Chapter 31 - "the funeral of finality"
There are few things more powerful than men when they cry. I’m not speaking of basket cases or nutcases who shed a tear while watching Sense and Sensibility, I’m talking about men who function with delicate strength that aren’t afraid to break down over something truly admirable. This is quite beautiful.
We pulled away from the cabin in silence. Stone silence. The only sound was the hum of the diesel engine making the dashboard buzz like there was a quarter caught in the ashtray. It was a reverent epoch of time passing in slow motion. I would glance over at Doug sheepishly, curious as to his reaction to this unnatural abortion. I could tell he was being racked inside, questioning this decision to sell this piece of hallowed ground and yet knowing that it must be done.
As we coasted down the first hill and wove our way through the valleys, the silence was deafening. I felt like I wanted to say something, but everything that came to the tip of my tongue seemed out of place, like a tit on a boar, as my grandpa used to say. So I held my tongue as well as my breath.
We came to the entrance to his property, a homemade gateway constructed of huge logs. It arched over the entrance just like you’d see on any old western movie bearing the name OLIN proudly as a custom mark of ownership. I imagined the whole thing being torn down in the days to come when the new owner came in with his bulldozers and brownnosers to modify and modernize the joint (can you tell I’m not just a little bitter at this man I’ve never met). I imagined all the unique attributes being discarded like a buggered tissue. My heart was feeling the weight of it all as well, but nothing like the torture Dough was experiencing. His was akin to emotional crucifixion.
He climbed out of the truck to close the gate behind us, once and for all. I tried to keep my eyes looking ahead, but occasionally I was looking in the rearview mirror to catch a glimpse of Doug. He was leaning against the weathered timber gate…the one that he made with his own two hands. The one that for years welcomed he and his family to West as with open arms. The one that stood as an iconic symbol of his ownership. He lingered there for a few minutes before turning toward the truck.
As he climbed in the front seat, his suppressed emotions broke loose like a dam opened in the spring. He wept for the love of this land. He moaned like a man mourning the death of loved one. He buried his aged face into his callused hands and shed tears like a little boy that scrapped his knee riding his bike. It was painful to watch; it was beautiful to be a part of. I cherished those moments and felt a sense of honor in sharing that event with Doug. I placed my hand on his shoulder and entered into his sorrow the best I could as a man who had only made love to this property for three days. Imagine feeling a oneness for decades of your life and then being rent in two. This is what I witnessed as I laid my hand on his shoulder and cried with him. I said nothing so as to honor the gravity of this occasion.
When he regained composure and wiped his eyes to recover vision, he ground the gears into first and pulled the clutch leaving behind his beloved cabin and the land it represented. Tears continued to pour down his face dripping off his chin like a leaky Sears faucet. He broke the silence by saying something about how painful it was to do this, how much it broke his heart. I nodded as he continued venting at what can only be described as funereal. As a pastor, my bedside manners have been honed over the years and I knew to zip my lip and let him talk about yesteryears and the memories that were surfacing in his heart like an allergic rash. He talked for the next 20 minutes trying to explain out loud the logic of this decision. I think he needed to hear himself talk through his rationale for selling the property again. I’d heard it before, but it was critical that we mull over it again for peace of mind and strength of heart.
We headed to Augusta one last time to hang with the locals at the saloon. He wanted to take me there to introduce me to the local ranchers who convene there to tell stories to each other, old ones and new ones.
Doug needed this; it was going to be cathartic and therapeutic for his besieged soul. He needed a beer; I needed a root beer. Any questions?