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Thursday, July 1, 2010


grouse in the road

Driving home this evening I came up on a mother grouse and her 3 chicks that were grown close to her size. I stopped and let them cross. A grouse doesn't concern itself much about a car coming. They look at it like it's a puzzlement what this thing is. I took the camera and got some snapshots of them through the windshield. It seems like a grouse's casual attitude toward vehicles I'd see a dead grouse from time to time in the road, but I never have. Evidently it takes some skill to shoot a grouse. They fly low through the trees, moving this way and that. An experienced grouse hunter told me he'd shot every sapling in two in Southwest Virginia before he learned to hit a grouse.

Another good day of time spent with Jr's friends who are now mine. Good conversation everywhere. Jr's cousin Richard Joines was one who needed the cd. I was on a schedule when I saw Richard and couldn't talk as much as I wanted to. Richard is a wealth of knowledge of the musicians in the county. His dad, Howard Joines, was one of the county's better fiddlers. Richard, himself, is one of the better bass, guitar and mandolin pickers. Arthritis has made it difficult for his fingers to do what they one time did. Richard and his wife, Francis, both are what I think of as true human beings. Richard raises beagles and hunts with them. He told me once that he believes a dog bred to do something like chase rabbits is happiest when it's doing what his nature wants to do, chase rabbits. He sees how happy the dogs are in the chase. He doesn't take a dog for something dumb as a post either. Richard has a good understanding of dog nature. He has a good understanding of mountain music too.

I sat in a chair in the shade of the garage with one of Jr's friends, another who is now my friend, talking about Jr in appreciation. He told me some good stories of Jr's past that were funny and some of sorrow. Jr had a life that was straight ahead, just like he plays banjo. His music had drive. His life had drive. I've found no one has anything near a kind word for his last wife who chewed him up and spit him out. It's good she lives as far away as she does. No one in Whitehead or the county wants to see her again. Never wanted to see her to start with. All of Whitehead warned him and pleaded with him not to marry her, but he had his own reasons. It was one of the episodes of his life that caused Jr to see himself a fool.

Driving today I was thinking of how Jr lived in the now with minimum expectations. I wondered if the emotional depth of the heartaches he's lived with was so deep he didn't like to let his mind go back there. Throughout the 5 years we sat at his table sipping liquor almost every evening he told me his memories from childhood all the way on up to present. And when he came to the end, there were no more stories and we were in the present from then on. A few times he mentioned while talking about the past that he didn't like to talk about the past or think about it. He did anyway, because I wanted to hear it and I felt he liked having someone to tell his life to and review it himself. There is plenty going on right now to attend to, or think about. Every day we told our stories from that day. By the time he was unable to do much but lie in bed for days at a time, I'd keep him abreast of the weather, the temperature, the rain gauge reading, the wind direction, how much wind. He liked to know what was happening outside. Outside was where he lived his life. All his work was outdoors in the weather. He lived his life outdoors.

In this time of the sorrow subsiding, going around to his friends and relatives I've enjoyed hearing accounts of Jr's life as someone else knew him. And I like telling stories about Jr. I vowed to him long ago that when I talk about him or write about him it would be told as though he were standing or sitting beside me. I will never disrespect him in death as I did not in life. I never told him, but I vowed to myself that Jr Maxwell will be remembered in his county as long as I'm living, like the time I told him he'll never go back to a nursing home as long as I'm living. The entire social services system worked against me on that pledge. I seldom think about all the misery they put us through with ongoing threats. It just now popped up in mind and I laughed. I see it allegorically as a Stephen Seagal movie. The services system wanted his last years or months to be lived in the worst kind of misery. And I was all he had to keep him out of there. I got it done and have tremendous satisfaction that I was able to keep my word with him.

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