Certain characters loom large from my youth. One lived across an alley from our house. Others I met later at my first job off the farm.
Mr. Hagen was across the alley. A retired fellow by the time I got to know him, he had a first name but I don’t remember it. He was always Mr. Hagen to me. He was honest, hard-working to a fault, apparently devoted to his wife, loved to tell tall tales, generous, and a first-class gardener.
Mr. Hagen’s gardens: no weeds, big green growing plants, walkways, and continuous harvest throughout the fall. He spent hours on end days on end in that garden. People would find him there and start long chats over the back gate or sitting in his swing.
What made Mr. Hagen interesting was the confluence of exaggerated traits he presented in a short package. He could talk forever, liked to talk to anyone and everyone, smoked stinky cigars, told these long convoluted stories that somehow kept you engaged to the end, and salted his language with healthy, or maybe unhealthy, doses of earthy vocabulary.
I can’t say that I remember any terrible words he taught me—his words were, in today’s context, pretty tame. But I can still remember those long conversations wherein he instilled the idea that I could probably do whatever I set out to do. I didn’t know then whether that was true, and I’m not so sure now, but the thought certainly makes you look beyond. I owe his memory that—far horizons.
© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2010
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