STATE OF MIND

Inserting the key into the lock silently I thanked John for leaving it. The rusty gate hinge gave its familiar drawn out squeaky greeting as I entered the “Consulate” as it is known to all of us who visit John since his move to Portugal in 2006. I have only missed one year coming to this, my place of retreat, cleansing of my soul, my mind, what I call my sanctuary.
I work hard all year long, dealing with each problem as it arises(both home and work), hopefully in a matter which will let people (and the wife) know I really care about the situation I am currently in and trying to resolve. Like everyone I need my vacation to just get away to forget the worries and care of life , to regenerate that spark inside so I can continue one more year. I didn’t get that last year and by the middle of this summer I could feel I had over extended and just needed to get away. John had informed me he would not be home upon my arrival, so had arranged for a friend Dave to pick me up. As I approached the inner double door, I noticed the wood stack on the left was gone, about time I thought, thinking back to how many years ago John and I had cut and stacked it there. Going through the door I looked to the right and smiled, yes the forge and bellows. What a magnificent pair they are. I have spend many relaxing hours with this pair as I reached over and gently patted the top of his anvil. Looking to the left the Danish Ensign still hangs on the front of his ceiling high cabinets. Even though the sun is shining it is very dark in here and I instantly know why, looking up as I enter the open inter court area I see a year’s growth of grape vines still doing their job of providing shade. I’ve never been here in the heat of the summer, but I understand how important these vines are to the Consulate for shade and keeping it cool. The upper deck had two sides covered, the inner court where I am is topped and the open front side is also covered with vines. John has trained them up the back wall of the area as well. There are two sources for these vines, one being in a dirt spot next to the south wall, these vines are the ones covering the inner courtyard. The other source comes from the kitchen! When John moved in this old grape vine was growing in a dirt patch on the back wall, so he provided it a place to continue to grow and built his kitchen around it. He has an opening for it to go outside, and had trained it to the top deck, patio, northwest wall. Yes they give lots of grapes and most people here in Portugal press their own wine. John doesn’t he just wants the shade, so the grapes go to the neighbors, who in return give him some of the “fruit of the vine” later on.
Just before I turn to my left, approaching the rock stair case leading to the upper room, I gaze upon the large stone slab covering the ground to my right. Affixed to the kitchen wall are two headstones, one for Jessica and the other for Conan. Jessica was John’s bulldog who moved from Denmark to Portugal with John. She was very special and I can’t tell you how much he loved this little girl. I could see the effect on John the year I came down after she died, very noticeable. He swore he’d never get another one, yet the following year I was introduced to Conan, he was a special guy as well (also English Bulldog). Now they are gone, he just has a cat. Much easier for John to take care of, but just not the same.
At the top of the staircase Istep on the stone surface leading to the room. I set my day pack down and open the door and am greeted with the slight rush of warm air as I enter. Looking to my right the shutters are open letting the warm fall sun in. I can smell the room had been closed for some time, so I set my gear down at the foot of the bed, go over and allow some of the great fresh fall air in. As I open the window I breathe deeply, put my hands on the window sill and look out over the view – mountains. The one thing Denmark doesn’t have I really miss. These aren’t Idaho mountains, but they fill the void.
After stowing my gear I head back down to the kitchen. I might add John’s kitchen is special. It is a completely separate room from the rest of the house. The first year I was here, it was a three sided room, completely open facing the south. Along the back wall from left to right is the fridge, gas stove and cabinet. Assorted cast iron skillets and pots hand from hooks on the roof beams. Above the stove coming out of the rock wall is his grape vine’s main trunk heading out its own little special window. Before I arrived the second year, John had a wooden wall built for the kitchen. This is special as it is panels hinged together so they could open and fold back against the rock structure. When fully closed a door is incorporated in this very ingenious design so if he wanted he could leave it open, then in the winter rainy months it can be closed up, snug as a bug in a rug.
I did the first natural thing when entering a kitchen, I opened the fridge, low and behold the lower shelf was full of beer bottles. He knows I enjoy nice cool one, so he had a few chilling for me. I reach in and grabbed one. As these are not twist off, I looked over the table and found the church key hanging in its proper place, with a quick movement the top was off. As John wasn’t home, there was only one place to go – the top deck, so I headed out side, back the way I entered. After closing the squeaky gate and a few steps up the street, I turned to my right, climbing the rock stairs. Oh, a new gate at the top. Going through it I turned immediately to my right, opened another new gate and stepped up onto the deck. Looking around I spied an old canvas deck chair folded up laying on the table. Sitting my beer down I proceeded to erect this canvas wonder and placed it in the sun. Ah, yea as I sat down. Propping my feet up on the railing I gazed out over the Portuguese landscape. Way down I can hear some vehicles on the road. I can hear a couple motorcycles on some mountain dirt road. I look up and see a few birds flying. I got my warm vest on as there is a slight breeze blowing . To my left I see the Idaho State flag is flying in honor of my arrival. To my right the Danish flag is flying as should be for the “Southern Danish Consulate”. I secure my beer from the table and take a long draw, afterwards just resting it on my waste between both hands I close my eyes and feel the warm sun on my face. Yes – vacation, I can now relax.

ARE THEY YOUNGER OR AM I OLDER

I was sitting in the dentist’s chair this morning looking at this very young gal who claimed to be the dentist. I wasn’t really listening to what she was saying, rather I was thinking, Holy cow, she is so young, how can she really know what she is doing?, yet she was very professional and did good.
The other morning I stopped in a place to get a cup of coffee and spend my telephone time reading a bit, having a cup of coffee and enjoying my morning. I was greeted by what seemed like a very young, smiley guy. As I placed my order I wondered why this kid wasn’t in school. With coffee in hand, walking away I thought, “ I wonder just how old he is”? Then I began to look at myself.
When I began to shoe horses here in Denmark I was 36, still had a full head of hair. I got a couple customers I picked up then and still do their horses today. One in particular I remember she had one kid in arm and the other one in a carriage. Today both these gals have grown into young, good looking ladies in their twenties. And it only seems like just yesterday they were about a foot and a half long!!
I would be driving down the road and come up behind a car just putting along, seemingly in no big hurry to get anywhere. As I would pass the car I would glance at the driver, yep look at that old guy in the hat. I wonder if he really knows what he is doing? Today as I drive down the road, not really in a big hurry to get anywhere, thinking about if I will have time to squeeze in a few holes of golf, cars zip around me in a big hurry. As I glance at the driver I seen them looking at me sometimes. I bet they are thinking: Look at that old, gray bearded guy in the hat. I wonder if he really knows what he is doing?
Where did the time go? I look back and it has gone by so fast. 2018 just got a start and we are already one fourth of the way through March! How did the time get by me so fast? I remember so many years ago an “old guy” once told me: If you get the chance in life to do something, do it, because there will come a time in your life when you won’t be able to do it, and you don’t want to think, “Gee why didn’t I do that”! I have taken lots of chances in life and done a lot of things, gone a lot of places and glad I did. I’ve had people sometimes think I was crazy for the chances I’ve taken or the things I have done, but looking back now I have had a fun life.
I remember once during my professional guide life I thought to myself, “Gee, I am getting paid to do what other people are paying to do”. Hunting, fishing, floating the Salmon River, driving jet boats, living in the wilderness area. I can look back on all those experiences and smile. I look back on my life so far enjoy it. I have had some people tell me they can’t believe I have done the things I have done – I really don’t care what other people think, I know what I have done and where I have been. I am thankful for the adventures I have taken and the fact God has been watching over me because sometimes I could have been in deep trouble out there by myself.
In moving to Denmark I gave up the best job I ever had in my life, but other doors opened to me and I’ve gone places and done things I never would have if I had remained in Idaho. I see and know so many people who are afraid to step out and take a chance. Remember, sometimes those golden opportunities only knock once at your door and if you don’t take them you will have to settle for second best. Even at my age now I am still getting new chances and opportunities which I will continue to take advantage of. Don’t be one of those who is afraid to take a chance. Yes I have had failures, but they were also something. Physically now I can’t do a lot of things I did earlier, but I still got the memories and I can’t say, “I wonder what it would have been like if I had done that”!

NEVER TOO LATE

This has been the story of my life – the things I want to do or enjoy have always come later in life. I guess through it all I have learned it is never too late to do something.
I wanted to join the army and fly, but 1 December, 1974 put a stop to that – I took a ricochet from a pistol in my right eye ending my flying and delaying my military career until late in life – age 26. By this time most guys have enlisted and completed eight or nine years. When I went to basic training I was called “old man” as I was the oldest in my platoon. Yet even with the late start and not getting to do what I really wanted to do I managed to have a Reserve career spanning over 22 years and I achieved the rank of Sergeants Major and now enjoy a retirement. In a way I felt a little left out as I already had a civilian career under way, but I was privileged to serve my country and contribute as I feel everyone should.
I’d been married and got divorced in 1984. After living in Pasco, Washington for a year, I moved back to Idaho and somehow got into riding saddle bronc. Here I am in my late twenties starting something which is a young man’s game (much younger than me). At my age most rough stock riders are in the second half of their career. I had a ball. I traveled to central Oregon, Northern Nevada, and many rodeos in Idaho. I didn’t make any money, but one thing I can tell you – there is nothing like coming out of the chute on that eight second ride!
I was around 30yrs old when my brother and I took a hunting trip with our horses in to the Salmon River Wilderness area in Central Idaho. While there I got offered a job as a guide and packer. On our way out my brother asked me, “You’re going to take that job aren’t you?” I replied, “You bet, this job has been offered to me and it is one most guys would give their right arm to do. Lots of guys pay to go to guide schools to get a job”. So began another episode in my life – professional guide/packer. I will have to say it was the best time of my life, so good I wrote a book about it.
Low and behold at age 36 I up and move to Denmark, half way around the world. The clincher to my move was there was an Army Reserve Command in Germany so I didn’t have to give up my long range goal of a military retirement. So here I planted roots and started a business as a farrier. Late in life I am beginning all over again. It was hard work and there were also hard times but I stayed with it and soon was able to enjoy a nice life.
My job in the army was infantry, but my war didn’t come until the end of my career. I was in year 19 when I answered the call to war. In 2003 I deployed and wouldn’t get back home for about 14 months. The worst part was I didn’t get to do what I was trained to do. I would have rather been in an infantry unit up front fighting the enemy, yet I ended up in the rear as the Rear G3 Sergeants Major of V Corps, doing a job we combat arms guys always detest, but I did my job to the best of my ability. After I moved up to Baghdad, I made contacts with an infantry platoon and was able to go out on night patrol with one of their squads. It was great, just being one of the guys, not in charge of anything, just taking care of my sector. I was out with these guys every chance I got, at minimum once a week. At age 47 I was finally getting to do what I was trained to do and enjoyed every minute.
So now I reach another late in life challenge – farrier competition. Last year I got talked into going to Las Vegas to attend the final for the World Championship of Blacksmiths. I entered the novice class, at first did I feel stupid – an old guy in this class with a bunch of young farriers, but no one said anything about it. I had a great time. I told a friend of mine I wanted to go back again this coming December so he said he would help me. I am not the best at forging. I can make shoes I need for the horses I work on, but for competition it takes lots of practice, practice. I got problems with my shoulders and arms, but it is fun and I am going to do it. I have just entered another competition in June, so I am pounding iron. Again I am entered in a lower class and will find myself against lots of younger farriers. I am having a good time and figure if I don’t do it now I may not have another chance.
We only go through life one time. If I’d put off things because I was too old, I would have missed out on so many good times in life. Yea, many times it is late in life, but at least I gave it a shot and had fun. After all, what is life if we don’t have some fun?