Archive for November, 2018

Strong, As a Gentle Man

Posted in Uncategorized on November 12, 2018 by michaelcogdill

Woodfin Parker could turn a cow or a chicken into human life.  Gentleman farmers are magicians that way.  They coax eggs and milk, butter and meat from even the poorest ground.

He needed not a smart phone or a fool’s luck to do it.  Somehow he knew how.  My uncle Woody listened to his forbears, to the uncommon good of common sense and instinct.  His little farm fed the doctors of Asheville, North Carolina.  He sold them food, they healed Appalachia.   It was good.

Together they aimed for survival, and found civilization.

My Uncle Woody waded the trench mud and dodged the mustard gas of World War I.  A relative just found out he served in France alongside Harry Truman.  I sat in the lap of that farmer, who came home from that European butchery and drove deep footings of himself into American gentleness.  Who became a part of what makes America exceptional.

He was a gentleman.  A truly gentle man.  He knew the difference between little boy fights and strong man resolve.

My Uncle Woody was a thinker, and kindly so.  Identity politics did not identify him.  He could disagree with you, and somehow you’d long to feel his catcher’s mit of a hand in yours, and to your back.  A leathery man with a velvet soul and a scythe of a mind, was he.

And what would he think of us today?

I need not carry on here about the keyboard courage of internet trolls.  Who hasn’t felt the sting of their little arrows?  The tips of their words dipped in a poison of something that masquerades at patriotism.

Woodfin Parker would not approve such. He would not cotton to it.  I so long to ask how he would feel about it, already knowing.

In his latter years. he never missed the Sunday Morning political shows, fed over the air in black and white to a man who read daily a newspaper he never expected would agree entirely with him.  I watched, and read, with him.  I listened to him.  His absence of the disagreeable made a more civilized little boy of me.   When called for, his thinking man’s words, and silence, helped make me into a man.

This veteran who fought a merciless war with mules in bloody mud still has something to say.   The family farm grows no food anymore, but his very grave nourishes a truth. Dug into a cleft off a long mountain view in little Weaverville, North Carolina, his resting place is itself a quiet messenger.  Serene as he was.  A place of pause.

Even far from that place and its steely mountain cold, I warm myself on his epitaph written only on my spirit.

There is nothing so strong as a truly gentle woman or man.

Nothing is so civilized.