Friday, September 15, 2006

Hey, Ya Ole Goat

I’ve known my pal Curt for over fifteen years; he’s been my gun nail supplier, nail gun repair mechanic, and nail gun seller. I’ve traded guns in, gotten loaners, and in general done quite a bit of business with him. He’s competitive with nails, but he sells me guns for a very good price and is quite reasonable with repair costs; in fact, if I have a gun in the shop he gives me a free loaner if I need it. So, it is pretty good in general terms doing business with Curt. But then it starts to get way beyond simple business, if I need nails after closing or on weekends he goes to the shop and opens up, if a gun repair is pressing, he’ll do it in his off time. He takes exceptional care of this customer, not for the dollar, for the pride of the doing.

Curt has been in a wheelchair considerably longer than I’ve known him, since he was a young man, and he’s in his later seventies now. At the time the doctors told him he probably didn’t have long to live. He’s made them liars, though one thing or the other has had to be fixed through that time. I have never known of Curt to feel sorry for him self or take it easy. He’s always been a hardworking cheerful guy. Beyond the nail gun business, he makes wood parts, survey stakes, window packing parts, and so on. The shop is set up for his chair but it is still hard work, and he’s kept on smiling through the day. It is one of my favorite parts of my work to stop and get something from Curt. There’s always good conversation and good humored banter. Me, “Hey, ya ole goat!” Him, “Oh, you whipper-snapper!” (right, I’m 53) It never does get accomplished quickly…

A couple weeks ago the other shoe dropped, it’s cancer and it’s inoperable and it’s not long to go. I was one of the first to know and my heart was broken. Yes, it has been a good long run, but he wasn’t tired of it yet and I sure wasn’t tired of him. He told me with that crooked smile of his, the one that lets you know there’s a punch line somewhere, only the punch line was, “Oh well…” I didn’t quite cry, but my throat sure was locked up and my eyes felt pretty wet. That bothered him a little, but he perked right back up. I’d known before hand about this, but it was his place to tell me, so I hadn’t let on, but it surely hurt hearing it from his mouth.

I visit a bit more than I did before and other than that he’s a bit weaker you’d never know. There’s so much talk about heroes anymore, I won’t use the word, but his quiet bravery through all these years and especially now makes the kind of impact on me that all sorts of tales of derring-do might on others. I share this with you as a sort of monument to my friend’s achievements and to honor our friendship. Boy, I’m going to miss you, ya ole goat, thanks.

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