Shots in the Dark: We should try to be soul gardenersWho do you admire most, not including a family member? A scientist, symphony conductor, counselor, consultant, pharmacist or farmer?
By: Kevin Holten, The Dickinson Press
Who do you admire most, not including a family member? A scientist, symphony conductor, counselor, consultant, pharmacist or farmer?
Growing up in my little hometown, a stone’s throw from the Montana and Canadian borders, there were a lot of people that worked very hard for many years who deserved to be admired.
Of course, that was back when I thought life would last forever since it moved along so painstakingly slow. After all, it took at least two-thirds of a decade of growing up before they let me drive and about that long before they threw me on a flatbed and said, “Go stack those hay bales!”
Now it’s suddenly all gone and so are they and all that’s left are the memories, and there are many.
For example, Mix, our newspaper man who published The Wildrose Mixer, used to play tennis on the side and also developed an act that got him on the Ted Mack Amateur Hour. It was unusual enough being a tennis player in those parts since getting the average man, who was either a rancher or farmer, to wear shorts took an act of Congress, five volcanoes and an appearance by Moses to initiate. In fact, the only place those farmers and ranchers ever got tan was from their mid-forehead down to their chin and on their neck and forearms, which eventually got as bronze as a statue.
Then Mix created a contraption whereby he could punch five punching bags at one time; one with his head, two with his elbows and two with his knees. Hey, don’t laugh, it got him a free trip to New York and an appearance on national television show when he was in his late 60s or 70s and when TV had a totally captive audience, thanks to there being only two channels and that was plenty.
Everyone saw the same thing on the tube every night and talked about it the next day. Of course, that’s when mothers, fathers and children actually gathered in one room to watch one program, which only happens on rare occasions now like when they televise the Super Bowl or the Kardashians.
As little kids we’d traipse into Mix’s newspaper office and watch him work, printing the paper or preparing it for mailing. Sometimes we’d ask him to punch the bags in the back and he’d stop what he was doing and put on a show for us snot-nosed kids. Now that’s a hero. God, I miss those days.
About the only one that he could play tennis with was Elmer the grocery story owner who could only see out of one eye and I don’t know why. He wore glasses with one lens that had a patch over it and he seemed to be forever carrying a big box of groceries out to a car for some farm wife.
Elmer lived above the store with his family, seemingly worked 24 hours a day and made for some of the greatest days of my life when he got in his annual shipment of caramel apples. Of course, he never wore shorts either when he played tennis on our packed-sand court, preferring baggy, brown pants and a white, tank top T-shirt.
His boy Billy was a year younger than me and sometimes we’d make snacks in the kitchen at the top of the stairs in the back and sneak down to pick candy off the shelves when we thought Elmer might not be watching, but I think he probably was and he’d just smirk and not say anything.
Elmer fed a lot of families in that town when times were lean for which he never received a dime and never got any credit and that’s a real hero.
Meanwhile, Lillian ran the café with her family, cooked the best burgers that I have still ever eaten and might have been the nicest woman I ever met other than her sister Tina, who served meals at the school and was just as nice. They were ladies who made you feel special and there is no greater gift that you can give to a person than to recognize their value.
I bring these people up, and they are just a few, because of a quote I read the other day by Marcel Proust, a French novelist, critic and essayist who said, “Let us be grateful to people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.”
Mix, Elmer, Lillian and Tina — they were soul gardeners. People who still make you smile when you think about them. That’s what we should try to be.