Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Halfway Or Bust

There's a big pow-wow comin' up in Wallowa, Oregon next weekend. It's a Nez Perce get together called Tamkaliks. I'm hoping to find some contemporary Native artwork, a rarity in these parts.

In the meantime I thought I'd visit Halfway, a little town I bucked hay in in my late teens. I took the scenic route, an undesignated road (hwy 39?) that leaves highway 350 about 7 miles East of Joseph.

You just never know who you're going to meet.
Unsure of which road I wanted, I pulled off onto one that looked likely and flagged down an oncoming truck. The man who leaned out wanted to know why I was going to Halfway. I explained about my youthful employment history. He said he was 40 years old in those days and now 83. He asked my age. He then went on to say he'd just come from a day of ranch work. He added that he'd rolled an ATV a few weeks ago and fractured 4 ribs. I asked what he attributed his stamina to. He said, "I'm afraid to quit." He then said to follow him as he was going to the road to Halfway.

A few miles down he pulled over and signaled me to pull in next to him. We got out and commenced. He'd been a designer of the first jetliner, the Boeing 707. He'd also hand-made parts for the next version, the Boeing 737. He said he'd grown tired of city life and moved out here some years back.  His daughter had gotten her Bachelors & Masters degrees in history and after several years recently gotten her Ph.D. at the age of 48. She now teaches at two Universities and at an online high school.

A deer stepped out onto the highway and that led us to the the wolf problem. They'd lost eight cows, including a bull, to the wolves this year. I asked how the wolf issue got going and he said it was the bureaucrats back east.

We were about to part ways when he asked if I played baseball. I mentioned my head-on collision when each of us yelled "Mine!!" but neither stopped. He then said he had alot of things in his truck and reaching in, pulled out an old catchers mitt. "My Dad bought this in 1923," he said. I admired it and told about my first-baseman's mitt.

He said he'd shown it to a friend the other day and the fellow accused him of having stolen his. It turned out the man's grandfather had given him an identical mitt and he thought this fellow had somehow gotten a hold of it. As seems normal in this part of the world, misunderstandings and disputes are quickly cleared up without the gunplay that so often accompanies similar incidents in New Mexico.

1 comment:

John W. Abert said...

I recognized that glove, too! Actually my dad's younger brother used to play in the minor leagues back in the 30's. He gave me all his stuff when I was a kid because he had no kids of his own. I can't remember what happened to the catcher's mitt, but I still have a couple of old fielder's gloves, and a couple of original 1930'ish brand new and unused baseballs, still in the foil wrap and original boxes! I used to have some bats, but they were pretty worn, and I remember one being cracked. They disappeared, too, over the years. I didn't have the appreciation back then for what that stuff stood for, and didn't take care of it like I should have. My uncle was a very quiet and private person who never got into stories. I learned more about him from his obituary than I ever did when he was alive.

Like the gentleman above, as we get older, we tend to shy away from the rat-race of city life and find someplace quieter. When my uncle worked, it was in Hammond, Indiana in the refineries. He only came out to the farm one day a week. After he retired and moved 12 miles away from us, he still only came to the farm one day a week, and spent most of that time working in the gardens. He did say that he preferred to hang around with his "old men's club" (which I believe meant the VFW) than to get involved with family activities. In retrospect, I think he was wise, and probably saw more into what was really going on than he wanted to get involved with.

I can understand that more now... the need to leave the rat-race behind, go somewhere more quiet, do our own things the way we want to do them, and stay out of family problems. I have learned to understand what a visionary he really was.