I knew him when…

Published 10:02 am Wednesday, March 6, 2013

I knew him when he never ceased. A deliberate, driven mindset that accomplished great chunks of work between sunsets, as if weariness did not exist and exhaustion was a fable.

Today, his recliner whispers a constant call as he drops his frail bones between its arms and exhales with a moan.

Damn you, death!

I knew him when he had the cattle fed before light, sprayed the peanuts by noon and built a fence by sunset while planning the next day’s endeavors.

Today, he sometimes does not leave the house.

Damn you, death!

I knew him when he picked up bale after bale of Bermuda grass hay and tossed them 12 feet high under the mid-day August sun, unperturbed by great droplets of sweat soaking through his shirt.

Today he asks for help when lifting simple loads, or watches through pick-up truck glass as younger backs toil away.

Damn you, death!

I knew him when he’d scale 50-foot silos, pitchfork in hand, to move great mounds of silage as it poured in from above.

Today he seldom lets his feet rise up off the earth, aware of the dangers simple falls pose.

Damn you, death!

I knew him when he stood 6 feet tall, erect with shoulders back, agile as a cat, an easy, confident gait.

Today he stands 3 inches less, shoulders rounded forward, a more halting step, particular where he ventures out, searching for pitfalls in his path.

Damn you, death!

It’s like a pack of wild wolves, lurking in the darkness at wood’s edge, always present, always waiting, always hungry, nipping at his heels, circling as he walks, taking a morsel here, a bite there, never leaving, never tiring, eyes always on their prey.

You kick at them and throw rocks at them and curse them. But they never leave, as if they know that one day, eventually, inevitably, they will succeed.

And sometimes…….sometimes………I find them looking at me.

Damn you, death. Damn you!

REX ALPHIN of Walters is a farmer, businessman, author, county supervisor and contributing columnist for The Tidewater News. His email address is rexalphin@aol.com.