of the smaller homes on the block and it wasn’t small. There were five rooms on the main floor plus the bathroom. There was an upstairs with two huge rooms, one tiny room, and a walk-in closet. There was an unfinished basement underneath.


Our landlord lived next to us. Mr. Maynard Crosby—a lawyer—was my mother’s boss and one of the kindest, gentlest people I ever met. At one point, his son Robert—once governor of Nebraska—lived in the little house next door, our house.


Mr. Crosby lived all alone in that big house. There were four bedrooms in the upstairs of his house and he slept in a different room each week. That way his housekeeper could come in once a month and change the sheets. That fact greatly impressed me as a child! As my dad said the other day, “He had his systems.”


The basement of the house was a little apartment which he used as a guest house. I remember at least one occasion when my grandparents stayed in the apartment and I got a tour. It was really cool!


The backyards of the two houses were undivided. There were no fences and Mr. Crosby loved having the neighborhood kids play in his yard. There were a lot of us. Behind us was a family with ten children. Across the street was another with eight. On the other side of Mr. Crosby was a family with three. There were three of us. So, as you can see, Mr. Crosby was a generous man.


He had a fish pond in his backyard which he kept stocked with gold-fish. There were snails and in one end were cattails. I asked my sister what he did with the goldfish in the winter. She says he left them there and they hid out under the cattails when it got cold. We both remember one year when we tried to bring them in for the winter and they all died. We put our fish in there a couple of times, then had the best time at the end of the summer trying to decide which HUGE fish was ours.


Mr. Crosby also was hospitable and I’m afraid many of us kids took advantage of his hospitality. He kept a dish of candy on his table and pop—or soda if you prefer—in his fridge. It was known that he didn’t lock his back door that opened into his kitchen. Now, WE knew we were NOT allowed to go there when he wasn’t home and we were to WAIT for him to OFFER us something. That was hard sometimes, and I’m pretty sure I didn’t always properly express my gratitude. To this day, though I can’t eat hard peppermint or butterscotch candy without thinking of him.


He was Presbyterian. I wasn’t sure why anyone would want to be THAT. It was too hard to say and spell, but Daddy told me that Mr. Crosby loved Jesus just like we did. Sometimes he would come to our church because his didn’t have evening services. That was another strike against his church in my book. The evening services were my favorite.


So, when I decided to write a book—The Double Cousins and the Mystery of the Rushmore Treasure—about a small town community store much like the one in our neighborhood in North Platte, it seemed the obvious choice to give the owner Mr. Crosby’s name.


Someday when I get to heaven I’m going to give him a big hug and properly thank him for the part he played in my life. And for all of that candy. It wouldn’t surprise me one bit if he’ll have a bowl of candy on the table of his mansion.

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