That evening, I was thinking about Jack‘s story and while I was sitting in my usual spot at the bar, motioned Julie over to me. “How long have you known Jack”?
“He has been here forever so I suppose that I have known him for most of my adult life” she said. “I was born here and my Mom lives in the next village over”
“What about your Dad”, I asked.
“My Dad died when I was very young so I hardly knew him”.
“Sorry”, I mumbled feeling like an idiot, “I shouldn’t have brought it up”. Julie moved away to serve another customer giving me time to think about life in a small Adirondack Village and how complicated it can be.
The next day, Bill Smith, one of Jack’s friends called me and asked if I would be interested in giving him a hand to finish some work on his hunting cabin. It would mean staying over for a couple of days but the cabin had plenty of room and it was warm. It didn’t take too much to convince me as after all, I was on vacation and didn’t have to be anywhere. Jack apparently had told him that I was pretty handy with tools and a willing worker so we arranged for him to pick me up and together we drove several miles up the mountain and into the woods until we came to a real log cabin. It was not huge, probably around 1200 square feet but it was very nice. It was the sort of place that a man could easily get lost in it was so peaceful.
Bill was another talker and kept up an endless stream of chatter both as we drove and after we arrived. He had been born in this cabin more than seventy years ago but you could never have guessed it from the way he moved and how he looked. He didn’t look more than sixty years old he was in such good shape. He had spent a lifetime as a Game Warden and knew the mountains like the back of his hand. A very handy sort of fellow to have around on a hunting trip. He had been married but his wife had died a few years earlier. He lived alone in his bachelor house and seemed to be content with his lot.
“Do you think you could repair this fireplace and chimney” Bill asked after we had arrived.
I walked around and took a look at the work. “Sure, no problem” I told him and it wasn’t as I had built fireplaces and stone chimneys in my early days when I had a small construction company and I specialized in that sort of work. “Got any mortar mix handy” I asked
“In the shed over there. Do you need a wheelbarrow and a I have some Masons tools that you could use”?
So I spent the rest of the day working with stone and mortar as I repaired both the fireplace and the following day working on the chimney. I was a little concerned that they would freeze as frost was forecast for that evening but Bill had plenty of old sacks and blankets to wrap around our finished work. He worked just as hard as me carrying rocks and mixing mortar and even though I was more than twenty years younger than him, he more than held his own.
Even without the use of the fireplace due to the repairs, Bill had some oil heaters the quickly warmed the place up to keep us warm. he turned out to be a pretty good cook and had brought some venison with him, stuff I hadn’t tasted in years. He brought out a bottle of scotch and we sat down swapping stories of our different past’s. A lot of what he talked about really emphasized how close he was to nature and all of those years as a Game Warden. I, in the meantime, was storing all of the stuff away hoping that I might be able to use it later in my writing. Like Jack, he came real close to telling me something and even though I gave him the opening, he didn’t take it and I was left feeling frustrated with both of their’s ability to tell me what was bothering them.
The next day, we finished the work and Bill drove back down the hill towards the village. For myself, I felt really good about performing the physical labor and even though my body was tired, I had a very healthy feeling in my mind and I felt more at peace with myself than I had done in a long time.
“How can I repay you” Bill asked as we drove down the mountain.
“You don’t owe me anything as I really enjoyed doing the work” I replied.
“No” he said “I don’t want to ever be in anyones debt and need to give you something”.
I thought about it for a while as we drove down the hill and how easy it would be to suggest a sum of money but that is not why I said I would help. Anyway, I was very grateful for the couple of days we spent together as he was a very interesting man.”Tell you what, how about you buy me a beer at the Bar and we can call it even”.
We arrived back at my Hotel and I immediately jumped in the shower to let the hot water run over my aching body. I prided myself on keeping in shape but as I normally didn’t do physical labor, I was surprised how sore my muscles were. Ten minutes later, I was dressed and heading over to the Steak House Restaurant to feed my sore body and then to stop at the Bar and finish off the evening watching Julie as she went about her business. I don’t know what it was about her apart from the obvious but she sure did give me a lot of pleasure just watching her move.