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Never steal a can of pork and beans!

My 11-year old playmate picked me up out of the street. The veterinarian shouted for her to put me down. I just wanted to breathe.

Do you have that one story... you know… that one story your family likes to tell about you? It usually starts with, "Did you hear about the time when...?"

Well, this is that story for me. My family will be glad I shared it!

It was a hot summer day when I was 11 years old. My mother was painting the walls sky blue, and I was playing with my dolls. I loved being around Mom. Her love was palpable. My best friend came to the screen door and asked if I wanted to come outside and play. Mom said it was okay.

As soon as we were outside, my friend asked, "You wanna go steal some candy?" I had never done anything like that, but for some reason, I said yes, and we headed to the convenience store intent on getting candy.

So, we arrived at the store (Lee Street and Campbellton Rd., Atlanta, GA) and made a beeline toward the candy, but within that short distance, something else caught my eye. It was my favorite food of all time... Van Camp's Pork & Beans!

Scratch the candy, I want beans!

I thought, why take candy—something I cared little for—when I could have a can of wonderful, tasty pork n beans, instead? So I changed my mind. When my friend pocketed a hand full of candy, I grabbed a can of pork and beans.

Then, I realized it wouldn't fit in my pocket! I was about 4'5" tall and weighed 50 lbs. wet. Where was I going to hide these beans? I couldn't think of a place, so I decided to keep them down at my side, away from the cashier. "Yeah, this will work," I thought.

My friend and I headed for the door—she, with concealed candy, and me with a can of unconcealed beans at my side. We just made it to the door when the cashier looked directly at me and shouted, "Hey! Where you going with that?!"


Panicked, my friend and I decided to make a run for it!! We dashed out the door! We took a slight left around the corner, then ran across several lanes on busy Campbellton Road! She made it to the other side, and I was right behind her when, BLAM!! Out of no where, this 1950s car hit me!

The man driving it was enlisted. He was probably stationed at nearby Fort McPherson, where incidentally, I was born.

I remember seeing the car as it hit me, but I felt no impact. I can vividly remember being on the pavementbelly down watching the tires of this big car roll over my fingers, still feeling nothing.

But most importantly, I remember that can of pork and beans leaving my hand and rolling down the street along the gutter. That, I felt!

I tried to follow the can of beans with my eyes to see where it would stop. The impact of the car had knocked the wind out of me and I couldn't move, but at eleven years old, I thought to myself, "I'll catch my breath, then get up, grab my can of beans and go home!"

The last time I saw that can of beans, it was headed for the sewer! But before I could confirm it's location, I noticed my body was being picked up out of the street. Who was picking me up? It was my best friend trying to help me. She was only 11 years old, too. She didn't know what to do except remove me from the street so no one else would run me over, and try to carry me home.

Here Comes ​Help from the... Veterinarian?

I still couldn't breathe. I couldn't walk, either; but my tiny friend was picking me up out of the street and doing her best to assist when we heard a man shout from across the street, "NO!! Put her down!!"

She dropped me immediately! That, I also felt! I couldn't say, "Ouch!" because I hadn't caught my breath. The man who shouted the command, "Put her down!" had parked his car on the side of the busy road, and ran over to help me. It turns out, he was a veterinarian! Bless him!! He had witnessed the accident and began attending to me. He told my friend to go and get my folks! She took off running up the hill toward Oakland City apartments where I lived. I was so afraid. Then, I blacked out.

I awakened momentarily to see an ambulance on the scene along with the Vet. I was still in the street, but I could breathe now. My mother was there dressed in overalls that were covered in that sky blue paint. She was noticeably upset. She got inside the ambulance with me. The driver of the car that I ran into was there. He was a young white male. His eyes held great care and concern for me. I felt sorry for him and for my Mom. I wished I had paid for the beans. I felt so much remorse. I passed out again.

Conclusion: Did anybody find my beans?

When next I awakened, I was in a hospital room surrounded by family. I had bandages on my fingers, and my chest was hurting from the gash made in it during impact. I looked at my Mom and all the concerned faces in the room. Then I asked, "Did anybody find my pork and beans?"

After a short pause, the room erupted in laughter! I didn't know why, but I still wanted an answer. Mom said she was going to buy me all the Pork and Beans I wanted, and she did. In fact, our home was never without them, again.

I recuperated just fine. The gash in my chest healed nicely and my fingers... well some of them aren't straight to this day, but they're fine. I'm typing this story with them now.

More importantly, I learned valuable lessons that I can share or give to help others.

I learned:

- That it would have been better to give (money for the beans) than to receive (them stolen). - That crime doesn't pay. You'll only get to enjoy your loot for a short time, then you can lose it, like me, in the gutter!

- In the end, you gain nothing from crime but pain for you and for others.

​- Not to run from my mistakes, but to own up to them and grow from their lessons.

I never stole candy or pork and beans again; but to this day, I still keep a can of pork and beans in my cupboard. I'm just saying!

My name is Tracey Smith, and yes, this really happened to me.

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