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Meet Curt, The "Fashionable Bum"
In the easier, less complex time of my childhood, I wasn't given what I begged for. Nor what I cried for. I was given what I needed by wiser parents and neighbors who taught me a lot of things. How to do and what not to do. More what "not" to do than the primary. But these loving, wiser parents and neighbors must have overlooked the very one thing that I loved: meeting the unique souls whose walk I would never know. I could not even wear their shoes.
At age eight, I met Curt Glenn. He defied description and yet defined the word "unique" used by sane and lawful folks. One man called Curt a "fashionable bum" after seeing him one time at church. After I asked why, I knew. Curt loved flashy things. Today a younger set say bling. Curt, it was confirmed, wore six wrist watches--three on each arm. All with correct time. One curious man asked why, he replied that he (Curt) would never be late. And opened a wide mouth full of nicotine-stained teeth and laughed so loud that it scared some roosting birds in a nearby wooded area. True story. What amazed me, besides all of the other things about Curt, was I didn't see how such a thin, scrawny man of 78, could laugh as loud and hard as he did. But I wasn't destined for studying social sciences, so I just grew to love Curt the way that he was.
But Curt's wearing six wrist watches was not all there was to his bling. He rode a sharp-looking bicycle along with Simp and Quillen who also rode bicycles. This is another amazing thing: These men, all past 70, did not ride their bicycles for just getting a nice work-out around the block, but from where they lived to the church they attended. A good 15 or more miles and didn't try to break any speed records. Plus made it to church without heaving for breath or having to have dry clothes for excessive sweating. Curt was a very keen bicycle designer. He used bottle caps (of the day, 1970s) to place each cap between the spokes of both bicycle wheels. And stuck various tin badges on his felt hat. Do not ask me where he found those tin badges all with catchy sayings. Oh, he had secured a nice-looking fox tail from someone and had attached it to his right handle I guess to watch it fly in the breeze.
Curt wasn't alone in his unusual life and styles. He had brothers who everyone civil and sane would swear that they, Glenn's brothers, Simp, Quillen, Dovey, and Marvin were all modern-day hill folks. And they were to an extent. The Glenn brothers didn't live in town or anywhere near a town, but rather made their humble abodes on a hillside covered with trees of various types. The Glenn brothers also had a creek (with a dam) that Quillen used to grind corn for people who wanted true, old-fashioned corn meal without going to a grocery store. Quillen was the quiet brother, but knew his grist milling like the back of his hand.
Curt lived (near a house occupied by Marvin and Dovey) in his own specially-designed home-for one built out of junk lumber and cardboard. I swear. The first time that my parents went to visit these guys, I was scared to death. The Glenn's had no electricity. They depended on kerosene lamps for light. For refrigerating their cow's milk, they placed their milk in glass jars in the same running creek where Quillen run his grist mill. All was fine with the Glenn's. No bills to pay. No taxes to worry about. Just living the best they knew how and let God take care of it all. Curt, the backwoods philosopher, was known to say the previous statements among many witty things.
Marvin was the most soft spoken of all these guys. His snow-white beard made him resemble St. Nick if Marvin just wore a red suit and trousers. As for "Uncle Dovey," the older Glenn brother and leader of the family, did not have wives. "We learned early that we could get by better without women." Another philosophy shared by Curt. But Dovey was the one who knew the Bible from cover to cover. No one would challenge his wisdom. Oh, some did in his time only to come away with a chagrin.
What Curt lacked in theology, he made up for this with his laughing. He laughed about something everyday. No. Not around the clock, but each time people would meet him, he laughed and said something to them to cheer them up. And why shouldn't he? He did not have to get up to make it in time for a time-clock or irritable boss. Curt loved life along with his brothers. Let me snuff out that suspicion that I know is growing inside your thinking that Curt and the Glenn's were bums. No, sir. All of them worked and knew the value of hard work and working with their own hands. Plus they all went to bed almost at dark (like their forefathers) and were up before any self-respecting rooster would dare flop his wings and crow.
Another unusual (I will not use the word 'strange' here) trait about these men was they had the most unusual way of worshipping God. I loved these guys were loyal and dedicated church members as well as neighbors. I said unusual for when they went to church they would sit together perfectly still and never made a peep while the church services were going on. That was fine. It was how these guys were raised. These special guys had lived this way for years in the very footprints of their forefathers who settled the land where they lived.
I sound much like the church pastor, (a) Rev. Booker Tice, who taught the Bible as much as he knew how. But I swear that you could not make or buy better neighbos than the Glenn brothers. The way I got to know Curt was the two days that my dad hired him for helping him pull corn. Curt loved easy jobs. When neighbors in the community needed help in their fields or any odd job, Curt Glenn was the man that they called. Even my dad got me into the act with Curt when we would walk behind the trailer that dad was pulling with the Ford tractor (that dad loved to ride) I helped Curt pick up the piles of corn that dad and Curt had pulled in the early day while I was at school.
And with most every breath, Curt would say something vulgar. Not a vulgar to hurt people, but a funny vulgar. The vulgar that Jackie Gleason used to make himself popular, rich, and known world-wide. Dad would rebuke Curt for his vulgar talk because my mother did not want Curt talking vulgar to me during my helping with the corn pulling.
Aside from Curt being a master vulgar joker, he was a rural doctor. Unlicensed, of course. I know this because as we were working to fill the trailer behind dad and the Ford tractor used while share-cropping on the Verta Dobbs Farm, Curt suddenly told me to stop and look at these small brown balls that were on piled neatly on the ground. I looked and didn't know what I was looking at until Curt said, "if you ever get a headache, you can take a few of these and that headache will go away." I was simply amazed. Until dad yelled, "Kenny, leave them alone--for they are rabbit pills!" I will not try to explain a softer, easier way to say manure. At this point was Curt trying to pull a great joke on me or just being his funny self? I grew to know that the latter was true.
All of the things that I have shared about Curt were true. His love for talking vulgar (for fun) and laughing most all day, were just ways that Curt found himself early in life not being like any of his brothers. That is a good thing to me. We have to find our differences that make us the individuals that make up the universe.
Speaking of the universe, I cannot prove or disprove it, but I cannot say that our grand universe keeps a record of every man's name and history of his life. I cannot even prove or disprove that our grand universe even bothers to remember "those" unique souls who pass through our lives leaving such an impact on them.
I cannot and will not speak for the universe, but I can only speak for me. I remember Curt Glenn. I loved him then. I love him now. Curt was my friend. That's good enough for me.
© 2017 Kenneth Avery