That evening, the two boys enjoyed a companionable few hours of food and fellowship as they ate in the Kent kitchen and listened to the radio.
Clark Kent Junior, or Cal, relished the evening, because it gave him insight into what his foster-father had been like as a boy. He was an enthusiastic youth, and this surprised Cal a bit, since he knew him more as a somewhat conservative man who channeled his amazing powers with restraint and wisdom.
I’ve heard some of the JSAers and Ma refer to Pa’s wilder days when he first started out as Superman, mused Cal. They said he was so passionate about making things right in the world that he often disregarded law and order in quest of justice. I find it hard to think of him like that, since I really only know of him as a paternal kind of ultimate hero.
Clark gestured toward the radio and said, “Baer’s some fighter! He’s the kind of guy who uses his dukes to make his way in the world. I hope I can do the same thing with my powers, but use them to help folks who don’t have my abilities. Imagine if guys like us became boxers! We could take blows from every other fighter in the world at the same time without flinching. Still, that’s kid stuff. Since we talked during your last visit and I saw what I could do during a crisis like the collapse of that circus tent, I’ve wanted to be more of a crusader with my powers. I want to inspire people and stand up for them.”
“That’s great!” said Cal. “You should keep on thinking about how our powers make us different from other people, but our hearts make us like everybody else. That is, we feel and want the same things other people do. We can’t use our powers to satisfy selfish goals. They say with great power comes great responsibility.”
Clark nodded slowly. “Say, I like the sound of that. Who said it? Lincoln?”
Cal blushed slightly and said, “I forget. I must have read it somewhere.”
As Clark led Cal over to the sink where they scraped their plates clean, he said, “Say, we could go to the Lawrence County Fair, or I’ll tell you what — you know there’s a new picture playing at the Bijou this Saturday. Can you stick around for it? It’s a Gable movie. He’s a favorite of mine. I guess it’s just nice to have another Clark around who is a real tough guy.”
“Clark Gable?” said Cal. “I’ve never seen any of his films. I could rent a video or two or tape some off the late show.”
“Video?” asked Clark. “What do you mean?”
“Uh, nothing,” muttered Cal. “I mean, maybe we could catch one of his films. I don’t really know much about him.”
“You know, I like actors,” said Clark. “I kind of like the idea of playing roles. Mrs. McGuffey said I was a natural in the Founder’s Day Pageant last year.”
Cal nodded and thought, Considering how well he’ll pose as meek Clark Kent for so many years in order to fool people into thinking that he could not be Superman, even though they have so many connections, I can believe he was a good actor!
The boys heard a noise on the porch, and Cal scanned the area with his super-vision. He saw a short kid with messy red hair and freckles standing on the porch. A faded bike was leaning against the steps.
“It’s a pal of mine from the next farm,” said Clark. “Joey Hughes. He’s a good Joe, so to speak.”
“I guess we could tell him I’m a lookalike cousin,” said Cal.
Joey entered and began talking at a rate that would have done justice to a claim that the pint-sized kid had super-speed where his mouth was concerned. “Say, Clarky, did you hear the news? Did ya? Old man McClintic is foreclosing on the Tompkins place! Timmy Tompkins and his folks are going to have to leave their farm. They might even end up in one of those Hoovervilles you hear about in the papers!”
“What?” said Clark. “The Tompkins are being evicted? It’s just like a mug like McClintic to do something so cold and heartless. That old miser has a heart like a cash register!”
Joey nodded and started to interrupt when he spotted Cal sitting by the table. “Who’s your spitting image? Ya got a long-lost twin or something?” he said as he circled Cal warily.
“I’m a relation from away from here. We do look a lot alike. Call me Cal.”
“Sure, brother, sure. I’m Joe Hughes. Some of the kids were talking about finding a way to help the Tompkins out. Maybe we could raise the dough for them!”
“If only we could find them the money they need,” said Clark. “It really makes me mad to think about the way some poor people can’t even keep a roof over their heads, while rich old coots like McClintic squeeze them dry. The Depression isn’t whipped yet, no matter what the new president says in those fireside chats.”
“President Roosevelt?” said Cal. “FDR is in office now. The New Deal will eventually improve things for farmers and industry. I guess the first hundred-days programs are just kicking in now.”
“You a Democrat?” asked Joey. “I don’t know. Those nutty ideas about destroying good pigs and wheat sound crazy to me. I can see our town ending up like those guys in Iowa who blockaded the roads to prevent the government AAA boys from telling them what to grow or what not to grow.”
“I want to believe in President Roosevelt, but his ideas take time to work,” said Clark. “The Tompkins don’t have that luxury. It’s our responsibility to help them now.” He clenched his fists and paced the small room as he grew more agitated.
I don’t like this, thought Cal. If Pa goes off half-cocked like this, he might do some real damage. This is no way to begin looking for a job for a future Superman.
Cal jumped to his feet and said, “Why don’t we put on a show? We could use the barn and raise money by selling tickets!”
The other two boys looked at him in surprise. Clark turned to his double and said, “Huh?”
“I just figured that might appeal to you,” said Cal. “You like acting. We could all build a stage and get some local kids together to perform. I saw that in a movie once.”
“You’re nuts,” said Joey. “This is Smallville, not Broadway. We ain’t going to find Shirley Temple under no haystack.”
“I was just brainstorming,” said Cal. “Give me time to think.”
“Joey, thanks for telling us,” said Clark. “I’ll see you tomorrow. Cal and I will try to think of something.”
“Sure,” said Joey. “But don’t take too long, or the Tompkins will be out of here.” He closed the screen door with a bang and peddled off on his bike.
Clark watched him go and then turned to Cal. “We could get that money. We could take it from any number of sources. No one could stop us. We could make things fair for the Tompkins. They have nothing, and McClintic has more than he could ever spend.”
“You’re right,” said Cal, choosing his next words very carefully. “We could do that. We could rob. That’s what we could do, but it’s not what we should do. You know that. You know that might doesn’t make right. I understand your feelings. You see people hurting, and you want to help them. That’s good. You have to remember that we have to think before we act because of how much we can do when we do act. Your Pa wouldn’t want you to steal, even to save someone else.”
Clark slammed his fist down on the table, and it formed a hole in the middle. “You’re right. I just don’t like feeling so helpless. I’m sorry about what I said. I was talking crazy.”
They bent over the broken table and slowly re-formed it via a use of super-strength and Cal’s heat-vision.
“Good as new,” he said.
Cal glanced through the newspaper that had fallen to the floor. He smiled broadly when he saw an ad.
“Clark, you can earn the money to help them out,” he said. “The County Fair has a contest where the guy who stays in the ring with Bare-Knuckles Bronkowsky wins five hundred dollars! You could do that. You can’t make a habit out of using your powers for gain, but in this case you’d be winning money and giving it to those in need. I think that is fair!”
Cal nodded to himself. Pa once helped a college football player out like that. (*) He used his powers to help plenty of underdogs, especially in the early days. It’s not unheard of for the young Superman to do something like this, I hope.
[(*) Editor’s note: See Superman, Action Comics #4 (September, 1938).]
Clark grinned widely. “Yeah, I could do that. I won’t have to use my powers to fight back. I can just dodge him long enough to win. That’s a good plan. Maybe I could even wear a mask or something, like I did at the circus, so people won’t recognize me as Clark Kent. I don’t want to give them the idea that I’m a real scrapper.”
“Sure,” said Cal. “We can rig something up.”
The next day the two boys made their way to the Lawrenceville County Fairgrounds, where they hurried through the crowds to reach the boxing ring.
“The Gumm Sisters are performing here over at the music stage. I wonder if they are any good. Sure have a funny name,” mused Clark.
Cal shrugged and said, “We don’t have time for singers. We better hurry.”
They waited in the crowd as several burly men tried to handle a heavily mustached brawler named Bare-Knuckles Bronkowsky. The tough older man easily sent one man after another flying through the ropes.
“Haw-haw-haw! Bring me some real men!” he sneered.
A masked Clark Kent jumped into the ring and said, “Give me a try, big man!”
“A punk like you can’t handle a man like me!” said Bronkowsky. He moved forward and swung at the boy, only to miss as his punch slid past his head.
The fight continued for minutes as the bigger man tried again and again to connect with the slight youth, who dodged each blow by a few inches.
Clark smiled beneath his mask. This is too easy, he thought. I’m wearing him out while the clock ticks. He can’t hit me, because I’m so much faster.
“So, you want to play, huh?” gasped Bare-Knuckles as he began to wheeze. He lunged forward and cursed as he missed the boy again and again.
The big goon doesn’t know I’m doing him a favor by dodging, thought Clark. If I allowed him to land a blow, he’d break every bone in his hand!
After a few more minutes in the ring, as Cal cheered him on, Clark was able to collect his prize money.
Cal shook hands with him and said, “You did great! This money will save the Tompkins farm!”
Clark nodded and eagerly rushed out of the crowd as he whispered, “Let’s get the money to the family now.”
They rushed back home and hurried into the yard of the Tompkins farm. They had expected to leave the money secretly, so the family would never connect their sudden windfall with the Kents. The boys heard cheers and saw a few men and women gathered around the beaming Tompkins family.
Old Man McClintic was sitting on their porch, and he held little Tammy Tompkins while her brother Timmy and their parents stood nearby.
Clark saw Joey and waved him over. “What’s going on?” he asked. “This doesn’t look like any eviction. Did the Tompkins find their payment money after all?”
Joey smiled and said, “Nah! They just got a reprieve, and they owe it all to McClintic having a change of heart. He’s going to get them more time to come up with the dough.”
“What?” said Clark. “That’s wonderful, but that’s not his style. What made him turn so kind all of a sudden?”
“I think it might be this!” said Cal, holding up a Smallville Gazette newspaper dated two days ago. “It looks like one of the stories is all about the Tompkins family and their plight. It also paints a rather scathing picture of certain wealthy landowners. It looks like McClintic was shamed into doing the right thing by this story in the paper.”
“Yeah,” said Joey. “That guy who runs the paper can really write. He used his words and the truth to make a mean old miser change his ways. It’s like something out of a storybook!”
The two boys walked away from Joey and the crowd as Clark stared at the paper. “That’s amazing,” said Clark. “I can return the money to the Fair. I felt a bit funny about using my gifts like I did, anyway.”
“It goes to show you that you can fight for truth, justice, and the American way with a typewriter and do more good than you can with two fists,” said Cal. “Reporters can really expose crime and change society more than superhumans like us.”
Clark smiled and said, “I agree. Maybe I should think about going into the paper business, myself. I like to write, and it would certainly give me a chance to help people. It would even alert me to things I could do with my gifts, too.”
“That’s a good idea,” said Cal. “Swell, you might say.”
A few days later, Cal finally took his leave of Clark, telling him, “Take care of yourself. Don’t ever let things get you down. You may suffer setbacks, but I know you’ll always win in the end. You’re that kind of guy!”
Clark smiled as his double flew off, and he slowly returned to working in the yard. He had some growing to do, but already his mind, heart, and spirit were soaring with possibilities.
As Superboy broke the time barrier and returned to modern-day Smallville, he smiled and said, “I always knew Pa was a hero, but after getting to know him when he was a kid, I can say he’s also a pretty cool guy!”