The Everlasting Stream
A few years ago Morgan gave the guys on the team a book called The Everlasting Stream. It sounds like a devotional, but it's not, not even a Christian book. It’s a book about a big city guy whose life is utterly transformed by spending time with his rural father-in-law, hunting rabbits in Kentucky with the men he has been hanging out with for more than fifty years. It’s become an in-house favorite here because its description of masculine culture is so good, and so dang funny.
Anyhow, last weekend I dropped into a version of the everlasting stream.
I was out in Grand Junction, picking up an old Volkswagen Thing that Luke and I are going to fix up as his first car. I found the Thing on Craig's List, and was looking forward to meeting the guy selling it. He turned out to be about 70 years old, living on the rural side of town, his 5 acres covered in old tractors and stuff. As we sat inside his small farmhouse, drinking day-old coffee, I found myself really enjoying this old man. Soon his two buddies showed up, and I got the idea that this is what they do every Saturday morning. Picture guys in their 70's, sitting around chain smoking Pall Malls in a single-wide. Dean is the character selling the car. Billy is his cousin. Kirby is a bit younger; I get the impression he's sort of looking after these old guys. It's right out of Second Hand Lions.
Billy (to me): "You ain't drinkin' his coffee are you? That's yesterday's coffee!"
I look at Dean, and he sort of smiles and shrugs, "Yep... it is."
This stuff is inky black and strong; it would strip grease off an engine. He has a massive urn of it. I get the impression it's what they drink all day long.
"So, Dean," I ask, "What do you do with all these parts?"
"O, I sorta fix tractors up and sell 'em."
I already love this man. 70 something and his hobby is fixing tractors and selling them?! I also feel like a weenie. I hope they don't ask me what I do for a living. "O... I help people connect with their inner child."
Billy: "Hey, I brought you some donuts." He puts a greasy brown lunch bag on the counter. I sense this is all ritual; it has happened just this way for years.
Dean: "Don't look like you brought many."
Billy: "There's a half a dozen in there."
Dean looks at the small lunch sack: "Must be mighty small donuts."
Billy: "They're CAKE donuts, you twit."
On and on it goes. I thought I'd just grab the car and blast the 5-hour drive home, but I am enjoying these old characters so much I have to linger. Billy still uses Dippity Do in his grey hair; it is swept back in a nice wave. He, too, is chain smoking Pall Malls. But he is also using an asthma inhaler. So, once in awhile he'll take a shot of the inhaler, put it back in his pocket, and take a deep draw on his cigarette. This whole scene is out of a movie.
Kirby: "You know why he has me come over, don't ya?" Looking at Dean, he continues, "Cause he don't read or write. I gotta help him know where to sign the title and count the money."
I have never to my knowledge met anyone who doesn't read or write. Dean just sort of shrugs his shoulders.
Billy: "Hey, I brought you some hydraulic fluid." I'm thinking, when is the last time I heard somebody say, "I brought you some hydraulic fluid" in a conversation, like you'd say, "Hey, I brought you a Starbucks"? I am loving this. Then Kirby gets upset.
"What?!! I brought you some hydraulic fluid! What are you doin' with all this fluid?"
Dean sorta shrugs his shoulders again and sheepishly says, "My tractors leak a bit."
I'm cracking up. This is the culture I spent summers in as a boy, sitting around old farm house kitchens with grey haired men from another time, another world. A world that is very attractive. They are sort of awkward in their affection for one another. But then we step outside and need to get the car out of the old barn and hook it up to a tow bar on my truck and suddenly these men are spry and nimble; they handle tools with grace and ease. They jerry-rig the whole thing so fast I just stand back and enjoy.
It is a beautiful world of men that more of us could use in our own lives.
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