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Saturday, April 01, 2006

Where have the REAL men gone?
A gentleman named Greg Garrison seems to have figured it out, as his essay below illustrates. I will back him up on this. A few of us were lucky enough to have grown up in the shadows of men like this. Now we bear the responsibility to pass it on.

THE OLD MEN
Posted By: Greg Garrison


They wore the uniforms of the oil companies for whom they drove trucks or repaired our cars, their hands bore the stained callous of a lifetime's hard work. Their scent was that of grease, gasoline, paint and tobacco, either Lucky Strikes, Homemade cigars or Red Man chew; their faces were creased by a life outside, and they bore a variety of alterations to their stance, gait, stride or posture that declared a history familiar with hard work. Their smiles were quick but spare; the laugh was as unique as were their life stories, and when they spoke, the vocabulary was typically blunt, direct, at times salty and always interesting to the kids whose lives they touched. Frank Sims was the mechanic at the Standard station at Gem Road and US 40. He cared for every car my dad owned for the better part of 40 years, while Dad "doctored" him and his family through two generations of his kids. Don Princell operated the fuel oil truck that supplied us with heating oil, his smile quick and his greeting decorated with a steady jovial nature that always invited me to go watch him haul the heavy hose up the hill to the house in every kind of weather. Albert Rodebeck painted our house and teased me mercilessly, his rubber face competition for Emmitt Kelly or Red Skelton, and Carl Borger, the farmer up the road, laughed all the way from his shoes when I told him the tall tales of my boyhood exploits. It seemed they were always old, these portraits of the common man, but even so, as each passed from us the loss of character and steadfastness represented by their presence in our lives was palpable.


There was Julius Klein, the former big league fast-baller who was our plumber and my dad's friend for the better part of 50 years; he was big and possessed of a ruddy appearance that bore great testament to his life as a farmer. He defined toughness as he walked up our driveway during hay season one year, the grimace on his face and the twist in his posture evidence that a fall from the wagon had left him with a separated shoulder. "Get your dad, son, I've broken my shoulder—need him to pop it back in place." I did, and he did, and Julius went back to baling. Floyd Smith lived across the road from us. He could weld, carpenter, farm and raise just about anything in the garden or a barn, and like his friend Julius, demonstrated a kind of quiet steadfastness in the face of decades of terrible pain from a back injury that landed him in surgery and then in a hospital bed that his wife had set up in their living room. Took him six months to get back on his feet. Roy Abel drove our school bus, had a huge laugh and that same red face, courtesy of Mr. Sun and a life lived on the farm as well. Albert Hitzman chewed tobacco constantly, wore the obligatory bib overalls, had a knack for spinning a yarn and captivated us with stories of growing up along National Road in Cumberland around the turn of the century. Gunfights in the street, saloon brawls that featured knifings and even a man killed with a pool cue were so powerful that we insisted he tell them over and over. He hunted rabbits with me for many a season, and the pelt of a fox he killed some sixty years ago hangs in my living room to this day.


Of course there were among these old men those who had served in WWII or Korea, and they held a status among the rest of the dads that approached reverence. Charlie Perry had been captured by the Krauts after his bomber was shot down, then spent the rest of the war in a POW camp. Came home weighing about 100 lbs. But having survived it, every day was a celebration to Charlie, and his infectious smile and quick wit, his open countenance and steadfast devotion to his family made him a quiet icon to all who knew him. Some bore scars on face or body, while others never spoke of their experiences at all. Still others would periodically open the door on their memories, usually late at night and only when the women were absent, and at those times, if a kid was lucky enough to be there, the cigarette smoke would fill the air and the place would go silent as the other men listened with reverence and admiration for the courage and the pain that had been the wars.


They were tough, honest men whose idea of good was as simple as it was uncontrovertible. They loved their God and they loved their country; they loved their wives and they adored their children. They had a gusto that was at once understated and the essence of manhood, but they also had something else. Beneath the salty humor and the warm greeting was an inner fiber, something akin to fine steel wire. Those who transgressed what was right, spoke ill of country or flag, mistreated their women or their kids or in any way uttered blasphemy against the Lord could expect no quarter and if the occasion required, quick retribution. We have to wonder how long a band of idiots like those who today insult the memory of soldiers who have died in combat by protesting at their funerals would last if they spewed their invective at the funeral of one of these, our old men. I know it was a different time and ethic then, but there can be no doubt that the first such display would have been the only one, and any of that ilk who survived the experience would have thought hard about repeating the whole thing.


We speak often about "real men" as that term is applied to leaders, actors, athletes and adventurers who still capture the public attention and imagination. Certainly they have their place, and their contributions to society's hungry need for role models is as crucial as it is unpopular with the weenies of the post-modern Left. But the old men were neither jocks nor actors. They had no matinee visage, no audience or notoriety; most of them were not educated men and if you were sitting beside them in a theater or in church the stranger would have no hint of their essence. But theirs was a leadership both subtle and cosmic, straight shooters who bent backs to labor with devotion and pride, spoke seldom and took steps to avoid the spotlight. When their lives have ended and their memories faded by the passage of time, what remains for the ages is that very thing—essence. Jobs well done, faith in God and love of country, devotion to family and friends, all were their hallmarks. And in an age where lesser men seek the ever- illusive thing called legacy, theirs is secure and steadfast. We should all find ways to simplify, to clarify, and to distill out of life its spiritual and personal essence, for younger eyes are watching us, too. Boys seek examples of manhood to emulate, girls fashion their requisites for the men who will be their husbands. And I am made to wonder at this moment—will any of us ever come close to the stature, the quiet steadfastness and the fundamental, honest, courage that was all of them, our old men.

2 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your are Nice. And so is your site! Maybe you need some more pictures. Will return in the near future.
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Saturday, August 12, 2006 12:42:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very pretty design! Keep up the good work. Thanks.
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Thursday, August 17, 2006 4:47:00 PM  

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