Saturday, January 7, 2017
There's an old man who lives on the hill.
His house is tucked away from the road in some trees and it looks just like Spur's cabin in The Man From Snowy River, all brown boards and a tin roof with smoke curling up from the chimney pipe. The windows are full of cardboard boxes and smudged with age. Who knows what he does in there. Looking in the window I can see his beard. Daddy and I pull into the drive with the red truck, loaded with fifteen bales of hay; every first of the month. Only I don't usually come. But I wanted to see him.
His whole place is a fascinating mess, with boards and boxes and rusty equipment lying all over the place. Daddy and I unload the hay in the lean-to and I almost trip and fall on all the plastic containers and bottles rolling on the cement floor. Presently the door of the house opens and the four-wheeler starts up. Here he comes. He rides a four-wheeler everywhere he goes because he can't walk so good.
Daddy says hello, remember Emma? They josh around a little while. He looks down at my boots. "Cowgirl boots?" he says, amused.
He shows me his miniature horses -- "Her name is Mystic Warpaint something-or-other," he says, "but I call her Sarah." Then his chickens -- "Close the door, don't let them get out." He and Daddy talk about things, where he gets his feed, hunting season this year, pistol permits, all that kind of important life stuff. This guy knows his business. He talks about everything intelligently, and I just listen, because it's fascinating.
His main business is guns. He repairs them and makes custom handles. That's how he identifies himself when he calls on the phone -- "this is the gun man." I don't know anybody else who fixes guns. I don't know anybody else who lives all by themself in a little house on a hill when they're pushing seventy-five and can't hardly walk anymore. He should have a book written about him just cuz of the kind of guy he is. There aren't too many like him anymore.
Daddy slams the tailgate shut and we say goodbye. Take care, see you next month. The sun's setting over the hill in a pink colorwash. We pull out of the narrow driveway, and he gets on his four-wheeler, goes back to his house and slips inside.
Like a ghost, like he was never there. But I've never met anybody so real.