Good stories are much loved by everyone in my family. We like to joke it is a flaw in our genetic code. It probably has more to do with the fact we came from the brush and spent our childhoods thinking there was only one TV station because here that's all we got, even that one was snowy. Television could not compete with our Grandma, she was Haida and a master story teller from a culture where the story is king. To this day I love a story both telling and hearing one.
This story is the first diary entry in what I hope will be several telling the stories of some of the most interesting people I have met which coincidently are also the ones that have most influenced who I am today. Most are not famous or even currently alive. They are people who threw a rock into the smooth water creating ripples that changed lives for the better not only mine but many others as well.
I hope it will remind of those people who may done the same for you. If you would like to share, I would love to hear about them. Like I said there is nothing like a good story.
It was August, and a darn good thing too, because I was parked in a dry mudpuddle big enough to eat a volkswagen, in a volkswagen. I had come many miles into the hills to see my newly discovered inheritance a 70 acre farm left to me by my Great Grandfather. I am a country girl but this was bordering on insane, the pavement and civilization seemed to have had ended two miles back. The road was only slightly wider than a goat path with nowhere to turn around, I was sure I was lost. Even my faithful companion, the dog Sandwich looked ready to bail on me. I was contemplating my options, none of which seemed very happy, when a face popped up in the windsheild.
This face had a large grin, what I could see of it. The rest appeared to be covered with hair which appeared to be infested with weed seeds. I momentarily wondered if the bigfoot legends might have some merit. The face also had a voice. "Hi! I'm the hog farmer of the north. Are you lost?" Turned out his name was actually Bob and he had been threshing wheat with the hog farmer of the south when he had heard my car,hence the weedy hair decorations. Being Bob he took perverse pleasure in scaring away univited tresspassers by appearing friendly but mildly insane. It is to this day very effective.
No, I was not lost, the farm was just down the road a little ways. He had been watching over it. He was sorry about Great Grandpa he would have come to the funeral but the hood of his truck was currently held down by a bungie cord and only good for 30 miles an hour before it busted and the hood wrapped over the roof. He knew this because it happened, twice. People got ticked when he drove thirty on the two lane highway with a posted speed of fifty, go figure. He was so glad to meet me finally he had been expecting me for some time.
So off we went. For the dog Sandwich it was love at first sight. Good thing we have no family treasure vault because she would have not only led him to it she would have given him the combination as well. This behavior was encouraged by a well timed home made dog biscut. From then until the day she died, these liver dog biscuts were Sandwichs drug of choice.
He was full of enthusuiam for my new homestead. Had I viewed it by myself that day I may have been far less thrilled. The place was a wreck save the cabin my Great Grandpa used for a fishing hide out. Bob assured me there were a pasal of neighbors ready to help me whip things into shape. He was glad to have me for a neighbor he had heard I could build houses could I help him figure out a chicken coop the raccoons couldn't get into? I left that evening with my head full of ideas looking forward to the future.
That was a quarter of a century ago. Since then we have traded work, seeds, and heavy equipment usage. We have graded the road each year with a grader so old it is meant to be pulled by horses, I own it, it still works because Bob manages to find or make parts to fix it when it breaks, he patiently greases the endless fitting and wheels each year as well. We have celebrated, we have cried, shared good times and faced some hardship as well. Once, we talked religion and politics and never since. You see, Bob is a fundamentalist Christian, and a conservative republican but he is not a hater. Big suprise I don't share his ideas on what direction our country should go nor many of his religious ideas. I do respect his right to have them, this is still the United States of America after all. For his part he respects my right to burn in hell for not believing as he does.
I have been able to influence him some. His hogs are now Herefords, a breed with less than 2000 remaining purebreds, instead of more common modern breeds. His chickens each sport a personal feather umbrellas on top of their heads, they may be dumber than rocks but they are entertaining and they lay lots of eggs, also there are not many of this breed left. Not one racoon loss since I designed him a new pen. My soap box for genetic diversity in all things farming has become his. He attacks the cause and spreads the word with zeal. Minor breeds are the norm up and down the valley thanks to him.
He attacked another cause with great zeal as well. The protection of a small creek that runs through my land. To do this he took on the US Forest Service, and won. They wished to clear cut the land behind and up mountain from us all. They claimed there was no creek and it wouldn't have any impact on us or the river. Hundreds of hours and a lot of learning later Bob not only proved the creek existed but also proved it was spawning grounds for the endangered steelhead trout. He was also able to prove that the logging they wished to do would likely send a wall of mud down the valley. Considering same forest service has managed to raise the bed of another river some seven feet with its allowance of extremely poor logging practices causing yearly widspread flooding in that valley, we are extremely greatful. Bob Creek is now offically protected, and named on the map. The great forest still marches up the mountain side as it should.
I have also learned from him. Bobs wife died many years ago after a long illness. Things were pretty tough for awhile but he found his way. He did so through helping others. He kept repeating that just when he started feeling sorry for himself he would meet someone else that had it worse. When it was my turn at this I remembered those words and found he was right.
When I brought my then new boyfriend, Tim home he grilled him like a first class interrogator. Then told me with a straight face I should marry him because he was a heck of mechanic and we really needed a good mechanic in the neighborhood. Years later when my husband Tim died it was Bob and his lovely new wife that drove three hours to hold my hand and help me work through the mountain of details.
He still thinks Rush is right, well, most of the time anyway and Sarah Palin is our greatest hope for the salvation of this country. But as my grandfather liked to say "The only perfect people are dead." Seriously, I couldn't ask for a better or more tolerant neighbor.
And now I must go. There is a great big hereford sow on my porch with her snout pressed against the window. Her name is Bullwinkle and she is not the sharpest tool in the hog barn. For as long as I have known her she has been campaigning to be my pet, it is apparently my lot in life to be the object of devotion for a five hundred pound pig. I need to make a phone call before I find myself having to winch a her out of the hole she will make when she falls through into my woodbox. It is easier said than done, trust me, I know from experience. Life in the sticks, at least these sticks is never boring.
So here's to you my friend Bob, may you live long and cancel me out at the polls for many years to come.