July 01, 2009

Tiger's Comeback

Tiger's Comeback
By John R. Greenwood

June 24, 2009 

This is a true story. The names have been withheld to protect the participants. The following story is not about Tiger Woods, nor is it about Tony the Tiger. It is not about an endangered species, circus animal or, old family cat. It is about an Esso Tiger. This is the story of an Esso Tiger that disappeared from the roof of a long forgotten gas station in Saratoga Springs one moonlit summer night in the early 70’s. The story is about the Esso Tiger’s journey from that rooftop to a backyard on Northern Pines Rd. where it stood guard for 30 years.

Even with a missing tail and faded stripes, Esso Tiger never shied from his role. He protected and entertained two active boys from childhood to adulthood. Sadly, Esso Tiger’s job diminished when the boys grew up and moved away. Work was hard to find and his life became boring and dismal as he filled a corner in the tool shed. There he was propped uncomfortably on his broken tail and with his back against the wall. The Esso Tiger never lost hope that life would improve and a fresh opportunity would someday march his way.

Well, one recent summer day, as his caretaker for 30 years, I could sense the sadness in the Eye of the Tiger. He was calling for my attention. My life was at a crossroads and so it was for Esso Tiger. “Time to move on.” he seemed to whisper. And so, it was to be.

I dug the faded sentry from his cobwebbed crypt and placed him in the yard, with a sign that seemed quite sad, “FOR SALE”. I had placed Esso Tiger out there a few times before. In times of monetary greed and the EBay fueled collectable explosion, I thought Esso Tiger could be worth as much as one-thousand dollars or more. Now in hard economic times, light wallets, and $3 gas, Esso Tiger’s going price was set at fifty bucks. I was lovingly encouraged to take twenty-five if offered.
All alone, Esso Tiger sat out there through days one and two of his caretaker’s vacation. Depression and boredom were enemies creeping close and breathing heavy on his faded neck.

Then like a beacon, like an angel from above, an answer came through the gate. Not heavens gate, the gate in the arbor leading to my backyard. The angel was familiar yet not immediately recognizable. Could it be? Is it possible? Why, it sure was, it was the one responsible for sending Esso Tiger on his endless journey so long, long ago. The prankster extraordinaire with the devilish smile, and mischievous spirit, spotted Esso Tiger in the yard as he was passing by. Just as a light switched on for me when the master of mischief passed through the arbor gate, so it did for him as he drove by and saw the silent sentinel for sale in the yard. That familiar face, that memory, the laughs, the racing pulse, it all came back in a four-second-quarter-mile flash. The circle was complete. People reunited, stories retold, three ex-large personalities back on the same thirty-year-old track.

Joy comes in many forms; a new baby, a wedding vow, a winning $20 scratch-off, but this was a different joy. This was the pure joy of past meeting present and memory looking forward. Two grown men, their grown sons, a faded old tiger with a broken tail, renewed spirit and I swear, a small twinkle in his eye, refreshed and reloaded with a new story to tell.

As we lovingly placed Esso Tiger in his new caretaker’s van, the FOR SALE removed and tossed aside, a wave of happiness overcame me. This was the best start to a summer I could remember in a long, long time…

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