An inspiring story to elevate the soul, rung by rung
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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 16/07/2022 (197 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
What with all the depressing news weighing everyone down, today I’d like to share an uplifting story that I’ve decided to call The Little Red Ladder That Could.
I should point out that I didn’t make up this story; it was related to me by my good buddy Joe Grande, the ebullient and longtime owner of Mona Lisa Ristorante Italiano on Corydon Avenue.
Joe shared his deeply moving tale this week while he and I were sitting in the back seat of my car, Joe’s wife was in the passenger seat, and my spouse, She Who Must Not Be Named, was at the wheel, driving us to a friend’s birthday party in the picturesque town of Niverville, about 42 kilometres south of Winnipeg.
So there we were, Joe and I, relaxing in the back seat, with me twiddling my thumbs in boredom while Joe stared with laser-like intensity at his cellphone because he was determined to discover what would officially be considered “the worst word in the world.”
In all honesty, I don’t recall precisely what prompted Joe to begin searching for the worst word in the world. What I do remember is that I got pretty grouchy sitting there in silence as my buddy focused entirely on his phone.
After about 15 minutes, I snapped. “OK, Joe, put away your (bad word, but not the worst word in the world goes here) phone and pay attention to the people you’re with. Maybe you could tell us a story!”
Which is when Joe, eyes sparkling with delight, launched into the story that I mentioned in the first paragraph of today’s column. For the record, Joe loves being the centre of attention, so it took him the better part of our drive to, and from, Niverville to give us the details about — and I am not making this up — the little ladder he has come to love so much.
The story began when Joe visited the dump to get rid of some of the garbage that had piled up at his cottage.
“You wouldn’t believe the treasures that I found there,” he gushed, then just sat silently with a look of expectation on his face.
“What kind of treasures?” I prompted when it became clear he required a certain amount of prodding.
“Well,” he told us, “first I found a pair of deer antlers. Who throws out a perfectly good set of deer antlers? But best of all I found an antique wooden step ladder. I couldn’t believe someone had just abandoned it in the dump. It’s a beautiful old ladder.”
I should point out here that I thought this was just the lead-in to an elaborate joke, but it turns out Joe was just really, really excited about finding a very old wooden ladder.
“How old is the ladder?” I asked Joe, because I couldn’t come up with a better question.
He paused and furrowed his brow as he pondered the question. Finally, he looked me in the eye, and with all the sincerity he could muster replied: “Old!”
Joe didn’t have the heart to just leave the little ladder alone in the dump, so he brought it home and began the process of returning it to its former glory.
“I don’t think they even make wooden ladders anymore,” Joe pointed out. “So I cleaned it and polished it and replaced the bits of wood that were missing with brand new pieces of wood.”
Which is when Joe decided the abandoned ladder needed a fresh coat of paint to bring it back to life. His wife, Alfina, suggested “fire-engine red” was the best choice for reviving their new ladder.
So off Joe went to the hardware store to find a can of fire-engine red paint, which prompted the store employee to force him to look at a wide array of samples of all the red paint in the store.
“I just picked the reddest red they had,” Joe explained.
I should stress at this point that you would probably be enjoying this story even more if you could hear Joe telling it in his own unique style, because I can honestly tell you I have never met a man who was more excited about rescuing an abandoned ladder from his local dump.
It was after he told me that, when he was finished refurbishing the ladder, he would most likely put it on display, that I pointed out to my buddy that this was more than just a mere ladder in his eyes.
“I think it would make a wonderful children’s story,” he confessed. “Sort of like the Little Engine That Could, if you replaced the train with an abandoned wooden ladder.”
At this point my wife had become so involved in Joe’s emotional ladder story that she drove about 15 miles the wrong way down some tire-destroying gravel road to nowhere.
“What’s the moral of the story?” I wondered aloud.
Which is when Joe’s wife piped in: “I think it’s about how a plucky little ladder was abandoned in a dump, and then, at the very last minute, finds a loving home and gets a new purpose in life.”
After the party, just as we arrived back at Joe’s house, it started to rain, so my buddy dashed from the car to move his beloved ladder from the driveway to the safety of his garage.
Before leaving, I told Joe that I was so uplifted by the story of the Little Ladder That Could that I’d be willing to help him slap on the final coat of red paint.
“Really?” Joe said, beaming.
“Absolutely,” I replied. “We’ll just take it step by step.”
Doug has held almost every job at the newspaper — reporter, city editor, night editor, tour guide, hand model — and his colleagues are confident he’ll eventually find something he is good at.