Thursday, July 11, 2013

Charlie: Introduction

Charlie: Introduction
By Rob Watson

I have been thinking about writing about my friend Charlie for a while now. These stories could be said to be the history of a friendship but they are really the history of a unique character who happens to be my friend.

Charlie is over 6 feet (2 meters) tall, weighs about 220 pounds (100kg)and is a second generation American of German immigrants.  He can be heard, from time to time, speaking in his families native tongue and even recognizes the few words I know of that language. As of this writing he is 86 years of age, the second of 6 children. He and his wife raised two adopted children to successful adulthood. The son died a few years ago in an auto accident. Because of his generous nature, he treats all the children of his daughter-in-law as his own grandchildren, even though only two are the natural children of his son.

Six or so years ago Wife and I bought a commercial building in State. While wife cleared up business in the old state I was here getting things in order and starting on my new job as science and ecology teacher. One Sunday after church I went to the popular and only restaurant in town. Every table was taken. An older gentleman and his wife occupied a table for four a few feet away. The gentleman, Charlie, invited me to join them. This began our association.

Born in 1927, Charlie grew up during the great depression, the dust bowl days of this region, and served during the last years of world war II. He speaks of the hardships and challenges of those days infrequently, usually only if asked. He does frequently pass along the advice given him by his father: "Put your labor where the money is." He is also very conservative when it comes to parting with his hard earned cash. Most of these stories will document how we made things from the piles of junk he accumulated over the years.

Do not be mislead by the above description. When an investment is needed there is no hesitation. However a bit of patience usually yields the needed item for a greatly reduced price. Often acquired from someone who has it and no longer needs it. He has many sources.

The second thing I learned about Charlie (The first being he never met a stranger) was that he knows everybody and everything about everybody. While he seldom speaks ill of anyone, there are folks with whom he will not do business, ask for, or grant favors. I have traveled with Charlie a great deal. In all the places we have stopped, all the places, he will find one or several folks he knows and calls by name, discusses a mutual interest, or catches up on family events. We never hurry anywhere. While driving through the local area, a radius of 50 or so miles, He can give you the name of the owner of nearly every parcel of land, the genealogy of the owner, and whether they are good stewards of their land.

The thing we most often disagree over is what is fun. Charlie's idea of fun is driving around the country examining the crops. He will stop in the road, stroll into a nearby field, dig up a sprouting seed, or pluck a grain head, and patiently explain, to me, the condition of the crop. He thinks work is fun. More than that, no job is ever finished. you will see this frequently in the chapters that follow. The closest we ever got to fun was the time I talked him into a trip to the casino. His usual response to such requests is "I'm a farmer, I don't need to go to the casino to gamble. Everything I do is a gamble." My winning argument was "At the casino You only risk $5. And, the payoff is seconds away instead of 10 months." He won $5 playing blackjack. We almost went fishing once, as well.

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