Noah’s Glow

There are days that simply swell a heart, bring a skin layered warmth.  Beyond expectations.  To have such a day visit refreshes as a first breath breaking water. Thankfully filling.

Recitals are common place.  Happen everywhere, from youth to adult, with attendance primarily family with a few other attendees thrown in.  The count matters not, for excitement, nerves, pride, and endurance all come together for any performer at such time and most are looking to have it completed.   Love will come from the seats no matter what takes place,  good or otherwise.

I usually am non existent on anything beyond ten miles of home; Christmas excepted.  Just that time of life.  Yet as his ‘time’ came closer, with my youngest home on leave from University, I was curiously occasioned to ride along.  I hid the intention, for many times I want to attend an event for the sake of family and friends but the body says no.

A calm assurance prevailed me to venture the two and one half hours to St. Peter.  You see, my nephew was playing.  Noah Grothe.   I love this kid as I do all the family Klaers. And to be with my wife and youngest daughter before she went back to school prevailed the event with added delight (my oldest having to work.)

The outer family gathered for lunch a ‘hiccup’ from the school.  Klaers are a supportive clan, the base layer love.  All who could were trekking down.

Gustavus Adolphus is an old college brought on stage early in Minnesota history, the oldest of several Lutheran colleges in Minnesota.  It began in 1862 during our Country’s worst nightmare and moved to the current location in 1876.  It had a major face lift in 1998 when a mile wide tornado tore into it, one of the worst disasters to a U.S. education institution ever.  It survived and now sits in the top 100 for liberal Arts education.  Music was and is a major component of study.

Noah is a senior and to complete his major in Music he, as all must in the program, needed to ‘develop, communicate, orchestrate and perform a senior recital with the instrument of choice-to show development in different strata of musical themes.  The length to be beyond an hour and short of two.  It is a exacting yet compelling in the coming together of lessons, theory, education and performance.  The recital an exclamation point after four years completed.

He  comes from a background of piano, tethered together with discoveries of various other instruments along his growth cycle.  I don’t think he ever did not like an instrument.  It was in prime adolescence when the trombone became king, the sole occupier of ‘first chair.’  High school featured his involvement in both band, orchestra and jazz band, the latter where I heard him play that sliding brass horn while performing both junior and senior year at ‘Famous Dave’s – Mpls’ allowing me to take in a music that was not exacting to my ear, which mattered not, then indulge in great ribs.  Most of the family came and the event was fun.  That he cased his trombone and headed to St. Peter was never anything but, ‘hope and pray he does well.’  He sort of ‘shipped’ off my radar excepting notification that he was doing great.

Now we were headed down for his Senor Recital.  Most were wondering if he would play piano, sing, and/or play a guitar along with the bass trombone that had become his ‘side arm.’ I think we were wondering how a trombone would carry the recital on its own.  Sing, yes, but only one arrangement with a choral group in which he was involved.  He arranged the song.  But excepting the closing number, he played his trombone with a piano as accompaniment.  No worries.  He took us on a ride.

But none of that was material to us until we entered the small auditorium; quaint, as if it was built for one-on- one interaction.  The program spelled out the itinerary and I was smitten to see that John Phillip Sousa wouldn’t be joining us nor be smothered with Jazz. The program had jazz of course, but Sousa never showed.  The performance was nicely layered with music of his choice demonstrative of his wide range and ability.

Entering the hall, I sat myself down where I thought I could be most comfortable and would guess that between fifty and one hundred found seats of choice.  The hall looked to sit perhaps three hundred.  Mild yellow lights reflected nicely off a ‘soft’ acoustic ceiling with dark wood trim to extenuate the lightness.  The stage offered a mellow atmosphere. Hoping that he was not entering in a nervous state (as if one could) the recital began exactly on time.  1:30 p.m.

It was when he entered, all six foot seven (or thereabouts) with red hair catered toward a strawberry tint and rose cheeks, dressed in shirt and tie, that I found myself relaxed.  A delightful aura accompanied him, a visually relaxed confidence in what he was about to be, a ‘Schauspieler’ extraordinaire.   His precision of movement as he proceeded to his trombone was comforting and as his chosen accompanist came curtain left, they both bowed and readied.   ( A wonderful piano player who understood it was Noah’s recital.)

The music rolled out in stages all designed to illuminate his artistic involvement as well as ability.  Then came the extreme surprise.  His methods to nurture the music to fit the song  (described in the Program Notes nicely written by Noah himself) caught me puzzled.  Was this a brass instrument?  Melodically, he persuaded the trombone to echo the tone of a French Horn, muted trombone without the mute (he put one on later for one piece) and a softness of tone I was unfamiliar with.  Nothing brassy to his art.  Music floated out matching the tome of the stage and it was hard not to see the Glow.  The music drifted on shimmering light.  His topics of play ranged from Telemann’s Sonata in F minor, a scale tailored toward melancholic vibrations to a mellowed out ‘James Brown in the Twilight,’ from the Concerto for bass Trombone and Orchestra.  With a trombone ensemble playing an arrangement for five, I was alone, swept up and caught by mood, yes, but there was an aura surrounding the tall figure, that Glow, which gradually became brighter.  It was reflecting throughout the hall.  Closed eyes extenuated the feeling.

Then ‘Danny Boy,’was performed, with Noah, by the glee group G# Men’s Acapella.  The Glow continued as his formalized arrangement echoed around me.  I… watched Noah. That Glow separated him as the lead sang sonorously.  A separation distinct as he directed and sang.

They departed and he returned, guitar in hand and took a stool set center stage front and proceeded, quietly, to thank all, but foremost his mother, sister and his Father in heaven. There was a hush, more muffled than any before.  He had picked a worship song, one that he had employed in his days of worship leading both on campus and off.  He invited the audience to join him…and they did, but it was his playing, his voice, surrounded by the beautiful audience ‘choir’ singing to God,  “How Deep the Father’s Love” which enchanted.

I was mesmerized now.  Noah was immersed in a tranquil, loving and lingering song sung not just to God but to his family, friends and mankind.  The stage was immersed in the light of Noah’s Glow.  I had tears in my eyes.

Noah’s Glow…enraptured me.  I did not want to leave.  And did not, until all were gone.  I watched the empty stage grow dim as the Glow ebbed away.  Then it was gone.  But some of it was left inside of me.  His parting “gift.”

“When Moses finished speaking to them, he put a veil over his face.  But whenever he entered the Lord’s presence to speak with him, he removed the veil until he came out. And when he came out and told the Israelites what he had been commanded, they saw that his face was radiant.  Then Moses would put the veil back over his face until he went in to speak with the Lord.”  Exodus 33-35

 

 

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Amy

She came into my life mid stream.  She was just leaving her origin.  For me, she categorizes an 8.  That was before our first date.  After, she was off the chart.

I was struck by her simple beauty, yes, but it was while we had arranged the disciplining of Blue, our ‘going to be millionaire racehorse,’ when I was first ‘pressed’ upon her in the barn.  After, as I participated in negotiating around all the horses and people while watching her work, mucking out stalls, feeding horses, tending all duties necessary for those who wanted to board and ride, without necessities;  as Amy cared for all with amazing grace entrained.   Tirelessly and coordinated with a discipline that I don’t ever remember mastering.  She was seamless in her efforts and controlled in her actions.   A purpose for everything and fetted in her own way.  Oh, and she had this beautiful full bodied dog, Tyler, blondish white, who did whatever he was told and when he was left to his own instinct, followed her.  They were inseparable.  A beautiful girl-woman, understanding and completing her work tasks while always ready to give a horse a nose rub, a pat, an encouraging word.  She owned none.  Mattered not, to her or the horses. They all knew her.  But I was 17 years her senior and that bridge seemed long.

Not long enough.  Fact is that I chainsawed it down and burned it.  For after I gained the courage to ask her out, we were engage five days later (she probably has the days down better than I, but it was short!)  That she said yes, well, you could not have found a happier guy (I think most potential grooms say or think this, but what?  I did feel that way.)

The Butters were on their way North to fish and I asked them to stop by the Farm… T. McGill Farm.  They came around midmorning and Amy met them in the kitchen.  I was off somewhere else.  Billy asked her if she was my niece, as I had not said anything about being engaged.  That would be a natural question, especially if it was indicative of my past, many short circuited wrecks.  In her polite and verbally direct manner Amy stated that she was my fiancee. I came in shortly after and I could see that Billy and Debby, his wife, were still processing the response, happily but questionably.  I assured then that what Amy had said true and that indeed, the man from ‘Baker Street’ was going to be married.

Feb.20 is my bride’s birthday.  She not only has been a tireless worker and calming, loving companion, but she has held me together through many down times, literally and figuratively. A mother who has two daughters who absolutely adore her and a circus of animals, both past and present, who all gravitated to her simple charm, love and affection underlined by extreme devotion.

So we simply acknowledge that God has ordained another year in the life of our wife, mother, friend. Thankful we are. God bless you, Babe. I am thankful for your love and devotion…Happy birthday!

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Joe

I met Joe, oh, maybe five years ago.  I was driving in from Minnesota to meet some chums from my Penn days.  Driving with layovers in places I could rest for a while.  I wanted to see some more of the Country, especially West Virginia and the Shenandoah Valley.  Lee and Traveler, his faithful horse, their final resting place.

I rolled into Philly and checked in at the Marriott Hotel, downtown.  I threw my one bag on the bed and proceeded to head to the place that I knew best, The Class of 1923 hockey rink.  It would be a tricky place to drive to if you did not know how. I certainly did.  Spent years there chasing or stopping pucks on that ice sheet, my class being the first one to spend all four there.

I pulled into a place that said no parking.  I parked and proceeded to enter the down stair entrance.  The cold smell that greeted me was the same smell I remembered 42 years previous.  I like sameness in life when it is a producer of good remembrances.  Here there were many.  They certainly lathered over those that were less commemorative. I went to the Plexiglas and looked out. Ice arenas have a certain home quality to me.  They represent a game I loved and provided a sanctuary for many years.  ‘1923’ creamed to the top of a long list.

Joe came about and we fell into a chat.  He was the arena manager.  As we talked I could not help but be drawn to his Jersey nature.  This and the curb appeal the rink demonstrated.  The ‘old lady’ was looking fine, something I was not expecting.  Fact was she was looking better than fine.  And Joe was the reason.

I found out he had been directly involved at the old Spectrum in Philadelphia, where the Flyers displayed two Stanley Cup banners from the ceiling; Cups they had won while I was on campus at the University of Pennsylvania.  He had come over a number of years later to Penn.  Thankfully.  He produced programs that continued the traditions of ice hockey at Penn while reaching out to Drexel University and several area clubs and high schools.  He found a rhythm for ‘Her’ that had been lost when in a political game of kickball Div.1 hockey had been booted off campus. The ‘lady’ was turning a profit.  This while the University kept a not so secrete desire to be rid of her and growing more grass.  But Joe and many others would not let that happen.  So with the drive that comes with dreams and hope, Joe demonstrated that ice hockey and skating still belonged on campus. And in West Philly.

You know how it is when someone sparks you.  Joe entreated me to the atmosphere I remebered back when Penn was rocking the house and the Band was playing “The Red and the Blue:”

THE RED AND BLUE

Come all ye loyal classmates now
In hall and campus through,
Lift up your hearts and voices
For the Royal Red and Blue.

Fair Harvard has her crimson
Old Yale her colors too,
But for dear Pennsylvania
We wear the Red and Blue

Of course it was the chorus that we players chanted in hoarse voices while on those winning surges, when we felt we could beat anyone, especially B.U., which we did:

Hurrah, hurrah Pennsylvania!
Hurrah for the Red and the Blue!
Hurrah, hurrah, hurrah, hurrah,
Hurrah for the Red and Blue!

Joe was not there then, but he could have been….  He epitomized everything good about Penn hockey and more.  He knew how skating and hockey would be lessons, experiences, and memories for any Penn connection.  By its Rink, Penn could reach out to the greater community; colleges, universities, high schools, clubs, kids that just want to skate, etc.,  meeting an active desire to be part of the Philadelphia experience.  Joe went to work and made it thrive beyond what was considered.  He did it the Philly way; tough, tender, sharing and caring. He took over the helm, steered clear of the icebergs and took many on wonderful journeys.

I was back two years ago and had to have some time with Joe.  He brought me up to his office and we shared stories and he caught me up on what was going on and some of his vision.  I attended willfully his voice.  He sparked me again to where and what the ‘1923’ was and would be.  Then he surprised me.  He went to a closet and pulled out a jacket, one of those parkas that are water proof and have an inside liner which allows you to wear one or both.  On the heart side was the logo for Penn.  I was…thankful.  We shook hands and he once again told me where I could park my car for the weekend, a place that only he could park, and I headed down to see which mates had arrived.  I remember thinking of the Highball song that we used to sing at the Football games for some reason.  It seems to fit now in a fashion of deep respect.

penninside

Joe died at his desk, two days ago, at the rink, after moving porpane tanks, chucking garbage bags into the outside container and various other ‘jobs’ that he always was doing.  After climbing the steps, he placed the folders down that he had brought with him.  They were never opened.  He was found a time later. As he would have opened the folders almost immediately to task the never ending scheduling of ice time, job hours and job needs, it is speculated he died almost instantaneously.  I am living with that.

To Joe, you were special:

“Drink a Highball at nightfall
Be good fellows while you may
For tomorrow may bring sorrow
So tonight, lets all be Gay!
Tell the story of Glory
Of Pennsylvania
Drink a highball And be jolly
Here’s a toast to dear old Penn!”

Here is a sincere toast to Joe Crowthers, a friend to Penn, Penn hockey and to anyone who met him.

In sympathy and God’s grace and love

the Wac

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Secured Love

Received a text from friend.  “Want to get together at Cassidy’s ( Hinckley MN) 5:00 p.m. on 2/12/17 ?”  I saw the group listing.   My amigos, my life long Pards, who God put in my way and I have been tripping over, thankfully, ever since.  I knew there would be no other invitees, not for this.  It had been 25 years since we four met at that restaurant to celebrate Valentines Day with our wives, me newly married.  Sixty-six minus twenty five =Forty-One…prime time years.  Now, we were on the final roller coaster curve, slanting into the off ramp with diminishing speed.  Hell yes we would be there.

 

It would be a book.  Nothing different than you’all I am reckoning.  But what an amazing one.  We are talking third grade to grey hair…slicing through life’s seasons and still being truly friends.  It was a great night.  Buttsy and Debby, Smitty and Lynn, Sam and Sue. Amy and me!   The atmosphere was a warm water rinse of lathered hands after a day of hard work.  Simplistic in measure…a hoodie against a cold breeze.  No pretense as the need of facade had never taken hold.  It would never have a chance…not now.

 

I was taken aback when Sam had us open gifts for each couple.  There, on a background of a lake, his lake, was a poem, written “on the road.”  He had premised that he had lost it years ago and I do remember looking for it in some area of my notes and  writings, but it never appeared.  I thought it gone.  That is Sam…playfully tolerant.  They all are characters (not our wives!) and each brought an element to make the whole.  Not really to understand but to complicity be thankful.  Billy’s immediacy of chuckled one liners, Smitty the author of Smitticisms: “don’t ask me, your the wordsmith, I’m just a Smith.”   Solid in depth and all having one another’s back, even when years lapsed between handshakes.

 

“He came up to me at work, when we were together for those two years, and said he would see me later.  ‘Yeah, o.k., see you tomorrow.’  And he said no, he was taking off.”  (Smitty, Sam and Butts were married.  I was the last.)  “I said, where?  And Wac said somewhere S.E.  I knew that could be anywhere.  And then he was gone.  Didn’t see him for a year and a half.  But I did get this poem.”

 

I am not sure where it was written, nor why.  But It was.  And here he produced it in a beautifully framed background picture, which in and by itself, invoked memories.  And it ‘hit’ home.  We were there, in the boat, any of the four of us, pursuing once more the crappies and sunfish that we so enjoyed fishing for.

Lost in thought, they drifted, lazily, uncaring.

Years, man’s depth finder echoed back sixty plus

as waves lapped sides, skull umbrellas pulled low.

Over hidden mysteries floated two, silent, unvarying.

 

Bobbers, anchored to the cane, high above unknown.

Been awhile, drifted the varying currents,

but back they were, youthful no more.

Test of eight gauged past, future, the prey, still unborn.

 

Wiser, not much, but learned could not but be

as pencils drew closer, excitement long since contained.

No other stirring on lake, alone to themselves.

Nature had hurt not, they had come to pay the final fee.

12137903-illustration-of-two-men-silhouette-fishing-on-tranquil-lake

Descending hooks below, they readied technique of the skilled,

relaxed when called for, ridged when a must.

Slack taken up, hands tight on their rods

jerked high, pulled in, placed in basket almost filled.

Always, D     1978

 

What is truly amazing is a love shared.  But more to each core are the amazing women who have stayed true to four nomads who never wavered from each other and covered them from life’s worst with a blanket of love given freely and openly.  We four could not have been more blessed.  And that stands the test of mortal time.

Cheers to all

and love with sunshine

The Wac

 

 

 

 

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Finding Common Ground

Have not hear rhetoric so heated for a long time.  Fabric being ripped and the soul of a country being tested.  If you saw the movie Deliverance, you know the ending.

There was sunshine…in an uncommon place, when least expected.

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The Gift

unnamed-1December 2015 was crazy.  Literally.  Besides MY birthday on the 19th…we had the various functions of attention and attendance for the upcoming wedding of Ellie, my youngest, to take place on Jan. 10th 2016  (Uncle Billy’s birthday, who would do the honors of unification before God and State.) Thankfully, wedding preparations fall to the feminine side of families, for the most part, so I just had to show up where as Dad I was supposed to.

Christmas Eve to the Cities, Christmas day, Day after, Sadie’s birthday on the 27th, Ellie’s on the 28th and the run up to the magical 10th.  The girls were very content to celebrate their ‘days’ with a favorite meal and dessert with some cards and presents thrown in. Thankfully.

By the wedding day, which sketched a new ‘high’ in my experience notebook, I was ready to plunge down the ‘Sugar coated mountain’ and isolate.  Human contact kept to a minimum, or if extreme in statement, sit in a chair by myself and and practice numbness for a week.  Delightful, wonderful, celebratory, and exhausting.

2016 December carried many of the same excepting the hubris of the wedding.  After 2015, though missing the greatest day of my life thus far, it was a supremely ordinary; ordinary to our family excepting we now had two who live 900 miles away.  They would return on the 22nd.  I could celebrate twice, no worries!!

The girls each asked for a different birthday setting; Sadie desired to have friends from different parts of her life come over for food and games.  Excepting a tug a war between two attendees during the ‘musical chair’ card game named Spoons when two contestants, unknown to the other, decided not to let go of the last spoon, it was fun.  (Reminds me of Grma Honey, patch over one eye, at 89, fighting Ellie for the last one few years ago.  They knew each other!)   Least I am told that took place.  I was gone.  Went to bed at 7:00. Sleeping and pain pills ingested, headphones wrapped on the conning tower.  Sadie enjoyed.

Ellie had let her mother know that she wanted to go skating on her birthday.  When she was young, Amy would go and shovel the pond down below our yellow house on the hill.  (We originally named it Whispering Birch – yeah, lots of birch.  But when you have 3-5 dogs on hand at any one time and a testosterone amped rooster…whispering seems a feeble explanatory adjective.)  My friend Bobby sent me an aerial photograph that he took while working at the Pentagon (holy crap, what other pictures does he have…not my favorite place to…????) and he called it the Ponderosa.  I liked that and have been using it since, but don’t tell the girls, they all think the original is still in vogue – it is, just not to me.  So Amy for four straight nights kept the pond cleared so the family all could go skating on the 28th.  A labor of love.

Amy had shoveled the rink year after year for skating and play.  At least until the snow god got tired of her messing with it and dumped a foot or so.  Usually after dark with the pond moon lit, the bigger dogs out running around, smelling and playing.  I would watch from a window.  It had a sense of mysticism to me.

All the girls would skate a time or two in the beginning, but soon Sadie would kick off her skates and go hunting further in the swamp for natural items of interest or build herself a wigwam of cattails.  Amy never could find skates that did not torture and bailed quickly. And me?   My skating was over years earlier.  But I would hike down when imploringly asked to play the ‘bad Grinch’ and try to catch Ells as she skated around a little island in the middle of the pond.  She in skates and I boots.  I hung in there usually up to an hour, longer than Mom and Sadie, but after that the pond was Ellie’s.  She would stay, skating and twirling, exploring the thrill of the glide, the ease of movement and, I hope, the wind in her hair…oh, forgot, she wore a hat.  This all began when the girls were in grade school and carried on thru high school.   It had been a number of years. She wanted to go again, with the family and Cheol Oh.

The pond had a light dusting on it with the sun playing peek a boo most of the day.  I left a message when leaving to call me when the skate was to commence.  I wanted to drive home and watch.  I had a good vantage point above the pond on an access road.  I was texted that 3:00 would be the time.  I left a little later than I wanted, but got to the spot at 3:20.  No one there.  I waited, obviously, and was about to text to ask the whereabouts of the ‘troops,’ when down the hill from the garage, bodies were moving.   Dogs first:  Evelyn Jane the Cane Corso Mastiff, Jayce Douglas the brown and white Border Collie, Tommy Lee a super sized Pekinese, Bentley Arthur the hound dog who came into the fold this autumn and then of course Pickles Dilly, Ellie’s lovable brat who is Tommy’s mom.   Bentley was singing his heart out while the others zigzagged their way to the pond.  I watched and smiled.

Oh, but you should have seen.  Cheol Oh insisted he had to wear a helmet, so Sadie supplied this 225 lb brother in law her riding helmet, which when worn looks like a mushroom that hiccuped.  Sadie did not want to fall, so she was carrying one of my old hockey sticks.  Amy was carrying two large fold up chairs along with her torture implements.  The dogs hit the ice.  Bentley went into an immediate slide and hollered his head off.  Jayce in super motion circled the perimeter.  The Pekes poked around the marsh grass.  They were loving it.

The chairs were set in place and Amy began lacing skates, Ellie first.  Cheol Oh needed help in getting his tight enough so he was next.  Then Sadie.  A mom all the way!  After they all got off skating and it was truly fun, watching up in the confines of Amanti, my 16 year old car. Ellie began a little ragged, but started to have some of the old smoothness return after a few minutes. Cheol Oh looked like me trying to walk down a hall with my ‘stilts.’  His head a black cropping.  Sadie, well, all I heard was “I don’t want to fall!”  And meaning it.  Amy had to be worn out getting this pack all on the ice at the same time and of course the dogs tried jumping on each and the skaters, making balancing that much harder.  The woman that she is, Amy joined for a lap or two, then took a seat to watch the spectacle.  All acknowledged me up above watching from the car.  I waved back.  The sun was opting clear in the background, shining on the scene.  Rockwell??

Sadie did not fall, but I think she sat down pretty quick.  That left the ice to Ellie and Cheol Oh.  Now these two are competitive.  Play them.  So of course, after a while the RACE had to take place.  Twice around the island.  ‘Robot man’ vs ‘Electric glide.’  Ellie had him in speed and style.  Cheol Oh had her in elbows and girth.  Both had the drive.

They took off and I thought for sure Ellie would take care of him from the start.  But it remained close (Ellie would NEVER let him win to be nice, trust me.  Like her mom -giggle!!)  A little of the rustiness showed on the corners and of course the ‘girth’ seemed to always move in her direction.  Oh such fun watching.  I was laughing out loud.  Then in the final turn and E.G. seemingly gliding to the finish ahead of the Robot it happened.  Cheol Oh, being athletic, flung himself into the air, a complete layout, landing on the ice in a headfirst slide, though not sure he slid real far.  The action caught me so appreciative and unaware, I truly do not know who won!  No matter, the laughter was echoing from below (anyone ever hear Sadie let loose?!)  The dogs all wanted to give him a licking at the same time to show their affection.  Ellie was either doubled up in laughter or pretty tired.  I think laughter.

It was time to go.  But I waited just a minute more to look upon the scene.  My family, the whole lot (well, no, horses and chickens excepted) were down in a bowl like setting, the sun beginning to set, the air dry and clean, the day closing, laughter ringing….

I began to head back to town.  I was gifted to the extreme.

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The Bid

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The glint of sun “rouged’ the dappled sky, patting color to the grey clouds.  But the early makeover could not take away from the fecklessness in her depth.  She was feeling the nip of depression; teething on her internals.  Anxiety suffocation.  The auction would begin around 9:00 a.m.  She had never been to one.  Today she had no choice.  It was March.  A year now since she arrived.  The farm lacked feed for Jim, Grpa’s horse.  The green in the piggy bank leveled at sparse.

jessie-in-snow

It had not been a tough winter, outside of ordinary, but it had frayed and strained nerves with its long grey days attended by dreary fatigue that seemed to envelop everything. March added rain, sleet and damp snow, covering what little snow remained.   Hay was at a premium.  A scarcity vexed by a wet summer allowed only two cuttings instead of three; the first crop ruined and the second one left with inadequate drying time prior to baling. Animal pasture was limited too as puddles dappled grass.  The result produced price shock and winter fodder ‘dried up.’  This March auction was critical.

Jim was old.  He had been pressed upon Sarah when Grpa had died and willed her the farm. She had ridden him when she was little and had childhood affection.  Jim, however, was and always would be Grpa’s.  The two of the them together dignified the simplistic love of man and animal.  Gpa had entered Jim in the County Fair a time or two with no false presumptions.   He ‘placed’ once, but that was the only top shelf trophy.  Did not matter. Least ways to Jim.  Twenty-nine years together.  Grpa lost his teeth first.

When she morphed to adulthood her artistic and scholastic endeavors took her ‘off the farm’ and settled her down on the East Coast where she pursued an Art History Major, graduating from New York University.  She went with Grpa’a blessings and some financial help.  Sarah stayed East after cap and gown year and though her income was sparse relative to the environs, she was content.  She nanny-ed and taught at a private school. She was entranced with the lights of the City, the multiplicity of life.  Her roots were cast aside.  Until she was “summoned” home.  It was Spring.

She had come home to care for him.  It was he who had raised her after the accident. Sarah had healed.  Her parents died.  Grpa still worked the farm some, a ghost of himself.  Sarah helped where she could.  She struggled, with the chore life and caring for Grpa. It was not “her,”  nothing of his life ran through her veins. She liked the innate beauty, her youth recalled, but chores sucked the beauty away.  She much preferred her pastures and cows on canvass, not close up and personal.  Though there was no specified time frame left, it was expected his life would evacuate in a year or less.  She had taken leave from her teaching assignment a couple of months early and the family where she took care of the little one wished her well and picked out another nanny.  When she arrived, the appearance of Grpa startled her.   But he kept up, just much slower.  They worked the cows into mid summer, then both realized it was time for the animals to depart.  She was thankful that he was lucid so to help her with arrangements to dispatch them.  Except Jim. In a quiet moment, speaking in whispers while on his bed, set in the living room, he had asked Sarah but one thing.  To care for Jim until he too passed.  That was his only wish. Everything else was Sarah’s to make final decisions on.  Sarah loved ‘Pa.  It was natural to say yes, but deep down she hoped the old fellow would catch the same train Grpa was going to take.  At the same time Sarah could hope.  A sadness sank deep.  A weary push/pull on her heart.  More than a few nights Sarah cried softly toward his end.

Grpa passed that September, when the beginnings of color splashed on the varied foliage. Where the solitude of that summer had freshened her soul during the trying time, the colors specking that Fall in increasing arrangements, variety and realness, rubbed raw.  It also confided memories.  She had forgotten the Season of Color’s  aptitude what with her world being the assorted spray paint decoration on rail cars and buildings.  But income scarcity compounded with her anxiousness to have the settlement concluded prior to the intervention of snow and cold allowed her concern to accelerate.  The rhythm of her life drummed harder toward the muses of the East.  It was time.

When he passed she thought she would ‘close up shop’ soon after the burial, but the estate sale was delayed, the paperwork stalled.  All of the animals were dead or gone, except Jim.  Finding a home at this time of year and the given hay shortage were becoming a burden she did not expect.  When she approached the locals, they wished her well, but no one offered stall space.  His age produced no usage.  A large ‘lawn ornament.’  Some suggested she should put him down.  He was total expense.  But she could not make such a move.  Not with the freshness of death lingering.  Her promise.  She was stonewalled in her pursuit and shackled to the promise.  Such then prevailed a destitution which would not be concluded until Jim was gone.  Would he really care…now?

Her going home to care had strained a relationship; then shredded it.  She was hurt, but the break was not unexpected.  She found strength in the old farm and the ‘songs’ each day provided, chores excepted.  While caring, she tried some part time fillers until it became apparent that she was not able to do both.  Her Grpa needed her more on the constant.  Since the passing, the quietness of the country ‘refrain’ had started to produce a tautness of uncustomary inability which she applied being busy to help buffer.  She abhorred loss of control and the pieces of her life now were interacting to produce doubt. The Farm had become an anchor.  Money was shorn tight and would not be freshened until the sale.  Sarah became hesitant and doubtful.  The kaleidoscope of the City’s clamors were missed.  She knew that she needed to do something, but the immediate grappled with her.  Besides the liquidation of the Farm, she felt the pang of caring for Jim, with nothing really available…or happening on either end of the rope.

Sarah went out by the lean-to and found Jim behind it, out of the wind.  She slogged over to him and rubbed his nose.  He pushed on her hand.  The brown milky eyes stayed constant to her face.  Bending, she touched his nose with hers.  A sigh slipped through her lips.  Turning, she let her hand slide softly off his nozzle and headed to the old truck, head tucked in a hooded sweatshirt layered under a canvas coat.  Oil stains for decorations. Grpa’s.

Jones was at Hidleberger’s  early.   He took a styrofoam cup and poured dark black coffee into it.  It had been a while.  He looked around but did not recognize anyone. He was not noticed.  Even Lucy behind the counter did not recognize him nor acknowledge, though to her credit she was busy getting the bidding numbers organized to the auctioneer’s clipboard.  Jones was a wiry, small and leathered man, cloaked in pants and coat long in the sleeves.  Not typical farm attire excepting the hat.  An insulated ball style cap.  A green stained John Deere with ear flaps untied and the tips limply curled down.  Jones exited quietly.  Age was a benefactor now.

As he stepped away, his hand crossed over his chest to retrieve a cigarette from the left breast pocket.   Cupping his hands, He lit it, allowing the smoke to exit his nose and side of mouth.  Ready now to confront the dampness of the morning with nicotine and caffeine coursing arterially.  He wore no gloves over veined calloused hands.  With the cigarette in the left hand and coffee in the right, he proceeded to examine the hay for sale, slowly making his way down past the various stacks of square and round bales, sectioned in lots for separate bidding.

Sarah hooked up the 10 foot trailer to her Grandfather’s twenty year old pick up.  The lights had quit years previous.  The drive to the auction was about fifteen minutes.  She reached in her purse and took out a pack of nicotine gum, extracting one as she pulled slowly out of the drive onto the county road.  A cigarette would have been grand.

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They slowly arrived in pickups and older cars.  Hooded sweatshirts were common along with canvas outerwear and blue jeans, usually over cotton long johns.  They were mostly men, with a lady or two among them, mostly wives.  Lucy was behind the desk in the office preparing the necessary auction bid sheets and numbers.  She was a fixture to all.

The selections were not good.  Fair or Utility at best.  Older hay drug out of back lofts and sheds long stored.   No Premium or Good to be found.  The hay either old or moisture molded.  They examined each stack quickly, conclusively, but with little haste.  The bidders would winnow out the ones they desired and focus on these, while maintaining surveillance on what was happening with the whole.  The need to adjust quickly might occur.  Individually and in twos or threes the bidders made their decisions. The auction should not demanded extreme pricing, but given the scarcity and the need, the outcome would depend on the set minimums, if any, and the pursuant bidding pressure.

Sarah drove in, turning into the left corner of the lot.  As she exited the truck, she pulled on a white stocking cap under the hood and neck wrapped a red scarf to block the stiffening wind.  She ducked under the strap of her purse and began walking toward the mingling crowd.  Quiet banter could be heard from small interacting groups amongst the bales. She was noticed with slight nods.

Sarah saw the sign for the office and made her way to the three steps leading to the door.   She was just about to enter when three men came out.  Backing down, she let them pass, then moved quickly to get in before others came.  The smell of burnt coffee and ‘farm odor’ greeted her.  She glanced at the clock.  8:45.  Fifteen minutes.  She had cut the time close.  She approached the desk.  Lucy greeted her with a quick hello and took down her name on a line with a number, handing her a white cardboard square with the same number on it, her bid number.

As Sarah slid out the door, by-passing a group at the bottom of the steps drinking coffee, she moved quickly to the end where the hay would be auctioned last.  Not as many people so she could see better.  It was where the smaller square bales were. As she inspected, walking faster than she wanted, she heard the horn signalling the start and moved slowly up the line to where the auctioneer began to sound out in rhythmic cadence the bid pricing. She could not truly follow what he was saying except a price shouted out here and there. The men around would slightly raise a hand if they were in engaged, until all were bid out except one.  The auction per hay group did not last long. The pace unnerved her. Sara wondered if she had enough money for anything!  She took what she brought out of her purse and slipped it in her mitten.  Tension increased as the men moved quietly down the aisle, each seemingly knowing exactly what they were doing and what they wanted. No real notice of her.  It was all business.

She knew good hay.  Her Grandfather always had ‘put up’ good.  These were of no such measure.  She knew she should pick out a couple stacks to perhaps try some bidding, but only one looked to be anywhere close to what she could spend, especially after she saw the cost of the early action.  She pulled out her bills and slipped them inside her left mitten.  $80.  These bales, sordid as they seemed, were going for a market price of 6-10 dollars per bale.  The rolls higher. She saw that she really had only one block that might give her a chance.  She went ahead of the bidding, to it, and waited.

Jones had seen Sarah earlier, shortly after she had exited the office.  A girl was different yes, but her youth attended him more.  He smiled. He kept her in sight as he worked the edges of the moving group.  When the auction got to Sarah, perhaps half the bidders were left.  The stack was not the last, but there were not many more.  Jones stood a person away from Sarah, listening.  He scanned the group and ‘took in’ the mix that was left.  Perhaps a couple might be interested in bidding, but Jones had made up his mind.

He looked at Sarah and quickly surmised the need, the anxiousness, the ‘wishing I was somewhere else but desperate look.’  The lot seemed too small for most.  He weaved away from Sarah and in a low bass echoed, “let the youngun have it, let the girl have it.”  He angled through the men and though they heard him remained properly expressionless. “Let it go, let her have it.”  He worked the whole, then stood near her. And waited.  Her attention was totally focused on the ‘Cantor.’  Jones was invisible.

The auctioneer opened up and began the staccato chant, a price at which he had sold the previous batch.  $6.50/bale.  No takers.  He looked about, at the bales, and then dropped to the basement level.

Sarah jolted to attention when she heard $3.00.   The starting number had chinked her heart.  Now she swallowed, took a quick shallow breath and raised her hand.  An emphatically “$3.00” blew past her, then a quickly resounding, “now who will make it $3.50?” the voice was all steel, not tinny.  She was startled.  Sarah raised her hand again. “We got $3.50 who’ll make it $4.oo?”  Sarah felt a hand on her elbow and a low voice spoke gently into her ear.  “You’re bidding against yrself.”  Crimson flamed across her face.  She looked at her feet then to her elbow.  No one there and no face looked at her to acknowledge.  The megaphone voice kept calling…  “$3.50… $4.00?  $3.50…$4.00….” Was it echoing?  Not a man seemed interested.  They stood stolid but uninspired.  The auctioneer could see that some reckoning had happened. He truncated the bidding. “Sold!”

As the group milled to the next, a man came up and gave Sarah a slip of paper on which her bid of $3.50/bale was written.   She had bid and won 20 bales of hay, twice!  And she was the only bidder.  Stunned stiffness slowly ebbed, replaced with thankful relief.  She took the slip and her money inside the office, not wanting to face any rebid!  The business end was concluded quickly.  Exiting, she headed out to get the bales loaded on the trailer and truck.  The auction was concluding as she placed the last of them in the trailer.  It was just past dinner time.  Work to be done for all as they left Heidleberger’s lot.  Milking for most.  Sarah drove slowly.  She rubbed her forehead and felt an ache in her shoulders. Tension still gripped.  But she had done what she needed to.

Realizing a voice saved her from making a complete fool of herself, she smiled when she thought of the men who had not bid.  The ride home had her in puzzling thought, trying to attach one of many faces to a voice.  She just had no idea.  She had been so preoccupied. She wanted to think it was Grpa.  She smiled with that thought.

Jones had started back shortly after Sarah had rung her bid.  He walked down the right side of the road in a slow easy shuffle.   He wasn’t quite sure where he was going.  But it did not matter.  The freshness felt good to him.  The smells,sights and Heidlebergers had give a harmony to his frustrated mind.

A truck pulled close.  He heard his name ‘Jonesy’ spoken out.  The man reached across and opened the passenger side door.  Jones took the proffered ride.  He was not sure where he was being taken.  They drove past farms and fields.  Jones looked at all, seeing with depth but with little understanding.

The truck rolled up to the red brick building and the driver got out.  Jones started to slide out his door as the man came up to him and smiled.  Then he gently walked Jones inside the building where many people in wheelchairs, walkers and crutches milled about.  The man went to the desk and informed a blue clad lady about his ‘friend.’  The lady placed her hands on her hips and gave out a large laugh/sigh.  “Oh Jonsey, where were you off too?? You know you cannot leave the building like that.  You’ll get lost!  Then what would we say to your granddaughter if that were to happen, huh?!”

Jonesy was not sure where he had been, but he felt good.  He looked at the lady and smiled. “I was with her this afternoon.”

That evening, Sarah stroked Jim as he ate.   A small tear formed in her eye.  She would be back in the City soon.

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