Friday, October 19, 2012

When He's Gone

The other day I glanced across the street and noticed Melvin, our neighbor of many years, setting his lawn sprinkler in anticipation of watering the grass. As the irrigation system sprang to life, Melvin quickly jumped aside to avoid the spray. All that may seem fairly routine, and of little interest, until you realize Melvin is in his early 80s, a time when precious few are able to move quickly for any reason.
Melvin's Work Shed

Never do I see Melvin without my outlook improving, and never does he fail to bring a smile to my face. Craig, Barry and I have known Melvin and his wife, Betty, since before we were old enough to recognize anyone. They have been important and indispensable parts of our routine since we arrived on this earth in the late 1950s. We have certainly assumed Melvin will always be over there poking around in his yard, welding, hammering and tinkering. Only recently have we begun to wonder what it will happen when we look out the windows of Twin Rocks Trading Post and realize he is gone. Surely that is as much an issue of feeling our own mortality as questioning his.

Melvin is the consummate contemporary Bluff settler; he was born here, but for a stint in the army during the Korean War he has lived here from birth and he will likely spend the remainder of his days here. Whatever formal education he has was taken at the University of Bluff, which is an affiliate of the School of Hard Knocks. Craig, Barry and I are working on degrees from that same institution, and after the Great Recession of 2008, we believe we may have earned our doctorates in crisis management.

In a community that has perfected the art of internecine squabbling, Melvin’s opinions are universally respected and he is often looked to for sage advice. During his working career, Melvin spent most days on the state road crew, building and maintaining the highways and byways of southern San Juan County. When he was not operating heavy equipment, he was repairing implements or inventing more efficient methods for his small farm east of Bluff. These days, he patches up trucks, road graders and Caterpillars for his son’s sand and gravel business. As a result, his tall frame is thin and his back more than slightly bent. He is, however, agile for a man of his age; thus, his ability to avoid being wetted by the water hose.

Imbedded in his vocabulary are numerous colorful phrases, which never seem out of place. With certain people, you realize such words are merely descriptive, not intentionally offensive. Melvin is one of those individuals.

As the water saturated Melvin’s swatch of green, I was reminded that life is a cycle, and that we are all merely part of the larger machinery. The test of our worth is whether we assisted the cosmic gadget in producing something worthwhile. Surely when the great Foreman in the sky punches Melvin’s time-card, it will be noted that things were better during his shift.

With warm regards,
Steve, Barry, Priscilla and Danny; The Team

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