Cumberland Times-News

Jim Goldsworthy - Anything and Everything

December 14, 2013

Fare thee well, my earthbound friends

Few things are more energizing than the sight of 80,000 pounds worth of tractor-trailer barreling across the median strip in your direction at 60 miles an hour.

We were on our way home from Gettysburg when a snow squall came up. Our southbound lane of the interstate was dry and clear, but the northbound lane was not.

The results were strewn all over: cars, vans, tractor-trailers jackknifed and overturned, some mangled almost beyond recognition.

The tractor-trailer driver saw what lay ahead of him and dodged it, managing to get his rig turned and stopped — still upright — in the median. Fine piece of driving during what some folks call, “The moment of maximum pucker.”

We found out later a woman had died and 10 vehicles were involved. No idea how many were injured, or how badly.

As quickly as it came, the snow was gone. Capt. Gary and 1Sgt. Goldy rode home without further incident.

On this day, Death was in someone else’s lane — not ours. Thank you, Lord, for Your mercy to my friend and me. Please do what You can for those who were not so fortunate.

Time was, I tried to find meaning in such things, but no longer. Sometimes, there may be no meaning.

And, sometimes, Death is in your lane — as it was for Gary’s daughter Mandy, and his grandson Thadius four years ago.

“Thadius was my Gettysburg buddy,” said Gary. “I was ‘Pappy.’ ” (Having been a grandson, I know how that works.)

Thadius would have been 15 by now ... maybe the private soldier who runs errands for the captain and his first sergeant and acts like he doesn’t love being picked on by old guys.

Gary and I and some of our friends went to Gettysburg just a few days after the funeral.

“Thadius would want me to go,” Gary said, and it was the best thing we could have done — for any of us. When one of us grieves, all of us grieve.

When we went back a few weeks ago, the cell phone rang while we were talking to some tourists at Little Round Top.

I had a good idea what the call was about, but the details were in doubt. The look in Gary’s eyes told me all I needed to know.

Tinker had been Thadius’ cat, and “That little (four-word Anglo-Saxonism) always hated me,” Gary said. “It bit me!”

As time passed, though, she became Gary’s cat — “a loving cat,” he said — and a buddy to his Lhasa Apso dogs, Spike and Gizmo. (Remember the Gremlins?) All four of them often wound up on the couch or in bed together.

Lately, Tinker hadn’t been well. A few hours after Gary and I left for Gettysburg, a friend came to take her to the vet and let the dogs out.

Well, Spike and Gizmo didn’t want to go out. As soon as Gary’s friend walked in the door, they started barking and raising pure hell and led her straight to Tinker, who was lying motionless with one paw in her water dish.

Our first day at Little Round Top, all we knew was that Tinker was in the hands of people who cared for her. They stroked her softly, talked to her with gentle voices and let her know they were trying to make her well.

It seemed like the message got across. She raised her head and acted like she was grateful to be with friends and not alone.

But it didn’t work, so the phone rang. Directly, some of our friends visited us, we had tourists out the yazoo, and for a while it was business as usual.

“Goldy,” said Gary in a voice you had to hear to appreciate, “Tinker was all I had left of my little buddy.”

I found out a lifetime ago that it doesn’t matter how many legs a creature has, you can still love it — and it surely can love you.

The most unconditional love usually does come from somebody who goes about on all fours, rather than the bottom twos. I feel sorry for humans who don’t understand this, or never have been exposed to it.

No sooner than we got to Little Round Top the next day, I pointed to the sky and told Gary, “Look.” It was a hawk.

Gary and I started seeing hawks almost immediately after Mandy and Thadius died; the first was perched on the church steeple near Gary’s house.

When we came out of the motel room a few days after the funeral, another was sitting in a nearby tree, staring at us.

Our buddy Reggie says the only time he sees hawks at Little Round Top is when Gary and I are there. Make of that what you will.

This latest hawk descended and passed less than 10 yards away from us at eye-level, then flew off — actually waggling its wings like an airplane does when its pilot is saying, “Fare thee well, my earthbound friends.”

“Did you notice,” Gary asked me, “that we were here all day yesterday and never saw a hawk. First time we’ve ever been here and didn’t see a hawk.”

I said I had noticed, but wasn’t going to mention it.

“I think it’s like Bill (our friend, who owns Gettysburg Eddie’s) said: Thadius and Tinker are together again, and they’re letting us know.”

Why not? As St. Paul told the Corinthians, “Love never ends.” It survives ... even if nothing else does. I have ample reason to believe this.

One evening, Bill brought Andy to the bar to visit with us — the guy who was run over by a train and lived to talk about it.

He lost his right leg below the knee and now has a prosthetic leg and crutches — what I guess you could call a step up from the wheelchair he was riding the last time we saw him.

Andy was Bill’s chief cook and has vowed that as soon as he and that pegleg get to be partners and the crutches go away, he’ll be back fixing our dinners.

I told Andy that Bill had been torn up as a man could possibly be about his being hurt. (So were Gary and I, for that matter.)

I said, “Best friend,” was a term I heard Bill use more than once.

“He’s my best friend too,” said Andy, “and you and Gary are family. I love you guys.” We said the feeling was mutual.

He said he had been telling folks at the bar, “You know how they talk about people being able to drink like they’ve got a hollow leg? Well, I’ve got one.”

If you’re going to bet Andy on the over-and-under, take the over.

My advice — and he liked it — is that when folks ask how he’s doing, he should tell them this:

“I’m just gonna keep puttin’ my best foot forward!”

Really, that’s all any of us can do.

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Jim Goldsworthy - Anything and Everything
  • He was here long before Duck Dynasty

    July 27, 2014

  • He means well, and this time they spared his life

    Our pal Phil is the only re-enactor certified in writing by both the Lee and Custis families to portray Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee (whose wife was Mary Anna Custis Lee). When he’s in uniform, he generally stops at the bottom of the path that leads to the summit of Little Round Top, salutes Capt. Gary and First Sgt. Goldy and asks permission to join us. (Get it? Generally ... General Lee?) We always return his salute and grant him permission, in part because he’s our friend and also because the real Lee never got to see what it really looks like from up there. (Get it? Grant ... Grant? U.S. Grant? Real Lee ... really? OK. I hear you. That’s enough. Seriouslee.) Phil gets a kick out of being able to sneak up on us while we’re distracted by tourists.

    July 20, 2014

  • They’d have fallen like Autumn leaves

    So there we were, minding our own business (at least momentarily), leaning against the cannon at Little Round Top.

    July 13, 2014

  • Better read that french fry before you eat it

    People give me otherwise-insignificant items they hope will amuse or inspire me. I appreciate this. I’m always glad for free entertainment, which as Goldy’s Rule 33 says is everywhere. All you have to do is wait and it will come to you. Also, I have been writing columns for 37 years and embrace inspiration anywhere I can find it.

    July 6, 2014

  • The moose is loose, and it’s coming for you

    So how would you like to look out your kitchen door window onto your porch and see a moose looking back at you from close range?

    June 28, 2014

  • There are some debts you can never repay

    Today’s column will be relatively short, as my columns go, for reasons that should become apparent, and I thought long and hard before writing it.

    June 21, 2014

  • It could have saved the county a lot of money

    Random thoughts sometimes occur to me when I least expect it, usually when my brain has become tired.
    When I voice these thoughts at work or in other places, people may tell me, “Goldy? It’s time for you to go home.” Yes, ma’am.
    Here are two random thoughts of recent vintage:
    • If Bugs Bunny were an Emergency Medical Technician, would that make him a MedicHare?
    • If Daisy Duck got a job driving for United Parcel Service, would she be an UPS-a-Daisy?
    I wouldn’t blame you if you think that sounds Goofy — or Daffy.

    June 15, 2014

  • These two were part of the Not Top Ten

    Occasionally, at this time of year, I see reference to a “class orator” or a “class speaker.”

    Nothing wrong with that — people can call such things whatever they want, as far as I’m concerned — but it makes me wonder. Have “valedictorian” and “salutatorian” become politically incorrect, and I didn’t notice? It may come as a surprise to you, but I really have not kept up with what is politically correct or incorrect. That’s what people tell me, anyway. With some of them, it actually seems to be a compliment.

    June 8, 2014

  • Coming soon to a highway near you?

    People say to me, “Goldy? Can I ask you a stupid question?”

    In theory — and theory only — the correct response is: “The only stupid question is the one you don’t ask.” Not so much. There ARE stupid questions, some of them so stupid that to call them stupid is to damn them with faint praise. Other questions are — on the face of it — legitimate questions, but shouldn’t be treated as such ... not if you subscribe to the same philosophy that I do: Free entertainment is everywhere; all you have to do is wait, and it will come to you.

    June 1, 2014

  • This was a skill that proved very useful

    The Belmont Park stewards have decided to let California Chrome wear his nasal strip during the Run for the Carnations. Nasal strips usually are worn by people who snore and may have saved numerous marriages. It helps the Triple Crown hopeful to breathe, and some twolegged athletes wear nasal strips for the same reason. In this case, Chrome’s nasal strip may keep him from (wait for it) ... losing by a nose.

    May 25, 2014

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