Another Eulogy

[Phil’s grandfather Johnny Foard was the other friend we lost this week. He was nearly ninety, a fine country musician, fiddler, and former professional hunter. Phil is in South America but sent this eulogy–SB.]

I’m sorry I’m not there. Selfishly, I’m sorry I’m not there. I’m sorry I can’t see the
outpouring of respect for this man I’ve loved so much. And because there was always
something about my grandpa that seemed like the center of the world. I used to run
away from home when I was little, and I always ran to the same place. I wish I could run
there now. The center of the world.

I remember my grandpa’s birthday, hundreds of people coming from all over the place.
I remember being so amazed by that gravity, the craziness of so many so different
people being drawn so far to celebrate this one man. Not amazed because it didn’t make
sense, but amazed that I wasn’t the only one who felt it. Because for a man who had
hundreds of people adore him, I never once ever felt like I wasn’t the most important
person in his life. I know I’m not alone in that. I also hadn’t know before then that you
could have porta-potties at a private residence. That also seemed a little crazy. You’ve
got a rogue character like Johnny Foard and a few hundred of his closest friends, you
don’t want them running willy-nilly in your house, I understand, but it was surprising.

He was the center of the world. I’ve never felt so elevated, so much more confident, so
much more at ease, just by someone’s presence. I always felt better around him.

And so often that’s all I was, only around him. We used to wake up early and drive
out into the country to check traps and shook coyotes and all good things. We’d spend
hours and hours together. He could talk about anything. I remember thinking that it
was a bit crazy how well he understood me. He definitely had his great stories, and I’m
sure you’ll hear some today. But so often we’d sit in silence. He was always comfortable
with silence, which I think is a high compliment.

I catch myself now switching on music or tv or a movie, anything to make noise. And I
think of sitting in his shop for hours in silence with him, his truck for hours with him,
coyote hunting for hours with him always with these long, comfortable silences. It was
always easy to be at ease with him.

I imagine there was music in his head then. I imagine there always was. And I think of
his music, his silence, the way we all always looked to him, how he was always the center
of the world.

He was always listening.

He carried peace with him, happiness. He lived a long good life and died in the best
way possible. I’m sorry I can’t be there now, and I’m sad that I won’t see him again, but
there is no way to pretend that this amazing man hasn’t been an amazing presence in my
life, more amazing than I deserved, more amazing than any could. I’m glad for his peace
now, his silence, the eternal music. I’ll miss him forever.

And I think we’ll all agree that he was a good, kind man. I don’t know, though, if it’s
really widely known that he also had very ticklish feet. Maybe there’s a connection
there, I don’t know. I discovered this as a toddler, and put that poor man through
hell. When I used to stay with my grandparents, once I was bored with listening to the
crickets, I’d kinda sneak down and tickle his feet. I don’t know how he felt being woken
up like this, but it brought me tremendous joy. Still to this day it makes me smile to
remember it. I don’t know how I survived shenanigans like this, but he was a patient

A good man, a patient man.

That said, I also remember one day out with him, checking coyote traps. In one of them
we’d caught a badger. So, we shot it in the head and threw it in the back of the truck.
A little farther down the road we came to the next trap, got out checked it, replaced the
bait. As we were walking back to the truck, though, we heard this scratching sound, and
then this horrible high-pitched growling. The badger, it seemed, was still alive.

So I’m standing there, I’m too little to see into the back of the truck, so I’m just getting
the sounds, and my grandpa is standing up on the back tire, with a baseball bat, just
wailing on this poor animal until it’s finally quiet. A kind man, a generous man. But I
think I can tell you in confidence here today, he evinced no deep love for that badger.
He drug it out of the back of the truck and shot it again. Throws it back in the truck
bed. Soon, we can hear from the front seats that this badger has been resurrected
again. Pull over, more clubbing, more shooting. He poked it with the bat just to make
sure it’s dead. It comes back to life. “Well hell,” he says, which was his catchphrase. So
we killed it a few more times, though I’m not 100 percent confident that it’s not limping
around out there somewhere today. He’d definitely won our respect. Of course he had.
That much intense passion for life is hard not to admire. The badger had more than
his fair share. He was no Johnny Foard, but still.

Two old (or old- fashioned) naturalists, and new photo series

Two old farts in the bar courtyard. John Wilson is an old style bug catching (or photographing) “stamp collector” naturalist like me, an Ohioan who retired from an Audubon sanctuary there to a remote homestead in the Mags– somebody I can talk bugs, birds, and taxonomy with! Luckily he likes beer too. I am starting a local insect of the week photo with him though I expect as it gets colder it will become feeder bird or plant or…?

Painted Lady, Vanessa cardui, at 7000 feet in November:

James Trujillo, RIP

My friend James “Viejo” Trujillo died today after a long struggle with diabetes. I’ll have a proper bio and memorial later, and a few stories. Raise a glass…

Update 8 November: his card. Normal service to resume after (still another) funeral…

(A happy Viejo story, previously blogged but worth repeating…)

… for a while almost 20 years ago he leased the bar. I was working in a corner there as I always have, when three junior cowboys from a neighboring county (guess which?) came in. One was offended by the sight of someone reading and was suddenly leaning over me: “Where you from?”

I said back with just a little less attitude: “Here.” Went back to editing. Kid shoves me: “Where you REALLY from?”

“HERE!” I stand up as he says “Where’r you born?”

… I am answering and starting to push back, at which point James is suddenly between us saying “He told you three fuckin’ times: HE’S FROM HERE!”

“He is… and you’re not. Your money is no good; the drinks are on me. Finish up… then you and your friends leave, and don’t come back.”

They left and I said, “Viejo, you didn’t have to do that.” He replied “The hell I didn’t! You drink your drink and shut up or I’ll throw your sorry ass out too.”

And one more for now with this wonderful language, a statement that only a cowboy could say. Around the same time as the last tale, some boors were badmouthing women in general on James’s watch at the Spur. He took it as long as he could, then came over, put his hands on the bar, and said: “I don’t know about you boys, but that ol gal I’m married to?– she’s one good son of a bitch!

“Wasn’t it a mighty storm?”

Our readers, perhaps sharing Matt’s resilient spirit as below, seem to have survived the storm. But despite my early thought that it was overhyped, it was a STORM; maybe not the Great Galveston Flood as in the song, but one to remember. Stuart Hancock’s photo below, from near NYC, reminds me of the two great hurricanes of my youth. One was in the fifties; without Googling I suspect the other was 66 or 67. The year may not be indelible , but the memories are…

Enjoying a Fine Recession

As Election Day approaches, one could be forgiven for thinking our country has never seen a harder time than now, nor faced a bigger threat than the wrong man being elected on Tuesday.

This is a triumph of salesmanship.  It is the power of vast stacks of cash that political speech can build a different world on top of the one we know and make us believe in it.

But to the point that we may not, in fact, be the richest people in the richest country in the history of humankind, I say thank God for that. It is a blessing, not a curse, that we have failed so far to completely equate value with money or finally replace our native wealth with container ships of stacked boxes.

I’ll grant you that our native wealth may be easier to see in some parts of the country than others.  It may take a different set of tools and understandings to realize its worth.  But it is there, waiting for us to find it; waiting to be made into something good like spun hay into gold.

Tuesday morning I’ll be standing in line at the polling station with my aggrieved and downtrodden neighbors.  I’ll probably drive there, even though it’s less than a mile away.  I may bring coffee from home, but there’s a three-dollar cup at Starbucks if I don’t want to bother.  I’ll read a Kindle book on my iPhone as I wait.  And when I vote, I guess I’ll vote my conscience.   

But Tuesday afternoon, I’ll be hunting rabbits in a nearby field.  Chances are good that by day’s end I will have slept, voted, worked, hunted and eaten three hot meals within a five mile circumference.  I will have enjoyed all the wealth of our Great Recession and some of the wealth that has not yet receded into history.

Part of the neighborhood deer herd, a healthy population that lives well on our landscaping.  My friend Tyler took a doe from this group last week by bow, shooting from a blind he set up near the swing set. He keeps several families in meat.  I put part of this one in a John Folse recipe for venison and vegetable soup.    

My friend Jeff from Chackbay wouldn’t starve if the power went out for a year.  Chances are he’d be shipping meals up to us from the bayou, none of them short of delicious. Here’s one of the daily rabbits his good redtail, “Alex,” puts in the bag and where they often go from there. 


Bon appetit, my fellow Americans!