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I was a strong man once upon a time. I could carry a railroad tie.
Sweating is my strong suit. Sweat like a pig. I am wet with sweat and sawdust and dirt and ants are crawling underneath my shirt. My log choker chain has been in my workbox for a week. Iíve been dragging out cedars to mill up near the house. I have the beginnings of a log yard in my yard. My chain is only ten feet long, just enough to wrap a log and pull it behind my Polaris. This short section of oak though, is twice as heavy as the cedars I am used to skidding. The log section with attached growth is only six feet long, and I wrapped the chain around the butt end to keep the chain taut. There is little resistance to the half-mile pull to the pole station behind my barn.
I could swear I heard it squeal ďwheeĒ in delight as I pulled it thru the fescue field.
I pulled it under the shade where I peel posts and unhooked the chain. The log lay there until mid-July.
I am no artist. My mind does not operate in 3-D. I have little perception. But things look different when you take a closer look at them. This log looks different. I suppose if someone asked me how it looked, I could not explain. The way it looked bothered me, not in a bad way, but I guess in a good, strange way. Vibes from a log? The growth has form. It has form indeed, by God. I told no one. And I am getting these vibes. Itís like this log is happy to be lying on the ground, on bare dirt and grass. In its form, it, the growth is on its side, on its face, I dare say. The bark is loosening and scaling and peeling all over it. I work on it with my hatchet, my ďmade in ChinaĒ hatchet. I knocked a lot of the bark off of it with the blade on side and pried most of the rest off to see. See what?
The voice in my head says, ĒBe careful.Ē Itís not like Iím shaving it with a straight razor, for Peteís sake. It is a log, a rotten log, I keep telling myself. ďWatch it with that hatchet!Ē
I am going crazy. I am losing my mind a little at a time. My mind can carry a railroad tie, too. I hear, every time Iím near, (Karen Carpenter) close to you. This log has me singing The Carpenters. Great. Whatíll it be next, getting their autographs? Every time I am near the growth, things spring up in my mind, and I canít shut it off. Unless; I walk away. But I donít want to walk away. I think I want to run.
This log is so dang heavy. Itís like teak or mahogany. It is unwieldy. I cannot get to it this way, not the way itís positioned on the ground. From my wheelchair, I have little leverage. All I can do is circle it, go round and round it like a cattle dog herding rank cows. There is no pushing it, and the growth is half lying on its face to prevent me from rolling it over. It is late and getting dark, dark and muggy. The sun is waving at me as it goes down in the west. ďHappy trails to you.Ē There it goes again. Iím singing Roy Rogers tunes, or the sun is singing me songs. Whatever. I tell myself I want it to stop, but I donít. I want to figure it out. Tomorrow, I will.
What do you say to a woman who is totally grounded in reality? Nothing. Yet. I donít know anything yet, but there is a nagging at the back of my head. I eat a little supper and watch the news. Not much good news these days. I wheel myself to bed too tired to shower. She picks at me and scolds me a little. Says I stink. I do.
I hear a flute in the wind high above me I think. I am dreaming. I am a dreamer. It is not like a normal flute, not like Zamfirís pan-flute. It is something else. Something Iíve never heard. It is with me all night.
I am back in high school, in the marching band. We are playing Tijuana Brass, Herb Alpertís tune. I am a lowly 3rd cornet. That Brashears kid can really play the trumpet. Itís halftime, our team is down by six and the lights on the football field are just killing my eyes. Brashears faints on the fifty-yard line, and I find myself straddling his body. I am hitting every note I never could before, and everyone is ignoring Brashears, and the drum major is shrugging his shoulders and we get through Brass, through Tijuana, and I get a standing ovation. Brashears isnít moving a muscle, and we march off the field, having already done our formation maneuvers. I awake and my lips are sore. My throat is raw. Halftime is over.
I slip my muck shoe on and hop over to the shower. The bathroom is too small; the house is too small. Not dollhouse small, just uncomfortable. I donít like shower doors, glass shower doors, but I live with one anyway. She likes it. Itís ok. I bitch to myself about five minutes every morning. Silently. No one else need know. I sit on my bench in the shower and turn on the showerhead. I shudder at the cool water and wait for it to warm up. It feels good to my bones and sore shoulder muscles. I shave while sitting without a mirror, wash behind my ears, clean my skunky pits.
What is it that makes me listen to the wind? There is a serenity here amongst these hills. It is like they cradle me in their arms and rock me untilÖ
I hadnít thought of Brashears in thirty-five years. What is happening to me? I feel like I am being guided somehow.
In the hospital, the nurses hovered over me, told me to drink, try to drink, John. Move your arms. Follow our finger with your eyes. Stop. Turn over on your side. The lift team is coming to move you to change your sheets. Your sheets are soiled.
I didnít know. I canít feel anything but pain. Is there more drugs, not the light stuff, but the right stuff? I cannot raise my arms to feed myself. I am pathetic, and I canít do a thing about it. I donít want to be here and I donít want to leave.
Iíve been through the desert on a horse with no name. It feels good to get out of the rain. I am singing again. The closer I get to the log, the more I sing. I canít remember my name. And last night, before I fell to sleep, I found myself playing horse with no name on my dulcimer. Dulcimers werenít meant to play rock and roll. I nailed it though. Iím a rock star dulcimer player. Who knew?
I walk closer to, almost tiptoe to the log. Tiptoe through the tulips with me. Knock it off, John.
I see it.