Longleaf Stories

full circle in the hundred acre wood

The A-frame house was quiet except for the bubble sounds of the coffee maker. Light was slow in coming. I stepped outside to let Maggie run around. She headed straight for the swampy area between the driveway and the lake. Squirrels chitters, fussed and raced up the trees, tails flashing. Maggie didn’t bark, but the splashing sounds told me he would return wet and winded. I called her back with two sharp blasts from the whistle aroujd my neck. Maggie is big, strong and fast, but the man who owns this land told me he had three alligators removed from the lake recently by the fish and wildlife folks. One was 8 feet, another 10 and the third 12. Maggie flew back to the whistle and slid around me like I was home plate, coming to rest by my left leg I said, “Kennel,” and she trotted over to her large plastic crate with its sheepskin bed, spinning around with her nose stuck out, waiting for a treat. I delivered, closed the kennel and walked back into the kitchen.

I was just pouring a cup of coffee for myself when The General walked in, dressed in appropriate gear, including snake boots, ready for  morning of quail hunting with his bird dogs. His wife was catching an extra forty winks and Buck was upstairs lacing his boots and preparing for the woods. I pointed The General to a box of Raisin Bran and a bowl of cut up fruit, his favorite breakfast. We walked down a short hallway to the darkened dining room, its French doors admitting a weak gray light.

We sat for maybe twenty minutes, talking quietly, before Buck came downstais. It was a privilege to share that time with this great man. I mean that sincerely. The Genera has been a retied jet fighter pilot for more than 25 years. He was shot down in World War II somewhere in eastern Europe and, with the help of the underground, walked through several countries to eventual safety, then returned to his unit to fly more missions. This man, who has seen so much and has been through personal grief the likes of which could fell a forest of big trees, sat across from me at the breakfast table, blue eyes still bright. We spoke companionably about ordinary things. He and Buck have been close friends for more than 30 years and I have known him for almost 20. Despite the differences in our ages and backgrounds, we share a deep, mutual respect and affection for each other — and we both love Buck.

There was no internet service in these deep woods. The land line phone didn’t work and even my cell phone only got every third word of a conversation to the outside. I had piled a small library of books into the truck before we left on this hastily arranged excursion, only 125 miles from our home. Buck and The General got into his truck with the dog boxes in the back, (Maggie stayed wtih me), and they headed off down the rain-rutted, root-bound road. i waved them off and started thinking about which book I might read first.

But it was not to be. I had just emerged from the shower about forty minutes later when I heard two vehicle doors slam. They were back. Rained out, with a forecast that left no doubt about the rest of the day. The trip certainly was not a total loss. The General and Buck had gotten in one afternoon of hunting on Monday, and we had all enjoyed an evening together. But for today, the weather made our decision. We packed up, said our goodbyes and headed back to our respective homes.

And so today, we have been back at our virtual trading desks, taking advantage of a great day on the market.

I’ll never forget that brief interlude, or my breakfast with The General. He knows things about life — things he doesn’t even know he knows. There are parables in his words, and the way he slowly turns a fork at the table over and over in slow rotation, tells me much about the stories he cannot tell tell without breaking his heart or mine.

Speak. Leave a memory.

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