Mother, Mother! Tim’s getting clobbered!
Sprinting through the front door I blurted the report. My mom’s face conveyed both alarm and puzzlement.
My brother survived the fracas. But the image itself seemed crazy. A Samurai Wrestler in a delicate ballet twirl would be more probable. Today’s incident was a thuggish brute who happened to spot a random kid – who happened to be my brother. And pouncing.
Actually Tim did fight. Not in this way. He fought throughout most his lifetime, and with valor.
Tim’s actual fighting was about goodness. Indeed, Tim fought to be a good person. To those near him, though, his struggle toward goodness appeared to be hardly a struggle at all. He breathed goodness. So it often seemed. For me, his kid brother who more typically breathed mischief, this was disconcerting. Once our dad suspected us of cigarette smoking and approached me about it.
Do you boys sometimes smoke?
Mm, well, I think Tim might. Mischief.
But I idolized my big brother. We were little when I overheard mother say to a friend, Tim doesn’t eat tomotos. . . He also dislikes coconut and, Oh yes, pineapple. This was intel enough for me. If Tim shuns these things there is good reason for it. Mom could mark them off her grocery list.
I did acquire a taste for all three foods later in life. Once I sampled them.
To whatever measure they may have troubled him, Tim went to war against impoliteness. Rudeness and discourtesy. Years after our childhood days I heard him say to his Bible class, A practice in our home is to reserve the phrase ‘Shut up’, for only addressing the dog.
I admired him. I envied him. And I was ticked with him. Why did my brother need to be so stinking pleasant? And compliant?
Detecting goodness in him was fairly easy. Not stuffiness, though. He wasn’t Goody-two-shoes but was loads of fun. With a year and a month and a day separating our ages we did a lot together.
One of the things we did, we climbed things.
We climbed trees. Pear trees, Pecan trees, Willow trees. I watched Tim fall from one.
He fractured a wrist and his reconfigured forearm held me hypnotized the whole way to the hospital. Though clearly hurting, he handled the ordeal well. In the 1950s a bone fracture was a big deal. To set his arm the nurse put him under with ether-soaked cotton. It set in motion a bout of serious vomiting. He was miserable and didn’t make a fuss. No whining. Not a complaint really. I was impressed. Wow.
In our teen years Dad introduced useful outlets for our climbing zeal. He referred us to the steering wheel of a farm tractor. We climbed aboard. And many times thereafter.
Hay season found Tim steering the big red Farmall. He towed a mowing piece to the meadows. Once cut, the grass lay under the July sun to cure. My squatty orange Allis Chalmers required bailing wire to keep the shift controls in second gear. A multi-pronged hay rake followed behind the Allis. Once I raked the long grass into windrows, Dad wrapped up the process. He drew the grassy aroma into his lungs. Then guided his equipment to finish the baling operation for that meadow. Winter feed for his small cattle herd.
Tim and I kept climbing. Livestock chutes at the rodeo grounds across from our farm. Perched above the bull pens, we adjusted our straw hats and rested our chins on the heels of our open hands. Like the ranch-men did at the animal auctions. What fun – up here with my big brother. Adjusting our position, we surveyed the grown-up wranglers practicing their calf-roping.
We didn’t tire of climbing. The two of us climbed onto the back of Old Bill. Riding horseback meant free entrance to our annual Rodeo events – even if riding double.
The most thrilling climbing was to the top of Greenwood Lake’s High Platform. Well above the water surface the platform reigned. It overlooked the diving boards further down. Greenwood – beloved pond-turned-swimming hole at the edge of town. And the platform. Stationed behind my brother I looked down and shivered. Tim was standard-bearer. If Tim was gutsy enough to fling himself out over the waters from way up there, well. . .
My brother Tim and my sister, Betty – each influenced me toward good. They conveyed wisdom. Unconsciously at times. Each brought significant insights my way at some crucial times. One of the harshest – and most helpful – statements I took in as a kid came at me through clenched teeth. Tim’s.
During an especially obnoxious stage of my teenage years Tim shocked me to sanity. Or at least to consider it. Annoyed again by my asinine antics he abruptly turned my way. He had it with me this time. His voice levelled.
You know, Jerry, you’re a punk. That’s what you are. Nothing but a punk!
His words seared. Like a hay hook going in. Tim had rebuked me with good cause at other times. But this is the time I remember. Following the correction I assessed, as well as I might, the words, nothing but a Punk. I resolved to work hard. At changing. First, I realized punk-behavior mode when I saw it. Until that rebuke, I hadn’t seen it – really seen it – in myself. Years later I reminded him of the strong medicine he dispensed that day. Tim didn’t seem to recall it. We laughed.
Faithful are the wounds of a friend*
He was the best of brothers, the best of friends.
Timothy Arthur Lout August 28, 1944 – July 6, 2010
©2015 Jerry Lout