How did I get here from there?

Photo courtesy John M. Motter
Lumber was a big part of Pagosa Country’s past, as represented in this photo of one of Alexander Sullenburger’s mills.

Quien sabe? That’s Spanish for who knows, you know? It is time to make New Year’s resolutions, you know, for the year 2020. I wish that number was a description of my eyesight.
As I stare cogitatingly into my computer screen, the question stirring up the cogitation demands to know, how did I get here from there? How did this brown-eyed, 10-pound baby boy born in 1934 midst the dust bowl devastation then called Kansas end up here in Pagosa Springs, Colo.? More than half of my four score and five years have ticked off here in the Colorado Rockies. Even though you and I were launched from different pads, I’ll bet you agree we have the same question drifting around in our upper thinking domicile: How did we get here?
An old quotation related to the topic at hand seems to be stowed in the minuscule remnant of my original thinking allotment. The quotation is from “The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam,” a Persian philosopher whose writings captured the attention of literary buffs throughout the western world many years ago. His best remembered poem, “The Moving Finger,” points to the passing of time. One of its many translations reads, “The moving finger (of time) having writ moves on, and neither piety nor wit can change a line of it.”
I see that moving finger pointing at my past. It’s aimed at a freckled, shirtless and barefoot boy traipsing under the summer sun shining cheerfully down on a myriad of brightly colored wildflowers decorating the forested hills of southern Oregon. It shows him dipping a blonde pig-tail belonging to a fellow student into an ink well decorating an old fashioned desk ensconced in a long forgotten, two-room country school resting under a sprawling oak tree in the rural community of New Hope, Ore., a school featuring 32 students spread across eight grades, all sitting in one room and under the one teacher living in the adjoining room.
The finger points at the source of the boy’s freckles, a befreckled mother cooking the world’s best fried chicken in a black, cast-iron skillet on her wood-burning kitchen range, the same range that heated the tub of bath water pumped from the well every Saturday and in which every one of the five kids remaining at home had to lather up with lye soap and scrub and scrub, even behind the ears, until clean. She was the classical mother hen knitting stocking hats, socks, mittens and sweaters for her entire brood.
As I sit here in front of the computer glancing down at my $150 cowboy boots, the finger points again at mom, with the five kids who remain under the home roof lined up, each taking their turn, each with a calloused bare foot on the piece of cardboard upon which the foot was traced to determine its size. The tracings were sent to “Monkey Wards” in time for mail order shoes, costing maybe $2 or $3 a pair, to arrive by the time school started in the fall.
The searching finger moves on, finding a new picture of mom with her black hair tied in a bun at the back of her head, dipping a scrub board into a tub of water recently heated on the kitchen range, rubbing and rubbing the dirt from the multi-patched denim jeans, home-sewn plaid shirts, calico dresses, etc., that clothed her brood.
Again the finger swings around, pointing this time at my stepfather, clad in long johns and scratching his head as he rolls out of bed, strikes a match, lights the kitchen range, puts the coffee pot on the back burner, shares a cup of coffee with mom, milks the cow and goats, and then with lunch box and thermos in hand, cranks up the family jalopy and bumps off down the dusty country road to the lumber mill where he stacks Oregon pine the rest of the day. Every day.
Wiping a hand across tear-reddened eyes and shaking a balding head sadly, I realize, where there is, long gone, but never far from here.

This story was posted on January 13, 2020.