Really Cool People

Meeting Mr. Geisler and being reminded of Henry, who grew up during the Depression

I worked a bit in the front yard today to stave off the intervention I know is coming, the one where my neighbors gently, then not so gently point out to me that my yard is a godawful eyesore, a blight on the neighborhood, so if I don’t do something about it, they’re going to … I don’t know what they’re going to do. But it’s going to be bad.

So today I attacked the weeds with a hoe, a shovel, and a rake, after first googling for instructions on how to use them. I raised a blister (google didn’t say anything about gloves), which I plan to thrust into the face of anybody that doubts my commitment to maintaining at least the bare minimum curbside appeal, and therefore do my part to preserve the property values of my own home and those of all my neighbors. Who are nice enough people. I like them. They used to like me, a year ago when I first swore I was going to do something about the weed patch that was my lawn.

So anyway, I’m out there today catching glimpses of my neighbors peeking out their windows with haughty expressions on their faces and over their meticulously kept yards, until they see that I am seeing them. Then their countenances brighten, they wave, they duck away. Along comes an elderly gentlemen escorting two Australian Shepherds, carrying a tall walking stick and a bag of, I suppose, dog poo.

He is a Mr. Geisler, he says. German, he explains, but no need. I know where Geislers are from. I brace for a dressing down, because these Germans hate disorder. I’ve visited them in their own country, so I know.

I’ve never seen this Geisler before, so I suspect the neighbors volunteered him to visit and issue the warning. Better to have a perfect stranger begin the coercion to conform to the local aesthetic standards.

Which, to be honest, are not that high. Thank god there’s no HOA here.

Anyway, Mr. Geisler surprises me by being uncharacteristically friendly for a German, and even moreso by being sanguine about the condition of my lawn.

“It’s going to take at least a couple months,” he says.

“It’s been eight so far,” I say back.

He looks it over, nods, smiles. “It is a good start, then.”

I relax, and so, contrary to my readership’s expectation at this juncture in the story, I engage him, and in so doing I learn a great deal from him, almost none of which I’ll go in to here, because none of that is why I’m bringing this little encounter up. No, the most interesting thing Mr. Geisler had to say was that he’d grown up during the Depression, and very nearly just like that: “I grew up during the Depression.”

I reeled just then on the memory of a joke, one of the very few I know how to tell – I’m miserable with jokes.

Because I liked Mr. Geisler I spared him the joke, though I was powerfully tempted to tell it to him.

I will do you no such favor.

Here it is, Wantonly abridged from the original, which was told to me by my 6th grade teacher, Mr. Larry Baugh, who I hope discovers this tidbit while googling his own name: Henry, who grew up during the Depression …

++++

This is the story of Henry, who was born during the Depression, so was used to hardships.

Henry was born to poor folk, his parents reduced to scratching dirt on their 40 acre farm, which produced so little food Henry was near to starving his entire infancy and early childhood. His father made him work just as soon as he could walk. He endured a brutal summer that burned the family’s meager planting. They reaped only enough to ration for the winter, which was also brutal. They ate a lot of turnips. Lots and lots of turnips.

But that was okay. Because Henry grew up during the Depression, so he was used to hardships.

In time Henry was a man, with his own farm, situated next to a river. The first Spring, the river flooded, and took Henry’s farmhouse.

But that was okay. Because Henry grew up during the Depression, so he was used to hardships.

Henry rebuilt his farmhouse, further back from the river, and took a wife. 9 months later, she bore him a son. But the son looked nothing like Henry, and instead rather like the postman.

But that was okay. Because Henry grew up during the Depression, so he was used to hardships.

Years later, his wife left him. His son ran away. With no wife and no son, he was unable to work the farm, so he lost it, to the bank.

But that was okay. Because Henry grew up during the Depression, so he was used to hardships.

When Henry’s old dog, Lightning, passed away, it about finished Henry. He went to the bridge over that river, on a day when the bridge was shrouded in fog. He reflected on his life, and he found himself dwelling on his current condition, which was destitute, without hope. He threw himself off the bridge, toward the river beneath the fog.

As it happened, a barge had been passing under the bridge at the moment Henry’d thrown himself off, so rather than plunging into the river, he landed on the deck of the barge with a thud.

But that was okay. Because Henry grew up during the Depression, so he was used to hard ships.

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