It was 1955, and I went from my home on the Canadian border to Virginia where my half-brother had a farm. When we were in town, I saw “White Only” bathrooms and drinking fountains.

One day on the farm, the job was digging fence post holes. There were two or three white men and a black man named Earl. Earl rode in the bed of the truck and smiled a lot.

The white men spoke to Earl in a way that was demeaning. When it came time to rest, out of the truck came a nice, clean plastic container for guess who? And Earl drank out of a rusty, dented metal can with no cup. The white men spent more time resting than Earl did — that I remember; and Earl kept smiling.

On the way back, the men complained how lazy Earl was, which confused me. It was only when I was older, I understood why Earl smiled so much.

JACK COEY

15 Fairview St.

Keene