It turned cold and gray in Statesville this month and temperatures felt colder than a witch’s toenail which some people claim is depressing but actually it’s consoling to others.
This grumbling is seasonal complaining, an attempt by some people with central heat to make themselves believe they suffer like the less fortunate. However, genuine discomfort is coming.
One day we’ll be hit by a winter heat wave like the one that melted part of Greenland and homeless polar bears will be crossing Broad Street during rush hour and then we’ll have real problems. One day I’ll step out of a health club and a falling brick will knock me unconscious and when I awake, I won’t be able to remember the words to “Just a Closer Walk with Thee.” You just wait. Cold temps are nothing.
I recently attended a Mystery Murder Dinner, hosted by the capable Keith Rhyne of The Historic Sharpe House. Compared to poor Charity Homes, the “murdered” poetess who spent her adult life weaving emotions into words but was tragically stabbed to death moments before she was to accept recognition for her latest poem, my life is a smooth garden path.
I grew up in a farming family, and in the early 1960s a farm boy who wrote poems and wanted to play piano and guitar attracted dark looks but the Beatles appeared on the Ed Sullivan show and gave me hope — suddenly it was OK to write poems and songs. But by the time I learned poems and songs would not pay the bills, I had left the farm for a budding career in municipal utilities and developed a love for eating regular meals, central air conditioning, and having a roof over my head. I dropped art and pursued hard cash.
When winter comes along, I have no desire for white sand beaches, suntan lotion and palm trees. Van Gogh means nothing to me, I love paintings of cornfields and livestock. I have farming roots. Heat means plowing crops or repairing fences — sitting around makes me stupid. This has been proven time and again. I’ve gone to Key West and Nassau in winter and sat in a stupor of guilt for not plowing a field and my reading comprehension skills dropped to the level of a bed post.
I’m terrible at vacations. I’m a worker. I miss menial labor, the cucumber picking I did back in my youth. We trudged along, bent low, dropping the ’cukes into burlap bags that we filled and then carried to a truck. You worked for three or four hours and then sat around drinking soft drinks out of glass bottles and talking about girls.
I went into the field of environmental science as an administrator, to stem the tide of water pollution, but by the time I realized I didn’t like it, I’d made enough money to retire.
And now it’s winter.
Instead of a sunny beach under the palm trees, my strategy is to head west and join up with the gang at our hideout near Black Gulch, just saddle up and go. I’ll wait winter out with people who know the words to the same songs I know like “Me and Bobby McGee” and “Lemon Tree” and songs about hearing the lonesome whistle blow and picking cotton and I’ll ride through little farm towns and wave to perfect strangers.
Meanwhile my wife will be happy shopping in Cancun and I’ll get my man-card punched camping up on the Big Mesa until spring. But first I need to square all this with her, then I’m ready to go. Maybe.