Friday, January 28, 2011


Maybe you could say Woody never doubted himself. What he held onto was more like some solid convictions built as sturdy as that house he lived in. Supposedly it had been constructed by Native Americans from the area. Huge exposed logs nailed neatly together to form a shelter solid enough to weather any storm.

As far as I could tell he was just about the happiest guy I had ever seen. Still today, over thirty years later, I remember his wave, his smile. There are some people from those childhood memories I'd like to visit as an adult, sit down and have a cup of coffee and a nice talk. Not Woody though, his memory seemed so perfect to me. Just what I knew was all I needed to know.

What I knew is Woody's place sat on a piece of property which connected land laid claim to by my family and to get from one place to another you had to open a locked gate, drive your truck in, lock the gate back and travel slowly up a rutted dirt road before you passed by it. All I ever remember was passing by it and that my day would more times than not be gifted by a sight of Woody sitting on that front porch. He and I, we had a little ceremony of waving and grinning. Me from the back of the pickup, Woody from his front porch.

That's all I knew, and I loved him for it.

It wouldn't be until long after Woody died and that place burned down I sat at my Mama's breakfast table and quizzed my parents about those memories. I was right smack in the middle of some idealistic, romantic version of mine and Woody's waving and grinning when Mama's eyes rolled to the back of her head.

Oh, Shea. Woody was just an old drunk!

Daddy chimed in, Now, Patsy.

Maybe, just maybe, it's okay to sometimes learn our heroes were just old drunks and leave it at that. Yet maybe sometimes one little piece of information will lead us to inquire upon another. What was behind that grin, that wave, that man living out in the middle of some pines removed from the world around him.

Part of me didn't want to know. I wanted to freeze Woody as that two dimensional character of my past, but little by little my more curious side took hold and several visits later I finally learned Woody moved into that place after coming home from World War II. He had been stationed in England, fell in love with a beautiful country music singer, had the affair of his life and expected to bring her back home when the war was over.

The war ended and I guess she had better things to do and maybe no amount of love would keep Woody from coming home to his family. And there it was, a broken heart soaked in moonshine sitting in the middle of the woods waving at some little girl as she passed by. And why not? Woody made his choice, he had every right to. We all make choices.

Cue music.



Anonymous said...

Poor Woody. Perhaps his smile was only the high from the moonshine that eased his pain. And perhaps if you could have talked to him he would have advised you not to make the same choices he did. I am reminded of this quote:

When love beckons to you, follow him,
Though his ways are hard and steep.
And when his wings enfold you yield to him,
Though the sword hidden among his pinions may wound you.
And when he speaks to you believe in him,
Though his voice may shatter your dreams as the north
wind lays waste the garden.
Kahlil Gibran

And perhaps Woody, once wounded, locked his heart away forever.

To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket—safe, dark, motionless, airless—it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable.

Shea Goff said...

Thank you, Anonymous.