Friday, September 21, 2012

Goodbye, Robert

He was a simple man, a man raised in the old, old-time ways. For years he lived with his mother and brother far up a hollow where the only access was two feet or four feet-your own two feet, or a horse's four. No electricity, no running water. A simple life lived in the simple, old way. He seldom if ever went to town in those days although he did walk out to a local store about 4 miles away to buy and carry in feed for his animals. School? One day, I remember someone telling me. That did not mean he wasn't intelligent--of the things in his world, he knew everything there was to know. Livestock, weather, building fence, making do with what was on hand--in these he was a native expert.


His mother passed away and he lived with his brother for a time, and then moved out to live in a new home with another resident of our road, helping with chores, livestock, gardening, hay, fencing and whatever else needed to be done. Robert worked and worked hard. His love was his goats, and he had many of them. He often worked all day to care for them, mending fences, building shelters or whatever work was called for. We saw him often as we passed along the road; he might be carrying bales of hay on his back to feed his animals, unloading hay, cutting wood or brush, but always he was busy.

In his new home he learned a lot of new things--television, telephone, electrical gadgets. In time he even became comfortable with them. His ready laugh would light up his craggy face, a face I longed to photograph but never did because I was afraid he might think I was being nosy or intrusive. But his face was a face out of time, rough and raw with the brightest blue eyes. I have one photo of him, posted above, taken on the fly when we once saw him along the road, and it is one of my favorites, a picture of a simple man and a simple life.

It took me some time to understand him when he talked. Some of his words and speech patterns seemed to be from another time, and his manner of speaking was one developed in the isolation of his life with his mother and brother for the first 40 years or so of his life. My ears, accustomed to nothern Virginia speech when I moved here, struggled with the cadences of Robert's voice, and those of his brother's voice too. About a year ago we gave Robert a little hen that set all the time; no matter how we tried we could not break up her setting. Robert took her home and she hatched one little chick. The pleasure he took in that chicken gave me such pleasure too. He would laugh and smile talking about her. When some wild animal got her, he was as sad as could be but raised the little chick himself to a full-grown chicken.

Robert passed away this week from cardiac arrest, leaving this world in as simple a way as he lived here. He was alive and talking--and then he was gone. Shocking and sad as that is for those left behind, it seems fitting for this unassuming man. Who amongst us would not wish for an exit like his? He will be missed by more people than he might ever have imagined, those who liked seeing him among his goats or engaged in his daily work, those he helped in the hay or whose animals he cared for when they were away from home. Visitation is tomorrow afternoon; I will not be surprised by how many people come to honor his memory.

Copyright 2012 Susanna Holstein. All rights reserved. No Republication or Redistribution Allowed without attribution to Susanna Holstein.

14 comments:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing ,I enjoyed reading this. I am going to miss him walking up the road to feed.It's not going to be the same.

Nance said...

Well, I think I know him now, Sue, from your fine & thoughtful eulogy. I believe I knew similiar folks in my youth. This post awakened long ago memories of my grandparents and their kin and friends.

It is remarkable that Robert's mother and her two sons lived so isolated in the 20th century that they retained the cadence and speech patterns of another time and place.

Anonymous said...

I didn't know him....but I feel I do now after reading this. Thank you.

John "By Stargoose And Hanglands" said...

The one photo you have of him is a fine portrait too. I have known many men like him and mourn their passing too.

Brenda Sharps Lee said...

I remember Robert and his brother mowing my Grandfather's field with a horse drawn mower and then stacking it around a pole. I also remember him as a young man carring 50 pounds of feed on his shouders for miles.

I wanted to go hiking up the mountains that my Grandparents Charlie and Amanda Sharps onced owned but was too afraid of snakes. Robert offered to go with me. He said he would take care of the snakes if we saw any. So we went and had a great hike. He was a great friend and I will miss him.

Brighid said...

Well done, you have honored him it a fitting way.

Mimi Foxmorton said...

Oh dear......sobbing tears like a baby right now for Robert... and for my Uncle Whitey. My Uncle Whitey was this exact, same man. More intelligent, wise and honest than any book-learned man I will ever know. He lived with us my whole life, gave me away at my wedding when my parents turned their backs, and never, ever asked a single thing of anyone his entire life. And one day, he just laid down in the driveway and went to sleep.

Thanks for sharing this most wonderful tribute to Robert, a man I will count my self poorer not to have met.......

Have a sunny day, luv!

*hugs*
Mimi
The Goat Borrower

warren said...

Very nice tribute for a very interesting man...

little homestead in the mountains said...

I would loved to have known him! I love the way you described him, it sounds like he was a wonderful man, I wish more people could live a simple life like that, we would all be a lot better off if we did! Thank you for sharing his life and his story!

Granny Sue said...

Brenda Sharps Lee, I remember your grandfather a little bit. I hope that if you come back to visit Joe's Run you will stop and see me. Thank you so much for sharing your memories of Robert. I love the images in your story.

Granny Sue said...

To all my friends, your comments have been such a joy to read. Robbie's funeral was today, and the church was packed. It was a heartfelt sendoff for a man respected and loved by many. He would have been shocked, I think, to know that so many people took the time to come.

Granny Sue said...

Mimi, thank you for telling us about your uncle Whitey. I hope that you will post photos of him on your blog sometime, if you have any. He sounds he was quite a man.

quinn said...

A lovely tribute, both the image and the words.

FOLKWAYS NOTEBOOK said...

Beautiful words for this simple man -- barbara

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