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Mr. Thomas

So much time has passed that details elude me. I try to remember because I know how much it would mean to me to remember. But I’ve forgotten so much.
Prospect, New York, a town of three hundred and fifty people or so, even now, was an excellent place to grow up in the 1960s. It taught me lessons about community and knowing your neighbors, about reaching out and helping where I could. It was the kind of place where a little boy could sell yesterday’s newspapers to the neighbors for a nickel with a cookie thrown in as a tip for delivering them right to their front door. It was the kind of place where a neighbor would stop by every day to have a little boy tag along with him up the hill to the post office and impart on him more wisdom and direction than he could ever know.
Mr. Thomas was very tall, or so it seemed to me but then I was quite small. I do remember that I had to reach high to hold his giant hand. He was a published author, though I didn’t really understand what that meant. He was most definitely a local historian, that being the subject of his writing, but I didn’t really understand about that either. I know that we started our daily walks to the post office before the age that I started school but I’m not sure if they ended altogether when I entered kindergarten or whether they were only relegated to weekends. You see, I’m not sure just when they started or exactly when they ended.
I don’t remember the contents of even one conversation we had. I don’t remember what his voice sounded like or what his face looked like. I only know that we had conversations. I know that whatever he said to me at such a young age clung to my heart and sparked a fire that has wafted and waned from time to time, but has never gone completely out. It has lost its way while I wandered down paths too numerous to recall, but it has always held tight in piece or part and is an ingredient in that recipe that has served as the core of that which defines myself to me. It is a component of me that seems as if it was always there. Its roots sunk deep into stone even when the wind and rain tried their hardest to sweep it away.
That spark has been a place to escape when things were difficult. It’s been an old friend to me on stormy days. A candle in the window and a fire in the hearth, arms to hold me, a gentle voice to comfort me. It has been a way to scream my most painful epithets to those who never had to feel their sting or bite. It has kept me from apologies I could never have found the words for. It helped me to decide what to keep within my heart and what to allow to peel from me like a skin that needed shed. It has saved me from myself and sorted out the webs and vines that twist from time to time to confuse me and make me lose my way.
In figurative terms, it has been a god to me but in reality, it has been the bridge back to my God. It has helped me to unwind and refine that which I believe and that which I don’t. It has helped to sort those things that I draw near to me and bask in, but also, those things which I shun. It has allowed things to flow from my heart that I did not know were mine. For better or for worse, it has shown me all those things that I am made of.
Such a difference the spark of writing has made in my life. Such a difference a kind old gentleman made, whether I can remember the details or not. I gave him my company in walking to the post office at the top of the hill and he showed me my eyes for seeing the world around me and turning it to writing on a page.



It was nearly midnight and the full moon shown through the storm clouds, more as a backlight that stretched from horizon to horizon, than a light in any one place in the sky. It had just started to rain after an evening of promises and far off thunder. It was a much-needed rain for this part of the hills. The summer had stretched into fall and neither season had brought any relief, until now.

As the lightning strikes came closer and closer together, the figure standing on the hilltop became more obvious. He was not a large man but rather well put together. I could see that although he was obviously in good shape, his body sagged on his frame, sort of like he had toiled long and hard with a great weight upon his shoulders and had just recently laid this weight to rest upon the hillside.

I could see his long, wet hair barely moved by the wind of the storm. He stood very still and looked off into the distance as if he was waiting for someone. As I neared him, I could tell by the look on his face, that there would be no one else.

I watched as water ran down his face and I was unable to tell if it was rain or tears. I hesitated approaching any closer, this soul did not welcome the stranger. Instead, I half-kneeled and half sat on the soaked ground, knowing that the wetness of the ground would not chill me any more than the sight that lay before me.

My heart reached across the distance between he and I but could find no purchase upon him. I was left unable to walk away and unable to go to his side. So, I stayed in my place, hoping that at some point I would be able to move, even if it was just to move away. I knew that time would not come soon.

As I watched, he seemed to grow stronger and straighter by the minute. He seemed to have found a strength that he had forgotten. The look on his face changed from tired resignation to one of wisdom, power, and courage. The water still ran down his face but now I was sure that if it were tears, they were tears of determination.

The wind blew and the sky was lit over and over from the storm but his soul stood still and firm. I saw a slight smile curl the corners of his eyes and he laid his head back and out of the night, I heard a howl that came from no one direction. It pierced the darkness around me and grabbed at my heart, which skipped a beat and started back in at a much faster and much stronger tempo.

I could not understand if there were words in the howl but I needed none to know that the howl was not one of victory but of renewed hope, renewed vigor for the battle. He had reached down inside of himself and found the one thing they could not touch, the one thing that they could not steal. He found his soul and he found it as strong and as vibrant as it had ever been. He now knew that even after his body was beaten and laid to rest on one of these same hillsides, that his soul would live forever and that it could never be beaten.

copyright 1996 by Traveler Wendell

Bellowing At The Moon

It was a warm January evening in Williston. The Jenkins family was watching television in their living room. Shelby the family dog, was kicked back, enjoying his regular place at the end of the couch. Shelby was the only member who felt the low, rhythmic rumble, which was the only warning of the impending danger. He wandered from room to room, looking for the cause of the vibration as the rest of the family, engrossed in the T.V., hardly noticed his search.

As he climbed onto Jeremiah’s bed, to get a clear view of the side yard, Shelby saw the massive creature staring back at him through the glass. Being the well trained attack dog that he is, he sounded the alarm. Unfortunately, Shelby sounds the alarm quite often, he takes his job as family protector quite seriously and the rest of the family ignored his first warning, thinking that it was merely the killer rottweiler from across the street. Little did they know just how wrong they were.

Shelby glanced frantically towards the living room where the stares of the rest of the family were focused on the television. He changed the tone of his bark, he bounced on the bed, he yelled, “HELLO!”, but nothing worked.

It was then that the creature through the glass made his move around the front comer of the house and out into the front yard. Shelby countered by diving off the bed, doing a perfect somersault as he ran past the T.V. and rushing the front window while waving his front legs as if he were landing aircraft in the driveway.

This finally got the humans’ attention, but by this time Shelby was too out of breath to explain, so he simply pointed out the window. Jerimiah casually moved a curtain to peer out into the darkness. He, trying not to alarm his parents, in a voice sounding almost bored said, “Mom, there’s a cow in the front yard.” as if it were the most natural thing to have a cow staring in the front window.

Shelby was beside himself as well as in front, behind and on top of himself. The cow, which was actually a bull, was not impressed with the dog’s gymnastics and actually thought momentarily about testing the strength of the front wall of the house, as this had always been a secret fantasy of his but instead he settled for playing with the tailgate of the pick up in the driveway.

It is surprising how fast parents can gather when they realize that the absurd statement that was just made by their offspring might actually be true.

Well, I will not embarrass these fine people by explaining just how funny it looked to Shelby to see these humans running around trying to figure out what to do when your pick up is being attacked by a bull but just about the time they worked out a reasonable plan, the bull switched to the 5.0 Mustang parked in front of the pickup. This changed the plan drastically as Jesse, the father, and Jeremiah, the son, spearheaded an unarmed attack on the husky marauder. This proved to be futile as the bull decided that people might be fun to play with, too, hence proving that two full sized men can go through a normal sized doorway at once. No one is quite sure how many times these two brave souls proved this, but let’s just say, they have no doubts about it.

Much that comes next is merely a blur, so I will not try to do a play-by-play. I will, however, tell you that when called and informed of this dangerous beast, the Williston Police Department responded in a timely manner by calling the owner of the bull, who instantly sent his brother-in-law to subdue the wrong doer. This he accomplished by letting the bull play with his tailgate, (on his truck), whilst he led the beast home.

As difficult as it is to believe that this happened right here in our quiet little city of Williston, it is completely true. Okay, so it’s mostly true, I’m allowed to dress it up a little. There was a bull, there was a dog, there was a Jenkins family. I admit, the dog might have polished up his part a little but who can blame him?