Saturday, August 9, 2008


I love Nevin. He's the father of my friend Kerri Koch who's engaged to my buddy Kurt. I actually asked her out first during our sophomore year of high school but it turned out that she wanted to go to prom with Kurt instead. She wanted someone clever and kind instead of annoying and wrongly convinced of his own hilarity. Go figure. I stopped by Kurt and Kerri's new house and found Nevin hard at work.

He's a great white haired guy with arms like Popeye and a knack for the Mennonite game. PA terminology corner: When playing the Mennonite game, you try to find out how everybody is related to everyone else, where they grew up, where they work, who married who and whose father used to run the general store that became a restaurant ran by the son of the guy who used to live on E Main St that ran an electrical business that shut down twenty years ago. It's complicated and you win by knowing everything. Nevin knows everything.

He has an inside track because in 1955, he began reading the water meters for our town. It meant he had to go into the basement of every single house in Lititz. Naturally with our friendly community, he talked to alot of people and obtained alot of valuable information for the Mennonite game. He also mentioned that back then, almost everybody left their door open so he could walk into the empty house to read their water meter. He said he doesn't find open doors anymore. Ah, the good old days.

He asked me about my recent travels. After the normal short synopsis, I told him, "it's time to head back to NYC because I'm flat broke but it was worth it."
"Yeah", he says, "you have to do it now while you're not tied down." Then he starts telling me about his adventure year of 1964. He went to British Columbia for a year with a buddy. By helping an old mountain man gather hay "more like swamp grass", they got a cabin 25 miles outside town. The best part: no roads. In winter, it could take two days to snowshoe into town for supplies. They didn't need much though. They spent almost all their time hunting and fishing. During the summer, he shot moose and deer, caught a lot of trout and even bagged a small bear. In winter, they trapped and shot red squirrels. If you got the sucker in the head, you could get 60 cents for the pelt. They shot 360 squirrels that winter. That's a hell of a lot of good shooting. He even once trapped a lynx that brought in twenty bucks for the coat (that's 33.3 squirrels if you're keeping score at home). It sounded like an amazing way to while away a year.

He went back with Kerri 33 years later. He found the mountain man and former professional ice hockey player who rented them the cabin. Unfortunately, he couldn't remember Nevin because he almost lost his life in a grizzly attack that apparently made him a little soft in the head. We agreed that it's hard to find tough old birds like that mountain man but fascinating once you do.

That prompted me to tell Nevin about meeting the toughest guy I know. On a trip to Arkansas to visit my buddy and teacher of all things redneck, Nat Sumers, we went for a mule ride with the a local mountain man and some of his friends. He spent his entire life with horses and mules. By trimming their hooves, shoeing them and breaking them, he makes enough to scrape out a happy little existence in a shack surrounded by his favorite quadrupeds. On the ride that day, he rode a half wild horse that he was breaking in for someone. Nat, a good horseman himself, said he wouldn't take a half wild horse on these trails. To make it more interesting, this horse whisperer hitched two completely wild horses to his saddle with lead ropes to begin the process of breaking them in. Now that's tough. A half-broken horse with two completely wild ones attached. With this impressive display of prowess we set off on our ride.

After about an hour of leisurely beer drinking, talking and riding, we stopped for our first piss break. When he got off his half wild horse, the other two started freaking out, jumping and kicking all over the place. When they settled down, he was in the middle of a tangled knot of horses. One had its legs off the ground, wrapped in a lead rope while one had its front end completely over the last horse. A sticky situation because its easy for a horse to break its leg in those positions. He calmly starts untying ropes and slowly rearranging the horses. After a minute, something spooks them again and they start going wild. Right in the middle of the bunch, he narrowly misses a kick to the head before they settle down again. Then he delivers my favorite line of the week in his Arkansas drawl, "Well, I reckon I ought to put down my beer."

I'm proud to say my story got a laugh out of Nevin with his great infectious chuckle. Because of men like him, it's fun to be home in Lititz.

I just realized I used the post title to save Asa Wilks' number. I can't think of a better tittle anyway so I'll leave it in. Call him and tell him he smells like a monkey.

No comments: