Blond, blue-eyed boy in a sepia toned photo from the 40’s…shirtless, baggy khakis belted crookedly around a muscled middle. His leggy little sister, with the million dollar smile is balanced on his shoulders. Summer time. Middletown, Ohio. Goofing around. Even in black and white, they seem to glow.
Nature’s first green is gold
Her hardest hue to hold.
His bicycle clatters along the Devil’s Backbone…Middletown to Grandad’s Preble County Farm. Haying. The horses he loved.
The raft he made broke on the levee of the Miami River the afternoon he ran away the first time.
Indianapolis Bus Station—another time—he’s returned to Ohio by a friendly driver when he couldn’t pay the fare out west.
Optimist yearbook 1952…on a diving board, in tennis whites, a god on the starting blocks. The town made a grass court for him to practice on when he made Jr. Tennis Nationals back then. Summertime, all the kids came running when word got out Fritz was diving at the town pool.
Her early leaf’s a flower;
But only so an hour.
Black leather jacket to balance something in him out…motorcycle, a cigarette hangs off the corner of his mouth. James Dean before James Dean was discovered.
Army greens. Bar Fight Korea. The other guy passed out first but not before he cut a slice across my Uncle’s throat with a broken bottle, leaving a memorable scar for many barroom yarns to come. The point was always that the other guy passed out first.
White Tux. He cuts a wedding cake with Aunt Linda in her Mother’s fine lace wedding dress. They could be magazine models. Movie Stars. He makes his way west with her at last. They leave their fancy duds behind.
He leans against the helicopter, outfitted for adventure. The fire service calls. He jumps.
White t-shirt….Wrangler jeans. Windblown hair…work gloves, lasso.
A mixed herd: One, two, three, four, five…tow headed children…sheep, cows and horses. In cowboy boots, hat, flannels, chaps, he shoes the horses, castrates sheep, runs hunters up into the wilderness mountains behind his place in Colorado.
Comes up over the rise, backlit, brown-skinned, sure hands on the reins and the signature cigarette. Someone says the Marlborough People approached him to be their Man one time. Naw, he said. I’m not yer man.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
Years and years and years go by. His hands freeze up, his back stiffens. There at the treeline, the man in the worn hat saddles up his mule, peers over the beast’s neck, eyes still steely blue under bushy brows, and says without saying it, quit foolin’ around, we gotta head back. Storm’s coming.
Cancer works its way to his bones. Puts him to rest at the foot of the mountain at last, but not without another good fight, a fireside tale, and one of his favorite poems:
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.
Remembering my Uncle Fritz Foutz 1936-2012. Enigmatic Uncle, storyteller, mandolin player, horseman. May he be looking down from the mountain satisfied to have lived the dream of his childhood imagination, having left his unique mark on all he encountered.
“Nothing Gold Can Stay" by Robert Frost
BLR For the Poplar Grove Muse, August, 2012