Friday, May 13, 2016


I knew another crazy-enough
guy during my time there,
of those again who came and
went, disappeared and was never
heard from again  -  Bill Burgess.
He lived about 30 miles off, south,
down towards Canton more, as I
recall in some sort of big, white
house, sort of into the side of the
hill, and it was heated by this huge
'convection' heater, fueled somehow
by gas and built into or onto the
wall. It was blazing fierce the one
time we went there. Bill was like a
road-bound fix-anything guy, always
driving around, locally enough, job
to job, fixing whatever was the job 
-  in people's driveways or garages
or fields, no matter. He drove some
crazily tool-overloaded pick-up truck
right up to whatever house he was at.
Lawn or garden or whatever, that was
all your problem, not his. Probably if
he could have just driven right into
the house, he would have. His specialty
was everything  -  powered by whatever,
engine, car, tractor, baler, truck, hoist,
he'd fix them all. I do forget how we
first got together but I do remember
it having to do with me wanting
another VW engine to replace the
one I had in the '62. Someone told me
about him, and I contacted him. He 
got me the engine, rebuilt, perfect, for
$88. We threw it into his truck and
the next I knew we were on the way
back to my place with him insisting
that for another $30 he and I could
have the switch made by dark. That
was about 9 hours of work time. I
said yes, even paid him ahead of
time, and, with some jim-cracker
engine hoist contraption he had, we
did get it done  -  even though he
swore that the hoist wasn't needed for
a VW engine switch, he said he could
'move them in and out like a suitcase.'
I admit, he was good  -  talked a
total, blue-mountain useless streak
of constant shit, but that was OK.
Plus he took the old engine away.
Somehow, in this deal too, I remember
actually getting something out of it,
though I can't recall what or why.
It might have been another .22 pistol,
not sure. The contingent part of
the deal too was that we'd agree
to go down there again and pay
a regular social visit. We went one
Saturday  -  it was a scene. He had
what he called (even back then),
a 'rug rat'  -  like a crawling
toddler of sorts  -  and a brand
new infant baby too. His wife
was a goofball-crazy hillbilly
girl, no two ways about it.
They lived afar and way
off from anything. There was
a dirt driveway about a half
mile long, and a few trucks
and things around. It was a
pretty messy sight, with
stuff all over the porch,
and inside too. One of those
really boisterous places where
you just get the feeling
that the kid rules the roost.
Bill was still 'on' constantly,
and his wife almost equalled
him  -  together they were a
real pair. There was a TV
somewhere in there, and
cartoons were playing on and
on. I'd not remembered ever
being to a house before where
cartoons were a constant
background hum, though
I guess I must have. I forget
what we ate, but pretzels would
have been a big deal. It was all
amazing, and I began just to
wonder how they'd come by
this place, figuring it had to
do with one or the other of them
and parents. It was the kind of
descending place where people
say 'My grandaddy lived here,
after he built it, and then my
daddy and then me. Now it's
ours.' A lot of stuff in the
country just went like that.
My attic was huge  -  it could
have just been a third floor of
the house had I chose to put
up walls. I loved it just the way
it was  -  tall and open-beamed,
just bare space, smelling of maple
or some really rich, deep wood
smell. I guess it was wood, aging.
I'd sometimes just go up there to
look out from one of the windows.
There's something special about
space that has no use  -  something
remarkable. It's a bonus, an
extension of reality, sort of, into
a form of other, 'non-being', if
you will. I could leave Earth time
whenever I went up there. It never
bedeviled me that the space went
unused. It used to drive my father,
on his visits, crazy. He really never
understood, nor did he realize, that
I had tons of space, and most of it
was, really, un-needed and certainly
unused. To my father's way of
thinking, nothing should ever exist
like that. Every cranny and nook had
to be filled or utilized, for something.
I had an entire barn in an unfinished
state of second-floor living quarters,
but that's exactly how I loved it  -
walls up, unfinished sheetrock, 
good windows in, but no doors 
between the unfinished rooms. 
A bathroom and some sitting 
area too. What more could 
one ask? Heat, maybe, yes.
There's a certain mercenary factor
to most of the transactions between
people, everywhere. I knew a guy,
named Ulmer, like 'Elmer,' but
Ulmer. He lived with his wife 
about 2 miles up on the main road
in a big, old-style 1800's house, of
the sort that, if you were to remove
all the later homes along that stretch, 
his and maybe three or four others
would remain, from about 1870.
It was cool, Civil War era stuff, 
to the extent that I'd swear I could 
hear some stirring battle music 
or something in the air just by 
being there. Anyway, one day 
he and his wife pulled up in a
car and got out. They'd come 
over to see if  -  since we had 
two ponds  -  we'd be willing 
to take over their geese and 
ducks. Ulmer and his wife were
getting too old, she said, to take
care of them any more. It didn't
really entail much of anything, 
and we had a few already, so 
I said 'Sure.' It amounted to 
maybe 4 or 5 ducks and a few 
white geese, all the same
types of pond animals we had 
already. A day or two later,
we went over. My wife and 
his wife took porch seats and
chatted, lemonade and all that
country stuff, while Ulmer told
me that, in order to get this done,
we'd have to get in his little
rowboat and get out on the 
water and sort of water-herd 
these things to their shelter. 
That didn't sound right from 
the get-go, and it turned out to 
be downright difficult. I was 
huffing and puffing and just about
dead enough, by the time we 
were finished, that I really 
thought I'd be the one having to
ask him to take care of my ducks 
and geese after my passing. We 
got them into some crates he had, 
put them all into the back of the 
truck, and drove off to my ponds 
and then dropped them in. Everything
went well, the ladies parted, we
said goodbye, and that was that.
I never heard from Ulmer again,
though we'd wave and stuff when
we saw them as we drove past. He
reiterated that he wanted nothing
for them, just was happy we'd 
agreed to take them to our 
pleasant spot, where they'd
fit in so well. Not a thing
mercenary about this transaction
at all. Pretty amazing. Two other
things to mention: First, I was
kind of hoping he'd want to give 
me that little rowboat too, since he
was so old, and, Second, within a
year all the geese and ducks were 
gone, mine included, having been
plucked off, one by one somehow
at night, by a silver fox who lurked.
We'd see the fox now and then, in 
or out of a lair or foxhole, and 
eventually one of the neighboring 
farmer guys did shoot it, found 
sunning on a big log one day. Sadly.
Dead in a minute. We'd go out, 
mornings one after another, and just
find a pile of bones and some feathers
along the edge of the pond, ten or
fifteen feet up on the land. The fox 
must have got it, each time, and 
feasted on it, right there  -  which 
made it all worse and more sad for
me, realizing how the other geese 
and ducks must have been witness
to the carnage. Country life was
sometimes pretty brutal, and I
found I wasn't always 
up for that either.

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