Six miles into a run in a rural county where dogs run wild and people do, too, I was hiking up a long hill while I ate a pack of M&Ms. In the first four miles it had rained hard and steady. I was still soggy and waterlogged.
I finished the snack and was rolling up the empty pack to stuff in my shorts pocket. Just then a beat up old pickup rolled up from behind and stopped. A kindly old gent with a beard like a white broom looked over.
“You need a lift?”
“No, thanks, I’m training.”
It was as if I’d said the most ordinary thing you could possibly hear on this country road. Without another word, the man reached across the seat and lifted up a two-pound plastic jar of honey-roasted peanuts still about half full.
“Hold your hand,” he said.
He filled my hand and was still pouring. Peanuts were falling on the road.
“Hold your other hand,” he said.
I cupped my hands together and he poured out a giant pile of peanut, until peanuts were sliding down the slope and falling on the pavement.
“That’ll help you,” he said, and began to rumble away.
“Thank you, I love peanuts,” I shouted as he pulled away.
I stood on the wet pavement cradling the pile of peanuts. Trees overhead were dripping. The truck passed out of hearing.
What to do with the peanuts? Child of the Great Depression, I hate to waste food. I’d planned my snacks to simulate the race I was training for, and stuffed the snacks in the pockets of my shorts. I’d brought two packs of M&Ms, a pack of peanut M&Ms and a Pay Day bar. I’d just finished the first pack of M&Ms.
I’d accepted the peanuts from the man. That was the right thing to do. It is a kindness to accept help when people offer. It gives them pleasure and satisfaction.
The clock was running and I stood in indecision. Finally I leaned my face down to the pile and began chomping peanuts, like a pig eating corn in a trough. More peanuts fell to the pavement. Birds will follow me after this, I thought. Eventually I ate enough to free up one hand, but I still held a handful of honey-roasted peanuts.
What now? I noticed the empty M&M pack folded between my fingers. I’d never gotten around to stowing it. It’d be like stuffing toothpaste back into the tube. I decided to try, and started funneling peanuts into the wet pack. The side seams were beginning to come unglued. More peanuts fell to the pavement. Eventually I ended up with a lemon-sized lump of peanuts bound more or less by paper, and I stuffed the lump into an empty pocket.
The lump stayed there until I finished my 24-mile run. Then it became my recovery snack. I dug it out and ate those last peanuts as I walked back up to the house. A few more fell on the ground.