Picture Stories for Grown Up Kids

Cracks in the Playground

My brother Dub, is a very, very successful businessman.

He recently took me on a tour of the office building he just purchased to house his thriving engineering business.

I am amazed at the scrawny kid–who almost didn’t pass first grade because he couldn’t remember that apples grow on trees and berries grow on bushes– has turned into a suave industrial goliath in the business sector.

Was this the same kid I grew up with? Is this the same little boy that I rode over with my bike when he made me mad?

Is it the hellion that hit me on top of the head with his toy gun when he was wild with anger at me?

Could he possibly be the same guy that I went to the movies with when neither one of us had dates?

Or the one that helped me paint the water tower in our hometown? Sometimes I don’t recognize him any more.

But as I look back on what he used to be when we were growing up I think I know how his savvy for business began. It all started with the cracks in the school playground.

Growing up, Dub and I were different as night and day. We were definitely the Linus and Lucy of the sixties.

Where I was impulsive, he was methodical. When I had a wild hair, he tended to keep all of his combed…at least most of the time. He was mellow and I was flashy.

We were “curious” kids and all he needed to put his devious schemes in action was a big sister who was not afraid to try anything. We complemented each other. And we got into a lot of trouble.

But one area that he never needed my help with, was his swapping. Dub was known as an “Indian trader” back then. He seemed to make amazing trading deals with any chump kid that came along.

Our mother began catching on to his antics when he was in third grade.

We grew up in a suburb of Dallas, Texas, a region of the Lone Star State that is known for its black soil.

When we were lacking for rain the parched earth would split and cause huge cracks in the surface of the ground. The playground (just beyond the blacktop) of Carrollton Elementary was generally full of crevices whenever we went two or more weeks without moisture from the sky.

I was in fifth grade when Dub was in third…and we walked home from school each day.

One day Dub came home with a brand new book on dinosaurs. It was the kind with colorful pictures and slick pages that made third graders back then drool. I happened to be nosing through the stuff in his book bag and found the treasure.

I immediately ran and whined to my mom, thinking that she must have bought him something without remembering a present for me. She called him in from outside and started to grill him about the book.

After giving me his best “evil eye” he explained. “Well you know Mama, it hasn’t rained in a while…and there’s these big cracks in the playground…and when I was walking home from school today…I looked down…and there it was! Some kid musta dropped it or something.”

His baby blue eyes looked up at her affectionately.


I couldn’t believe it! But I wisely kept my mouth shut because he could deliver a “knuckle sandwich” that I didn’t like to mess with.

The dinosaur book found a place on a shelf in his room.

Two days later he came home with a brand new box of colored pencils. He was brazen enough to not even try to hide them.

Mama questioned him again.

“You’ll never believe it, but I found them in another crack on the playground today during recess,” he dramatically responded.

Now Mama was really suspicious.

The next week Dub entered the house with a miniature football. It was one of the ones that the cheerleaders had thrown into the crowd when the Carrollton Lions had scored a touchdown at the football game the previous Friday night.

He smugly entered the house after school with the trophy. “Those cracks are really getting bigger, Mama…” Before he could explain any further she jerked the mini-pigskin from him and told him to go to his room. He was screwed…and he knew it.

My mother had seen Billy Etheridge scramble for the thing Friday night, and she knew that Billy was in Dub’s class at school. She made me go to my room too when she made the phone call.

After she hung up the phone she went into Dub’s room and closed the door.

They talked for at least an hour. I strained as hard as I could to hear.

Come to find out he hadn’t stolen the precious items but had traded for them– a used eraser for the dinosaur book, a weathered baseball card for the pencils and two green plastic army men for the football.


But, Mama wasn’t!!!

The next day Mama made Dub return the loot and, ironically… it began to rain. In fact it rained all week long and the mysterious cracks disappeared.

I had a new respect for my baby brother and I knew that no matter what life threw at him he would be okay.

As I look back, I can see why he’s where he is today. He was pretty wily for a third grader. But, I think what makes me admire him even more, was his creative explanation as to where he got his prizes.

Cracks in the playground… WHAT A story!

And, it’s stuck with me. Now, every time I see a crack in the ground I think about Dub.

After all, no matter what roads we travel throughout our lives, if we look very carefully down into the crevices of our pathways, we might find…




or our very own treasures, just waiting to be taken home.


This work by Anel “Pookie” Ryan is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.

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