You're listening to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News.

Sometimes, all it takes to bring back the world of one's childhood is a tiny object. Storyteller Tony Norris recently came across one such object. He has this tale of the joy and tragedy associated with it.

TONY NORRIS: I don't sleep well. Sometimes in the darkest moments of the night, a pesky ball begins to roll down the Rube Goldberg machine that is my mind. It hovers in the murk till it drops in a cup and I am awake.

Most recently, a tiny wizened monkey carved from a peach seed showed up. Such figures were once commonly whittled by the old men of my childhood.

I crawled from my bed, went to the computer, typed peach pit monkey into Google and pressed enter. A picture leaped up, and I was transported to the summer of 1956 in Central Texas. Uncle Jim Yeary pulled his faded red pickup into the drive and unloaded a big basket of Parker County's finest peaches. There are few pleasures greater than biting into a sun-warmed peach. Mama brought out a dishpan, and Uncle Jim helped her peel peaches for a cobbler.

I watched the sickle-moon blade of his pocketknife flicker through the tender skins. I listened as the sad-faced man gossiped and joked in his gentle voice. Just a few years before, Uncle Jim and Aunt Pearl had driven to Weatherford on a rainy night to see the Christmas lights. Their car stalled on the railroad tracks, and Uncle Jim hadn't been able to restart it before it was struck by a Texas & Pacific freight train. Aunt Pearl was killed. Even as a child, I could hear the sorrow in my uncle's voice.

Uncle Jim peeled the last peach and began to whittle on the blood-red seed. When he was done, a cunning little monkey lay in his palm. Uncle Jim handed it to me. I could scarcely breathe. How could such a wonder come to be? And it was mine. A year later, Uncle Jim pulled into the darkest corner of the drive-in theater in the pickup and ended his life while cowboys and Indians shot it out on the giant screen. I don't know when the monkey escaped from the King Edward cigar box that held my childhood treasures, but one day, I looked, and it was gone.

So recently, I followed a second Google link to an eBay listing for a very old peach seed carving of a monkey. Bidding was at $6 and shipping was 5, but I didn't need to hold it in my hand. The monkey had already taken me home.


RAZ: Tony Norris grew up in Central Texas. He's now a folk singer and storyteller in Flagstaff, Arizona.

Copyright © 2011 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio.



Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.

NPR thanks our sponsors

Become an NPR sponsor

Support comes from