A Man called Old Bill......

   Old Bill was of no relation to me , just an old man living on a gentlemans farm nearby , born before the turn of the last century , An old man , a widower and a loner or should I say alone at the time anyway . Bill was in his eighties at the time and to decribe his lifestyle , all I can say is he was an old man living in an old lifestyle. I don't even think he had a car or at least I don't remember one.
   I was a boy of six or seven years old, and we lived in a house about a half a mile from him. and all I really have of old Bill are a few memories , and we all know how memories work, oh yes ! We tend to colorize them , or to re-color them in , perhaps with the crayons of our imaginations , into what our minds want to visualize when we stop for awhile and look back into the mist filled meadows of our memory.
   Old Bill......in a minute I'm going to remember his last name again .......hopefully before the ending of this story , old Bill was one of those men who really belonged to another century , he wore the clothes of an old woodsman , faded and worn his flannel checkered shirts , his old and well used bib overalls , and an old felt hat , something probably bought in the fourties or early fifties, a grey hat with a black band , ......see I remember some things well ....... the short brim bent and turned down at an angle that probably shaded his eyes when needed from the blinding summer sun or pulled down with his head lowered to let the rain fall from the front while he sat atop the old wagon that was pulled by two big....really big , Belian draught horses.
   The things that we remember ! ........old Bill ...... brown tobacco stains at the sides of his mouth , wire rim glasses , and a grey stubble of beard on his chin .....he was bent at the waist permanantly and walked at a twisted angle his shoulders lowered and turned slightly to one side , he limped along at a pace that shows me now .......what perseverance is......Bill had been kicked in the back by a work horse in long ago youth while working in the woods probably pulling trees out of the forest to be taken to the local sawmill, and had grown old a twisted broken man. But..... phisycally , he was a tough old bird !
    I remember him driving his team of horses by the house pulling a hay wagon full of lose thrown hay from a couple of fields down in the "hollow " , a road that we lived on at the time .
I would stand alert, interupted from the play of a young boy to the sounds of the big team of Belgians , their hooves clop- clopping on the new pavement of the two lane road coming around the corner of the old iron bridge that crossed the Ammonusic River , at once the noise of the whitewater rivers heavy flow and the horse hooves separating getting louder as they approached, a couple of haying pitch forks sticking out from the pile of fresh mown hay on the wagon .
   Today though , was different , coming up the road was a wagon with old Bill and my father sitting beside him on the seat ! And , somehow I just knew I was going to get a ride on the hay wagon! As the wagon neared old Bill spoke quietly " Whote" and the team of lathered horses stopped on a dime by the edge of the road. At which time my father said , looking down and grinning .......
   " Well ........climb on up here boys " , and up we clammered onto the slippery pile of hay, the scent of the leather harness' , the horses and the hay all mixed into one aroma that blended somehow , taking me to a place in my imagination and where did it take us? To a long ago past where there were only men and horses, leather harness' , old barns and the sounds and sweet scents of summer .
   " Gitup boys " , old bill said softly to the horses and one slight touch of the harness on thier withers and off we went into the past as even now I can see the view from the top of the hay down across the horses backs , the wiffle tree and harness' jingling away and the steady clopping of giant hooves on the side of the road. I remember in turn each command given to the team of gentle giants as Bill backed the wagon to the barn and they began to unload the hay there.
    Later after the chores at hand , I remember being lifted up to the back of the now unharnessed horses' for a ride around the field ..... my first ever ahorseback......the turning ears listening to his owner and the gentle plodding of a horse that knew ....somehow that he had within his care a small boy on his back.......And gruff old Bill telling me to ...
    "Hang on now son , don't let er throw ya !" and spitting tobacco at the ground ....twinkle in his eye's. and then letting go for a few moments ....long enough to reach into his overalls and take a pull from a pint of whiskey . For just a couple more years would  Bill pass by our house before he would no longer ,  it's funny the things you remember as you age .
     When ever I have been around the scent of a  horse or a fresh mown field of hay ,  or even in an old barn where long ago echoes still resonate throughout the  hand hewn beams  and the old barn boards,   or the quiet ticking sounds of an old tin roof  warming in the sun and expanding against the wooden rafters , my memory wanders to a summers day  back when ,   back when.........

Comments 12 comments

WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

Very nice and well told!

Up and awesome.


ahorseback profile image

ahorseback 5 years ago Author

Hey Will, I always miss the old souls in my life.Thank you.


daddysgirl 5 years ago

This is so vivid dad! I absolutley love this story. I wish I had a keen memory such as yourself. I don't know why but a tear came to my eye.. strange I know. I think it's the idea of living or returning to a simpler time. Everything is so fast paced, I know times were tough but still there was time to breath then and live. We live in too fast a pace now and the whips keep lashing. No wonder there arent many memories. Great write....love and hugs


ahorseback profile image

ahorseback 5 years ago Author

Hey Sweety , maybe our memories are carved up to become more appealing as we get older and If thats the case , so be it! But it's little things that provide the essence of happiness and remembering. And ,It's the little things today that you too will remember , one photo , or a day, or an encounter with someone. Make your memories now into the quality that you will want when you look back. There is no time to waste.Love ya bunches ...Dad.


Hyphenbird profile image

Hyphenbird 5 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful

ahorseback, this is a lovely story. I have met many Old Bills in my life. They are part of a life and world swiftly passing into history. This was a great read and stimulated my own memories. Thanks so much!


CheyenneAutumn profile image

CheyenneAutumn 5 years ago

My friend - words are hard for me right now - all I can say is please keep writing these wonderful things and allow me to become lost in your memories. This is beautifully done.


ahorseback profile image

ahorseback 5 years ago Author

Hyphenbird, Thanks so much , ahh, so true, they pass quickly. Stay well.


ahorseback profile image

ahorseback 5 years ago Author

Hey Laurie , I can immagine so , I have been where you are now , and the let down afterwards as well, My thoughts go out to you. My prayer and wishes for a happy road back to us. Remember , she is only gone from you for a time! Hugs and well wishes for you.


GusTheRedneck profile image

GusTheRedneck 5 years ago from USA

ahorseback - Another fine story from a writer who obviously knows right well how to tell 'em. Helping us all rmember our "old Bills" is another of the big favors you do for us. Thanks.

Gus :-)))


arb profile image

arb 5 years ago from oregon

Interesting thing about remembering, we have to age to do it. Thats what fills the tank with things to write about. I'm glad it does. Well done. I will read another!


ahorseback profile image

ahorseback 5 years ago Author

Thank you Gus , Especially as we approach the old Bill age , at least for me ! Take care my friend.


ahorseback profile image

ahorseback 5 years ago Author

Arb, so true , and having great people to share with!Staay well.

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