Reminder.....

.... originally posted in May of 2005, I was recently reminded of this story for a completely different reason........

A Gentle Man

... when I was about six months old, my Mother and Father were living in a small, rented house just outside Niota, Tennessee.... my Dad was fresh back from the Vietnam War, and had managed to land a job with Southern Railway as a laborer on a Maintenance of Way gang... Southern was big into hiring disabled and wounded vets at the time, and his wounds gave him a leg-up... it was a good job for 1973... hard work, but good pay.... the downside was that he traveled with the gang... Bristol.. Jellico.. White Pine... way up in the northeastern corner of the state... as a result, he was gone all week and returned on Friday evenings... tired, hungry, and wanting to spend the weekend with his family...

... the row of basic, clean houses were painted white.... all of them faced onto a rural road that snaked down the hillside towards highway 11 and the town... the other side of the road was dominated by a large brick mansion with a 2 acre front lawn... the owner of the row of houses lived there at the crest of the hill...

... one evening when my Father arrived home, he noticed that there was a small fire burning in a 55 gallon drum... the drum was in a small drainage ditch that separated our lawn from next door.. when he came in the door, he asked about it... Mother said that the owner across the street had brought his garbage over and burnt it... she had asked him what he was doing, and he had replied that he had "always" burnt his garbage there... so he lit the fire, and left...

... now, the problem with this scenario is that it was late Spring.. unseasonably hot... and the house had no air conditioning... so to combat the effects of the heat on her new child, she had to open the windows... when she did, the breeze carried the smoke straight into the house..

... my Father did what anyone else would have done, I suppose... he turned on the water hose, and doused the fire in the barrel... then he walked up the long driveway towards the brick house... after knocking on the door and waiting what seemed like an hour, the gentleman opened the door with a Scotch & water highball in hand...

... "Excuse me, sir", he began... "I've just got back from working away all week, and my Wife tells me that you brought your garbage over here to burn at our house... is that right?"...

... "yeah, that's right", was the polite response... he took a sip from his drink, and continued... "I've always burnt my trash in that ditch there.. is there a problem?"...

... "well, I didn't know that when I rented your house... and yeah, yeah, there is a problem.... I've got a 6 month old son over there who is breathing that smoke... it's too hot for us to keep the windows closed, and the smoke is coming right into the house... so, here's an idea.... I leave out every Sunday night heading to White Pine... if you sit your garbage at the end of your drive, I'll be happy to haul it off on my way to work once a week... that way there is no smoke, and you get rid of your trash... sound like a deal?"...

... the Landlord stood in the doorway eyeing up my Father... 6'2.. 210lbs... short blonde hair.. sky blue eyes.. a bone-deep suntan from working outdoors his whole life... and more recently, from the Southeast Asian sun... "Sure, my man.... not a problem at all.. I didn't realize the smoke was bothering your baby... think no more of it..."

... feeling that a compromise had been reached, Dad walked back to the house and ate dinner...

... the following Sunday evening, he was putting his work clothes into the back of his beat-up Impala... he looked over at the mailbox of the mansion... there were no bags of garbage....

... he arrived home late the next Friday to find a smoking barrel in the ditch... after hosing it down and extinguishing the smoldering papers, he looked up the hill towards the Brick House... the cars were not in the drive... he went inside and sat down at the kitchen table and wrote a note....

Sir,

I spoke to you last week regarding the burning of trash around my child. I offered to take your trash away on Sunday evenings. I am still willing to do this service for you, but I wanted to make myself clear. There will be no more trash burnt in my yard. I am returning your barrel. If you would like, please feel free to talk with me about this matter. I am sure that you and I can work something out.

regards,

MHS

... after finishing a now cold meal, my Father rolled the old 55 gallon drum up the hill to the house... he placed the note on the front door, and left...

... all day the next Sunday, he watched out the window... hoping to see the Landlord toting garbage bags to the road... but when the time arrived for him to leave, there were none... with a feeling of sadness, he drove the long hours to work...

... the week's work had been hot.. the kind of heat that boils up from the blackened crossties and steel rails - exposed to the eternal sun - and bakes a Man... the life of a laborer on the railroad is modernly akin to slave labor, and he was tired... wanting rest, his eyes caught the wispy smoke as he eased into his small driveway...

... covered in the grime of a day spent driving spikes and lining rail, he opened the trunk of his old Impala and retrieved a tie bar.. six feet long and an inch and a half thick... this solid steel bar is used to hold the rails in line near switches... he approached the smoking barrel slowly... methodically... and with a mighty slam, he knocked it into the street... ashes and sparks flew... but he continued... with another blow, it spun across the street and spilled garbage against the mailbox of the Landlord... again and again... the barrel spun closer and closer to the Brick House... a trail of embers and half-burnt pieces of the Chattanooga Times snaked across the 2 acre lawn... and finally, he was there.. the dented, rusty drum was resting on its side by the welcome mat...

... but for some reason, he didn't stop... he pounded and pounded the barrel with the heavy steel rod... only stopping when it had been beaten flat on the doorstep...

... he stood in the lawn for a long time... breathing heavily from the exertion.. his arms burning with pain from flailing the heavy bar... he looked to his right... yes, the cars were there... yes, they surely must have heard him outside.... yes, they were watching him through the window... he stood, and waited...

... but nothing happened... as his breathing became normal again, he turned towards his house... "typical", he thought to himself... "you just can't be fair with some people"....

... he walked down the hill towards his little home leaving the littered lawn and smoking barrel behind... once inside, he ate his supper and played with his child.... we lived in that house 18 more months after that... and no one ever burnt garbage in that tiny ditch again...

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Ubiquitous.....

...... I heard this today on the radio and loved it......... some voices are just made to read poetry....... check this out.... I have always loved the word "ubiquitous"......


The Ubiquitous Day Lily of July

by David Budbill

There is an orange day lily that blooms in July and is
everywhere around these parts right now. Common.
Ordinary. It grows in everybody's dooryardabandoned
or lived inalong the side of the road, in front of stone walls,
at gas stations and garages, at the entrance to driveways,
anywhere it takes a mind to sprout. You always see them
in clusters, bunches, never by themselves. They propagate
by rhizomes, which is why they are so resilient, and why
you see them in bunches.

There is an orange day lily that blooms in July and is
ubiquitous right now. The roadside mowers mow a lot
of them, but they don't get them all.

These are not the rare and delicate lemon yellow day lilies
or the other kinds people have around their places. This one
is coarse and ordinary, almost harsh in its weathered beauty,
like an older woman with a tough, worldly-wise and wrinkled
face. There is nothing nubile, smooth or perky about this flower.
It's not fresh. It's been around awhile and everybody knows it.

As I said, it's coarse and ordinary and it's beautiful because
it's ordinary. A plant gone wild and therefore become
rugged, indestructible, indomitable, in short: tough, resilient,
like anyone or thing has to be in order to survive.

..... it always amazes me how words can be structured to move people so.........

.... and it sparks me to think that the blogmeet will be upon us all in just over a month!....... anyone fancy a visit?....

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