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Saturday, December 13, 2014

MY FRIEND ROSS

maxwell equipment, whitehead

I stopped in at Maxwell Equipment in Whitehead to see Ross and the others working there. Ross was the only one in. He was going through some boxes he kept odd parts in, used pipes of various sizes, parts he kept for unknown possible needs. I didn't want to interrupt his focus. I waited and fell into looking at a photograph of Jr Maxwell on the wall under the clock. The photograph was taken by Ross's dad, Dean, who went on a couple years ago. I think Dean was eight years younger than Jr. He told me when he was a kid at Whitehead school, Jr was one of the older kids. He didn't know him well, but looked up to him, because Jr, of the older kids, never picked on him and took up for him. Dean and Jr were never close friends, as Jr was older and they lived in different worlds. Though toward the end, Dean proved himself to be Jr's true friend. Jr worked a sawmill in his teens for Dean's dad, who was a sawmiller as well as farmer. Dean went on to college and worked as a ranger on the Parkway, got his kicks chasing bootleggers using the Parkway for late night runs with absence of other cars at night and no stop signs from Front Royal, Virginia, to Asheville, NC. Dean loved to drive fast. Chasing liquor runners was his thrill. He never worried about getting tickets for driving fast off the Parkway; he knew all the highway patrolmen. His wife, Betty, was terrified of his driving. She rode in the back seat, which she made into a lounge area with pillows, magazines, books and snacks. She distracted herself from paying attention to how fast the car was going. Dean's driving was what we call a "white-knuckle flight." 

reflection on my car's window
we can fix anything but broken hearts

I was looking at the picture of Jr that caught his character in one snapshot when Ross came back from his search through the parts boxes. We started talking about Jr, what a fun character he was, what a true human being he was, what a complex mind he was, how generous he was, how tight he was, how odd it feels to be saying "was." He lives in my heart and Ross's heart as if he were at home in his house as we spoke. Ross took up with Jr in his childhood. By the time he was fifteen, he was hanging out at Jr's tractor repair shop such that Jr became his surrogate daddy. Ross admitted openly before Dean that Jr, in effect, was his real daddy. Ross's attachment to Jr was that kind of strong, and not in defiance. I saw an obvious past-life association the same as I see with Justin and myself. I'd be visiting Justin's parents and gave more attention to Justin than to them. Justin was a special kid to me. I felt close to Justin and protective when he was little. In his mid-teens when he was able to have his own vehicle, my house was his "calm down place," where he went when the riot at home was too much to bear. We played rock n roll on the sound system and talked. I listened to him all the way along, which, I see now, bonded us when he was a youngun. I'm convinced of a past-life connection with Justin, which I didn't talk about. A couple years ago he told a dream he had of a lifetime as a farmer. The dream covered his whole life from childhood to old age. He said in the childhood of that life he and I were brothers, close brothers. I died in that life young, leaving him devastated, explaining the age difference between us now. I feel a similar past-life connection with Jr, whose name is actually Wiley, Wiley the third. He was one of the first people I met in my new life in the mountains. From first meeting him, I felt like I knew Jr. Our association was always honest and open.

jr by me

Ross and I talked about the snapshot Dean took, how it makes you feel like Jr is there. He said he wanted to go with me to Jr's grave and have a drink with him and pour Jr a drink. I've been doing this every year on the day of the full moon he left the body, the full moon in early November. Ross suggested we go have a drink with Jr Christmas day. We set the schedule in our minds. I told him about the time I told our friend Frank of pouring a drink for Jr on his grave. I thought he'd think it was funny. He said, "Waste of good liquor." Ross said, "That's Frank." He said, "It's probably what Jr's thinking, up there looking down on us thinking: Those dumb shits, wasting good liquor." We had a good round of laughter. Ross said, "It aint about the liquor. I'm doing it for me. It means something to my heart." I laughed and said, "Right. It wasn't like I poured out a whole quart." Ross said, "Right. Pouring out one drink aint gonna hurt a damn thing." He said, "Yeah, let's do that, give ol Jr a good laugh. Shit, I miss the old fucker." I said, "Yeah, I do too. It's not the same world with Jr missing." Ross said, "It sure as hell aint." We fell into talking about other things, like two motorcycles he kept in the shop for a place to keep them. He said the yellow one likes him, but the black and silver one doesn't. He rode it twice and wrecked both times. He rode the yellow one half a dozen times and never wrecked. He has a propensity to run off the side of the road. When you do that, it's over. For an example of the yellow motorcycle liking him, he told of a time he left the road and whoever owned the house kept the grass mowed up to the road and the dirt was the same level as the pavement. He said that one was easy to get out of. 

ross

He explained when you leave the pavement, you don't just get back on, you stay beside the pavement until you find a good place to get back on. In the time Jr was housebound, Ross was out riding, left the road and hit a culvert. It tore the bike up and hospitalized him. His shoulder still has pain from it. He's not been riding since. The thrill went out of it for him. He has reason to live now. An X girlfriend had a child by her divorced husband, who didn't want the kid. She couldn't take care of him and turned the kid over to mama to bring up. Ross felt drawn to the kid as a toddler. He saw the kid was simply lonesome. When he was able to walk, Ross would keep him over the weekend. He's in the second or third grade now, and Ross is his big brother and closest friend, family. Ross's older sister brought her baby boy home to mama to raise on the farm. Ross, John and Milly were big brothers and sister. Ross is raising B, the name Ross calls him, like he helped raise little nephew as brother. Joe grew up into a cool guy who can do anything he wants to do. He raced motorcycles and dirt bikes for several years, as did Ross. The yellow motorcycle in the shop was his racing bike. Ross has recently talked with B about staying away from sports in school and focusing his attention toward learning to make music with the Junior Appalachian Musicians at school; you can play music the rest of your life. When school is over, sports is over, you waste your time learning something you can't use the day after you graduate. And later, he will advise B to stay out of the military. B is a neat kid. He's a kid it's fun to be around, comfortable with adults. When he's with Ross and Ross's family and friends, he's at home, safe and loved, one of the fellers. There, again, I can't help but see a past-life connection Ross intuited in the baby without knowing that's what he saw. Perhaps B is a soul who wanted to be Ross's child and got there the best way he could.

john


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4 comments:

  1. poignant, beautiful, bittersweet...thank you
    mbr

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    Replies
    1. Thanks Milly, I like your word bittersweet.

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  2. Brought back many memories. I remember my Dad, Carlton Wagoner stopping in at Jr's and always coming back laughing with what Jr was up to.

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