Mountain View, CA … circa 1959. My younger brother Ken and I left through the back door of our father’s hamburger restaurant on El Camino Real to go hunting. Little more than a mile from where Google Headquarters sits today, we set out on one of our weekly adventures outfitted with a 200 shot Red Ryder Lever Action Carbine, a Model 25, 50-shot Daisy Pump and several tubes of BB’s. What could be better on a warm summer day?
We stalked anything that moved. With an effective range of 30 feet, we could penetrate a tin can, plant our copper clad ball ammunition deep into fence posts, and drop a sparrow from the tallest tree. Did you just wince? I know it sounds irresponsible and cruel, but at the time no one paid any attention to a 12 year old carrying a BB gun and a bag of dead birds. Remember, it was the era when every boy owned a pair of replica six-shooters loaded with explosive caps, shot unfriendly Indians, and was slathered with butter to treat skin burns. No excuses … just the way it was.
Our trek that day took us through a section of land owned by a Japanese American Chrysanthemum grower (I learned later he had rebuilt his family business since returning from a three-year, all expenses paid stay in Wyoming). To our youthful delight, we came across an unlocked wooden shed stacked high and deep with Coke bottles. Tell me, what was a boy to do? Faint with excitement and unrestrained delight, we proceeded to pulverize beyond recognition several hundred deposit return, 6.5 oz. glass empties that someone had obviously abandoned. It took us a good 15 minutes and several reloads to finish the deed properly. Exhausted, we surveyed the destruction and joyfully returned to the restaurant agreeing that it had been our best day ever.
Later that week while mopping floors, washing dishes and clearing tables, we were called into the kitchen by our father. He introduced us to a Mr. Ozawa who stood stoically beside him. Dad asked us if we knew anything about some broken coke bottles. We said, “you mean those coke bottles?” Dad nodded and we froze in place seeing a new reality unfold before our eyes. Dad explained that the Coke bottles belonged to Mr. Ozawa, that they were worth about ten dollars, and asked what we planned on doing about it. We apologized and promised to repay him. Dad handed Mr. Ozawa some money (more than ten I expect) and explained to us in front of Mr. Ozawa that we would be working it off over the next several weeks. Mr. Ozawa kindly shook our hands, thanked our father, and quietly excused himself.
Ten years later I was working for a Silicon Valley start-up. We needed an infusion of capital and a humble man who had sold his prime Bay Area property decided to become an investor.
That day I fully realized the gift my father had bestowed upon my brother and me. He taught us about truthfulness and the importance of taking responsibility for our actions. More than that, he gave me the opportunity and privilege to stand honorably before a man I had dishonored years before.
by Keith Colgan
Editor – Lodi360.com