A stranger-turned-friend will never know the impact he made

Ramblings From The Heart By Allen Hrubes
Sunday, December 26, 2021
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Sometimes people come into our lives that have a positive influence on us with their uplifting views on life and whimsical sense of humor that make them a very remarkable person to know. When they exit our lives, they are missed more than anyone could ever imagine.

My first impression of this guy was one of astonishment. I first noticed him and his handiwork as I was driving past his residence one early spring day and noticed a tree in his yard had been whittled down to more-appropriately resemble a Hiroshimo/Nagasaki tree than a healthy/thriving one. I asked my sister riding with me what happened to the tree and she remarked that some old guy had been whittlin’ on it and was as mystified as I was regarding the condition of the shrub and why someone would purposely de-face a perfectly goodlooking tree.

We didn’t think any more of the “butchering” until one day, evidence of the deforestation was missing. Not only was the evidence completely gone but the area had been cleared and grass seed had been planted over the area. The seeded area was covered with a clear plastic sheeting and within a week or so, the covered area was brimming with little grass seedlings and not long after that, all evidence of the former tree was magically erased.

Later that spring, my sister and I started going for walks with my dog (Molly) and sometimes our travels took us past his place. On one of those occasions, the “old guy” was mowing his lawn and stopped to visit a little while. He was a very friendly old cuss with a scruffy beard and long, flowing auburn hair held on his head by a well-worn baseball cap. After a few minutes of visiting, we made our way down the sidewalk, when all of a sudden, we heard someone shouting to us from behind. We turned around and discovered the “old guy” wanted to give Molly a special treat he retrieved from his van parked in his driveway.

At first, we didn’t know his name but it seemed we’d known him forever. His friendly nature made him a greatly anticipated respite from our daily walks around the block. Molly always loved to say “Hello” to him and loved it when he gave her a muchanticipated treat.

During the summer months when it got too hot to walk during the middle of the day, we started walking in the morning and our neighbor would sometimes come out of his house to say hello and treat the dog. One of us complained that it was too hot to walk in the afternoon to which he replied it would eventually cool down and one day “...we’ll have twelve feet of snow!”. We had a good laugh and it somehow made the hot summer more bearable.

Summer gave way to fall and he could be found raking leaves and mowing his lawn while also caring for an elderly neighbor’s yard. He was still the friendly “old guy” and we were always glad to visit with him one more time. Then, one day, he wasn’t in the yard and didn’t come out of his house to visit. We missed seeing him as days turned to weeks with no sign of him. We were later saddened to discover he had passed away, leaving a wife, one son and four grandchildren to mourn his absence.

Ya know, nowadays, the world seems to have gone to “Hell in a Hand Basket.” A 21st century world-wide pandemic has frightened and split our nation in two. On one side, people believe the government mandates of vaccinations, masks and social distancing are a necessary evil to help ensure a healthy lifestyle. The other side has people who are against all Covid mandates. This has our nation brimming with conflicts, protests and general upheaval. Police brutality against people of color, government insurrections, worrisome instances of a president who is ineffective and “sleepy”, ominous predictions of economic catastrophe and a general attitude of negativity where hope for a decent future are dashed time and time again has a tendency to trigger a person to throw his hands up and admit defeat.

With all the problems of this world, sometimes a person comes into your life and restores some of your lost faith in humanity while offering good-natured teasing to momentarily take ones’ mind off their problems. The “old guy” sure made a positive difference in the lives of my sister and me. The tragic thing about all of this is that he will never know just how much of a difference he made in our lives and how much he is truly missed by us.

Allen Hrubes occassionally writes columns for the Ranger-Review. He can be reached at metalal@midrivers.com