Friday, March 6, 2009

I'll Call Him Bob

A man I know. I’ll call him Bob. Finds God by rolling a wheelbarrow. He takes the wheelbarrow out of his garage in the morning, and he rolls it all day long.

He lives in a place where this isn’t a nuisance. Or a menace. It’s out in farm country. Out where there’s nothing but corn and soybeans in summer and a house here and there. A town here and there. A town in which there is maybe a gas station, a church, and a bar. A few houses scattered around like pebbles on the prairie.

A place where the people call themselves Ethel and Homer and Clyde and Stan and Gertrude and Amelia and Josiah and Ruth. A place that looks a little like a Grant Wood painting except for the absence these days of old-fashioned windmills and horses and the presence of machinery.

Bob lives with his mother, Doris. His brothers and sister are all married with children and live this way and that. His father’s deceased.

Bob’s been simple all his life. Born that way. He doesn’t talk. He hums and yodels. He sounds a little like he’s singing the blues when he hums and yodels, from time to time. Sometimes it’s hard to find a tune in what he’s singing. Sometimes it’s hard to find the most simple of themes.

But then other times he seems to have found something. Something complex and a little bluesy and jazzy. Something Chick Corea might have made. Or no. Something Mississippi John Hurt and Chick Corea might have made together.

He has a route. It’s about a 30 mile route. It takes him past Daisy’s and Isaiah’s and Lyle’s places. His sister’s and brothers’ places. It takes him by Preacher John’s place. It takes him through the town of Paradise, with its one gas station, one church, and one bar. And it takes him through miles and miles of farmland.

Doris packs his lunch for him. Puts it and three bottles of water in a worn canvas knapsack. After breakfast and not long after dawn, he sets out. He sings and he rolls. He looks all around. He looks into the empty wheelbarrow. A wheelbarrow full of air.

But if he could talk, he would tell you the wheelbarrow is not full of air. He would say that it is full of an angel. A brightly burning angel. An angel who sings out a music that makes and remakes the world. That sustains everything. And is beautiful.

And so he sings along with the angel. He sings whatever the angel is singing. And what the angel sings sounds to him a little like a violin and a little like a saxophone and a little like a person singing. It has a silvery tone to it. But this modulates back and forth into gold. More of a gold tone sometimes.

And so he carries the angel in his wheelbarrow. The color of the wheelbarrow is red. Red, the color of the sun in the evening on the prairie. Which Bob washes every evening when he gets back home. Douses with soap and water each evening and wipes down with a shammy. Actually several shammies that his mother hangs to dry for the next day. And the next and the next.

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