He always wore a flannel shirt. Either that or a shirt with short sleeves and shiny, buttons up the front.
He always wore a smile. A smile I last saw at age nine. It’s a smile that, all these years later, I cannot forget. He had the kindest eyes, a quiet demeanor, and the strongest hands of anyone I’ve known.
He always wore a cowboy hat. Always.
He rode horses in the Rocky Mountains and tended pastures in the deep Ohio hills. He invited us into his work; we bottle fed baby lambs alongside him, we watched and helped at the birth of calves and lambs, we sat in the cab of his [International] tractor, played in the hay lofts, walked the creek.
At the visitation before his funeral there was a line from his casket out the door. Everyone in line was Amish. These were some of his people. I learned a little more that day about what it means to be a friend, to show respect, and to show up.
There’s a pulse in all of this. A pulse that I was exposed to as a small person without my being aware of it. A pulse passed down from him to my mother to me. A pulse that sometimes now I feel so loudly, hear so forcefully.
I want to ask him about the soil, about what he saw when he looked in the eyes of the ewes he shepherded. I want to ask him about the barn-raisers and the blacksmiths, about the friendships and the loyalty, the hard work. Tell me about the smell of the mountain air, about what you felt in the steed’s heartbeat, tell me about the work of your life.
The roots in me can’t ignore it.