Chapter 19 - "dancing crotch fencing"

I sat there listening to these old geezers give a young punk like me a workshop in the art of storytelling. Everything from calculated pauses to teasing foreshadowing to capitalizing on emotional shifts seen in the eyes of the audience…these guys had it going on. When storytelling is still the primary conduit of experiencing recreation and disseminating information, you get really good at it. Conversely, when storytelling is an antiquated past time, your ability to think “narratively” atrophies like the withered arm of a man wounded in war. I could clearly see how weak my storytelling muscle had become over the years. I left lunch that day bound and determined to spend more time sharpening the blade of my lazy tongue.

We walked across the road to the crusty, old General Store to grab some last minute supplies before heading to the remote ranch. As we walked in, I could tell I wasn’t at Meijer. There were no motorized carts for invalids or greeters making sure you have yesterday’s coupons. No bright signage, no entourage of employees manning checkout lines, no free samples of summer sausage. It was a no-nonsense, get-the-essentials operation owned by an old guy who was the jack-of-all-trades ubiquitous personality. He was everything and everywhere in that little establishment. He had a younger girl helping him out, but for the most part, he played the part of stock boy, custodian, marketer, cashier, bagger, manager and owner. He was in his late 70’s and had that I’m-going-to-die-with-my-shoes-on look in his eye. A kind of run-it-into-the-ground approach to life. Retirement was the furthest thing from his mind. Collecting shells in the Gulf of Mexico until he breathed his last was laughable. He was going to leave it on the field so to speak.

He knew everything about everything. He could give you the going rate for grain or wax eloquent on the plight of the West. He could answer queries about where to find beef stew or give you the Farmer’s Almanac prognostication for tomorrow’s weather. He was a bottomless well of conversation and a boundless spirit of joy. A jolly old man who liked his life, genuinely liked his simple life. He was fun to talk to.

We got our stew and a few other necessities and climbed into the truck. We had about a 30 minute trip to the cabin. What I didn’t know was that it was all dirt roads. Just as we hit the edge of town, the blacktop ended and the road opened up onto a gravel-graded glorified driveway. The fence that lined either side of the road was buck fencing with crotch posts. It was a thing of beauty to see it strung along the fields dancing up and down the hillsides…like little children holding hands playing ring around the rosy at recess. There was something mythic about the prairie that afternoon. An old spirit hovered over the landscape brooding like a mother hen. The wind picked up the further we got from town and the trees that acted as windbreakers. It was nothing for the breeze to come whisking across the plains at 30-50mph, and this time of year, that turned a 30 degree day into something similar to Antarctica.

The dirt road we were on turned out to be a main drag in this terrain. We were on it for about 20 minutes before Doug pulled off the road and stopped in front of barbed wire gate. He climbed out and unhooked the latch and dragged the limp wire across the path. He got back in the truck, rolled the truck through the opening and asked me to close the gate behind us. I didn’t watch him real well, so I was a little nervous that I wouldn’t be able to. I clasped the heap of wire and wood and stretched it back across the overgrown path. I was troubleshooting on the fly as I pieced together a strategy of how this thing was to reattach. It wasn’t going to reattach itself; that was clear. After what felt like two minutes, I figured it out. I imagined Doug looking at his rearview mirror laughing at my vacuous incompetence. I felt good about putting two and two together until I realized that I was on the outside of the fence. I didn’t want to unlatch the thing and doing it again, so I climbed that bad boy and hopped it like a mull deer. By the time I got to the truck, Doug’s face was filled with a smile that seemed to have “I knew that was going to happen” written all over it. He commented something about that happening almost every time someone does it for the first time. I couldn’t help but smirk myself.

This next stretch of dirt road had grass in between the tire tracks. It was a little more rustic and unkempt, like a driveway speckled with weeds after a year of not being used. The truck shocks were getting quite the workout. Doug was taking it easy on the old Ford, easing her into the wild like he was dropping store-bought fish into an aquarium. It was another five minutes of off-roading on that driveway until we came to a huge gated archway leading into another piece of land even more primitive and remote. This was Doug’s coveted property. The top of the arch had a word tacked to it, his last name in capital letters shaped out of thick wire. “OLIN”. The sight of it about made me cry. I think it was the thought that this would Doug’s last time to enjoy this piece of land.

2,000 acres of virgin territory once covered with Indians. I could feel that I was about to cross over onto hollowed ground. I took a deep breath as Doug got out of the truck and swung the metal fence open. I put the truck into drive and slowly rolled under the wooden threshold. We were there. We were finally there.


Teresa said…
I don't know if I'll hear back from you or not, but either way this is worth writing.

I just wanted to let you know that, I don't know you personally but I do know some of the Adelsbergers and a few others from Bellefontaine that know you as well (or your brother... Tim?) and I've heard about you through them countless times. I started reading your blog after Kate Adelsberger/McDonald had mentioned you; and I've been reading what you write for about a year now. And I've been listening to your music on your myspace page and I've absolutely love them both!

I know I don't know you personally (I keep saying that *grin*) but your writing has shaped certain things in me with my relationship with Christ and has made think about things that I may not have otherwise.

Your love for God is so evident, and your love for your children and your wife is an obvious thing. Both of those things are rarely seen amymore, especially both being evident in ONE person. But, in you Jason, it's evident. :)

Seek Jesus and be His...
Teresa Wilson
Kelly said…
Hey Jason...

Jer and i were thinking that it would be really nice to finally find some time to get together with you, Heidi and the gals.... is summer too insane of a time? I'll shoot Heidi a message too, but think about it! We'll make it work.

Kelly and Jeremy

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