Editor's Note: This column originally appeared in the Hope Star-Journal newspaper.

I am sure I am not the only person who started out life as a thief.

It seems nearly everyone - ministers and grade school teachers excluded - has some dark blot in his or her past that has been hidden from the world. I have several of these "dark places," but the one I remember best is the day I stole from George Bruner.

In my childhood, George, along with Ward Roberston, ran a hardware store over on the northwest corner of the town square, in the building now occupied by the Yellow Trail Museum.

The store was a wonderland for a small child, with its fan-shaped metal bins piled high with nuts, bolts and nails of every variety. Other than Norton's soda fountain, toy store, whatever-you-need store, over on the north side of the square, there was no better place for a pre-schooler to visit.

I went there often with my father - sometimes to buy paint or hardware, but more often just to sit by the stove and talk to the other men about weather and crops and automobile accidents and basketball and stray dogs and Russian missiles and fishing.

In the fall of my fourth year of life, when Dad and I returned home from one such trip, he discovered my corduroy pants were drooping a bit from something of considerable weight in both pockets.

"What's in your pockets, Buddy?" Dad asked, looking down at me over the top of his glasses.

"Just my nails," I replied, unashamedly pulling a shiny, 10-penny specimen from one bulging pocket.

"I think you mean George Bruner's nails," he said with a frown. "Did you pay for those nails?"

I explained that Mr. Bruner was my friend and, although I had not paid for the nails, he would not mind if I had a few. I pointed out that they were just lying around in those open bins and anyone who wished could just help himself.

In about 10 minutes I was standing in front of George Bruner, tears rolling down my cheeks and words popping out of my lungs in wet hiccups. "I ... am ... sorry ... I ... took ... your ... nails," I sobbed.

At that point Dad broke into my apology and offered an option to settle the matter. "George," he said sternly, "if you want to call the sheriff and have him put in jail, that is your right."

My whole 4-year crime spree suddenly passed before my eyes - the tomato I had picked from Spicer's garden, the walnuts from Dodd's tree, the marble I had found in our yard and pocketed without ever looking for its owner.

"Oh, Howard, let the boy have the nails," Mr. Bruner said to Dad, "He's a good boy. He didn't mean to do anything wrong."

"He IS a good boy," Dad agreed, "but he has done a BAD thing and if you want to file charges for theft, it is your right."

As they spoke I stood at the counter, shoulders shaking with inhaled sobs as I pulled each nail from my pockets and placed it on the counter in front of me.

I don't remember what happened from that point, except no police evidently were called and I was not taken to Columbus and thrown in jail. And I also cannot remember ever stealing nails from George Bruner again.

In fact, I can't remember ever stealing anything from anyone again.

But to be totally honest, I also can't remember ever seriously looking for the owner of that beautiful, blue, cat's eye marble I found in our yard near the front porch.

So, just to set my conscience at ease, and to please my Dad (in case he is looking down at me over the top of his glasses from eternity), if you lost a marble in the fall of 1949 near the porch in the yard at the corner of Seminary and Union Streets, please contact this website.