Saturday, October 26, 2013

Fishing with Black Velvet

2nd Cousin Lenny shares a dipper of spring water with John and Kathy in 1944

     The Northern Tier of Pennsylvania knows fishing and knows how to send off a fisherman after his last cast.

     If there's one thing that distinguishes the Northern Tier counties in Pennsylvania it's their independent spirit. My cousin Lenny was a good example. When he graduated from high school he cut the bondage cord that held him in unreasonable servitude on my mean grandfather's farm and moved with his mother to a small apartment in town. He was already working 2 jobs to achieve his independence and soon had three. He worked as a snow plow driver, assembly line worker, deliveryman, road crew, farmer, scout master, postmaster, meals-on-wheels driver as well as untold other occupations that I don't know about.
     That independence includes thought and action as well as economics. Lenny was never a slave to conventional wisdom and considered anyone who hadn't figured out what was going on for themselves a damn fool. His actions were always based on doing the right thing even if it was harder, took more energy, or appeared unconventional. When his wife developed Alzheimer's, he told me, "People are afraid to come around Elaine anymore. Hell she hasn't recognized me for a couple years but that doesn't mean she doesn't need and enjoy a good conversation about the weather, TV, the garden, or how's she feeling."
     After the "non-memorial" service at the church where he was a member for 40 years, we were all invited to an informal coffee and cake gathering. Many of the conversations about Lenny seemed to involve fishing trips mostly to Canada and all with some Black Velvet along for comfort. 
     At a gravesite service for just the family, the soon to be ordained minister serving Lenny's church as well as 3 others, intoned the required platitudes and scriptures and then folded his hands and bowed his head for a moment of silence, at which point his daughter Brenda said, "We're not done yet!" Her son when back to the van and returned with a cooler of Coors, a bag of shot glasses, and a bottle of Black Velvet, Special Reserve. We raised a final toast to Lenny and all his fishing trips and good deeds and chased it down with the Coors. 
     Now that's a Northern Tier send-off for a fine guy who knew how to live, how to work, and how to  fish.

Jim, John, Patty, Brenda - Notice the Coors and shot glass next to the ash box.