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No Country for Old Men by Sal Moriarity


When he rode past, I could see he was carrying fire in a horn, the way people used to do. I could see the horn from the light inside of it, about the color of the moon. In the dream, I knew that he was going on ahead, and he was fixin' to make a fire, somewhere out there in all that dark, and all that cold. I knew that whenever I got there, he'd be there. Then I woke up.  from the film “No Country for Old Men”

My dad died a few years back. He was an interesting guy. Far from perfect, he could be a colossal pain in the you-know-what. He did not have much in the way of patience and, especially in younger days, could erupt. He worked a job for almost forty years that he hated. He was grateful for the work, but he hated the job. I learned very early if you don't like what you do for a living, it's going to be tough to have a truly happy life. I have not always implemented that knowledge in an effective manner.


When I was about thirty, I asked him if he could help get me on where he had worked. He grunted a little, shook his head, grimaced and spit Copenhagen into a Folgers' can.


“Son, if you want my help,” he said, finally. “I'll do my best, but I walked into that place in 1955. Forty years later, I walked out and wondered what the _______ happened.”


That was my dad through and through, an honest answer to your question. I told that story to a young woman I worked with in 2014. She was considering taking a job in that very same place. She didn't heed the warning. I saw her again a few years later and she said she'd been kicking that conversation around in her head ever since. She was now a cog in that machine and counting down the years to retirement – still about thirty to go.


What I miss most about my dad was his total lack of artifice (he would, no doubt, groan at the use of the word artifice there). He didn't get celebrity. Why a grown man would stand in line to get the autograph of another human being was beyond him. He thought men who walked around decked head to toe in the gear of some sports team was the dumbest thing ever. To him, that was not how grown men, or women for that matter, behaved. He was not prone to quote scripture (that was my mom) but he would occasionally paraphrase that verse in the Bible that talks about becoming a man and putting away childish things (I Corinthians 13:11).


My dad often told me, when the topic of celebrity came up, there were only two men he would walk across the street to see, but only if he could sit down and talk with them. Those men were John Wayne and Ronald Reagan. That really tells you all you need to know about my dad. He was not made for these times and, though I miss him, best he left when he did.


So, now that I teeter on the edge of old age myself and have fewer and fewer elders to look to for advice, his absence is all-the-more glaring. I'm the old man in most rooms now and am of the opinion a smart person never wants to be the one others look to for wisdom. For one, to hope for such a fate would be to reek of narcissism beyond measure (of course, narcissism seems to be an admired trait now days), but more to the point, it would make a person the center of attention, Those who covet attention can't be trusted.


Years ago, a young man was at my parents' house and had a couple of pistols of which he was quite proud. He had gun magazines (the paper kind) and was regaling my dad with the finer points of the weapons. I was sitting across the room watching as my dad nodded, tried to look interested, and drank a lot of coffee. This went on for quite some time and I knew what was coming.


To back up a moment, I think I have demonstrated my dad was an old school Ronald Reagan conservative. He believed it was every American's right to own guns. He had quite a few himself. He'd take them out occasionally to clean and ensure they were in working order. If he talked about a gun, it was always concerning its origin. This one belonged to one of his brothers, that one belonged to his father.


Anyway, this well-meaning young man, obviously hoping to impress my dad, kept on about the guns, what they could do and how fastidiously he cared for them, how he went to the gun range every week and was becoming quite the marksman. Finally, he carefully put the arms away into expensive cases. The room got quiet, and it was time for the great man to speak and, perhaps, communicate how impressed he was by the guns and the young man's devotion to them.


The problem was, for all his faults, my dad was not a liar.


“Son,” he said. “Those guns are tools. Nothing more. Sometimes you need them, most of the time you don't. I'm glad I have mine, but in all the years we've lived in this house, I never had to take one out in anger or fear. My guns are no different than all the tools I have out in that shed. When I need a hammer, I take it out and hammer. Then I put it away. If you enjoy them that's fine, but I never mistook one of my tools for a gold bar. Or my wife.”


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