1928 - Alderson High School - 1968



Beaten:  Worn by use; defeated; exhausted.
 Dan Duff

I could see him from afar as I approached his rundown, rickety cabin.  He was sitting on the porch, shaded by a weathered tin roof, smoking on an old corn cob pipe.  He didn't seem to notice me as I approached.  He seemed preoccupied, drawing and blowing smoke more out of habit than need for nicotine.  As I drew closer he uncrossed and re-crossed his legs and at last started to focus on the person approaching his domain. 

It wasn't always like this.  I remember when he stood tall and proud. he spoke with authority and people from all over came to him for advice.  When he spoke it seemed the whole world sat up to take notice.  They would take the advice and gain not only wisdom but additional power from him. There were very few that would not take his advice and those were usually the people who got into trouble or who were just to arrogant or stupid to listen. 

He was a big man, but never a bully.  There had been times in his life when others would try to goad him into a fight.  Then again there had been times when he had taken up their challenge, but only as a last resort and only after every possible option had been tried. He had been openly challenged and then there had been a few times when he never saw the first blow coming.  After being sucker punched, he would rally all the strength within him to get up and fight.  He has been down and bloody.  From my view I think I would have given up, but not him.  While I remember the blood and gore, I don't recall him ever losing a fight. After the fight was over more likely than not he would help the other fellow to his feet after whipping him and help him get his bearings before withdrawing.

He has given of his cash, of his resources.  He has never held back when the needs came and even went looking for needs and causes to give to.  He has loaned and loaned when he knew the people who were borrowing from him could not or would not pay him back. He has written off loans to people who now would not give the time of day if they met him on the street.  He never spoke bad of them.  Never took them to task for their dishonor. 

Others have started lies and rumors about him that were not true.  Lies made up to make them look better than him.  Not to bring themselves up to his stature, but in attempts to bring him down to theirs'. 

As I approach the front of the cabin I can now see that the toils and strife of life have left their mark on the old man.  His face is now deeply wrinkled and the lines around his eyes and mouth have deepened.  His eyes tell the story.  I can see the hurt and years of abuse. They are starting to show the look of a man who is giving up on life.  The fight to hold and protect what was his is gone.  He is no longer able to, willing to, stop those who desire to take what little he has left.  What was once a plantation of lush crops and beautiful buildings are gone.  The only thing left is the small shack and a yard of overgrown grass and rusty tools.   Did he see all this coming?  Did he put up any resistance at all?  I  would like to believe that he at least tried to gather all his strength once more and take a last stand to hold back the onslaught of those who would take his beloved land.

I can see how it happened.  As the old man got older his heirs and overseers got lax in their jobs. Because of the riches and bountiful surroundings they became complacent, believing that no one had the power or wherewithal to take all that away from them. They had not been vigil and believed that their strength was as great or greater than the old mans.   They believed that no one would try anything as long as the old man was alive.  They believed incorrectly that their position because of their heritage with the old man made them secure. Kept them powerful and safe.

At last I am at the porch and I say hello and ask the old man how he is doing.  He recognized me now as his nephew and a glint of a smile comes to his mouth and his eyes. It must feel good to hear a friendly voice.  A voice of someone who does not blame him for all their troubles and banes. Someone who only wished the best for him.

'I'm tired my boy, just plane tired." 

I had come to wish him happy birthday.  I wish I could have bought him new outfit.  The one he is wearing is threadbare and the suspenders are warn almost through.

"Remember when I tried to tell them if they weren't vigilant that this would happen?"

"I passed the big house on the way here.  It's run down and over run with transients."

I am sure I wasn't telling him anything he didn't know. After my visit we said our good byes.  As I left all I could do was to remember him as he was when he was in his prime.  I remember his hair always being gray with his distinguished gotee. I want to remember how he was revered and feared.  How he ruled not by strength alone, but by strength of character and all new if he gave his word he kept it.   His red and white tuxedo with a matching top hat were his trade mark.  Yep, that is how I always want to remember my Uncle Sam.



For A. H. S. Ever Always - In Every Way For A. H. S.