old friends

They could have been together paddling north on Lake Champlain or crossed on foot through the Blue Ridge “Gap;” followed on the heels of Lewis and Clark or pitched a tent on the Brazos. They would have been at home with John Jacob Astor, trapping the Northwest. Traders, they would have been comfortable at Bent’s Fort, isolated in southeastern Colorado, exposed to dangers East and West. Fremont would have gladly taken them on his expeditions of glory.

Shotguns or long guns would have accompanied them and proficiency would be a given; given as in physical ability followed by determined and repetitious practice. Neither would have shirked from becoming better than good.

As individuals they were comfortable with themselves but with each they held friendship close. They were not loners. They worked the nuances of life with but a few to surround them, choosing to fight their own demons should they surface. All was played out beginning in 1951, when they found themselves living in close proximity and quietly saw the other in the same wood lot. They bonded and from there they played out their own sense of history.
Youthful fantasies moved to real time adventure and no small animal was truly safe from their bb guns, 22’s, and knives. They lived in the fields, lowlands and woods crafting skills that predominated their DNA. School brought some unforeseen gratification, namly girls and sports, but it also pricked their given nature to learn. They took to all three, with their own set of rules crafted from the youth of “the field.”

One found his woman early and presented to her a “teepee” of their own to start out in the real world. The other, taking a different direction with education, fought against any ties, or more to the fact dismissed them out of hand. They had been together in the Parochial school, separating in grade eight. Two years separated them in age and when the elder one moved to the suburbs his family kept him in private school. He excelled and found dentistry to be his call. The younger “pushed” his way through school and he and his young bride began their lives living on their wits, their strong work ethic and, he, his fortitude and drive. A bill collector, many times he would be found sitting on the steps of a “client” waiting to meet them face to face to secure the outstanding funds. His direct manner proved successful. His drive kept him accelerating professionally.

Friendships are easily contorted to be summarized as hard wood connections, but in truth that only comes in the strength of family and if lucky a friend. What began in the fields of their childhood was like particle board in its composition of friendship. Thick board, hard to cut through and chip away. Theirs was a mutual complexity of competitive drive, physical exertion and purposed living. They loved the hunt and found the woods an hour or so north worthy of this pursuit. A hunt would include Irish Setters, sandwiches washed down with water and a “walk” from early day to dark. Limits of birds were usual. Gratification flowed over tired limbs.

Midlife found them out West where they fell in love with the prairie and mountains, hunting antelope, deer and elk. Years flowed together to provide icing to this love of the outdoors and they respected each animal hunted. Success was not measured completely by the harvest, but it was the measuring stick of the hunt. The tales were fruitful in their telling.

It was not by chance that the game that captured each was golf. There, the love of competition and the outdoors converged to give both the adventure in tranquility, a pursuit of excellence and grafted into them purpose to excel. Each reached the maximum of their skill qualities and then eked out a little more. Beating them was not an odds favored “take on.” Seemingly twenty foot putts would be drained when needed to take a hole. The “to live” attribute, where you had to “beat” the other to survive summarized their progressive natures. Survival was real to each. They played different styles, but the results were conclusively the same. They won. Though they tended to court courses separate from one another, they on occasion fronted the same one and the magic of trying to beat the other with supreme intensity while maintaining the decorum of friendship was admirable to say the least.

Where they trumped others on any given day or night and in an inebriated condition or cold sober, was in the game frequently played at many 19th watering holes, Gin. As single players they did fine. But as partners they were killers. And they would beat their opponents on a last card draw and crush spirits. There was just an innate sense, perhaps gathered from the woods of youth, that seemingly brought victory at the conclusion of the night. In the cabin of mid-life, they “smoked” all comers while Jack Daniels or a cold beer or three loosened the day.

The juggernaut of time came and trimmed their sails. The games became infrequent and the gatherings more so. The aging snuck in and toiled their bodies with injuries and health; those frustrating irritants of living. The families of each now became the focus of contact, yet they enjoyed the banter when functions drew them together. A wake or funeral it seemed. The past had more of a lure to them but it did not smear them with nostalgia. If anything, it protected their souls from the onslaught of aging. They rightfully could say they had lived full. The last act was in mid scene and they knew the curtain could be closed any time.

Daily functions of activity provided knew areas of conquest and given their nature to proceed with what they had available, they strived to make each day a go. They were loved and this meant a great deal to each. Knowing that they had touched upon the great mystery of connecting with a woman who stood by them and children who gave them respectful and caring love with a banter of mirth and an essence of charm pleased each. They chose to interact with those closest to them, the family. Who better to give to? And this played to their accomplishment of connectivity. They had love to give which adhered to personality. They held to who they were and what they could continue to accomplish.

Hunting weapons were exchanged for shop tools or walking canes. Best said is each took the daily opportunity of living and rode it. It was a long way from those woods. The bond, stretched and squiggled here and there was in place. The sunset had come. It’s yellow glow was nice. The handshake first made remained firm and sincere. The friendship had endured. For this a certain gratefulness swathed each. It was good.

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