TONY J BENDER: That’s Life — Our Gang’s Got a Hole in It

We all know how this works. The older we get the more often we’re reminded of it. Each entrance begets an exit. We contemplate these things as grandparents and parents get slow and gray, as we track the lines in our face in the mirror some mornings. But I never imagined a world without Gary Edwin Schlosser in it. Gare Bare we called him.

There was Gare Bare, Al Cat, Whitey, Witte, Woof Dog, Jaye Bird, Katie, Hawkeye, Mary, Rietta and me — I was Bones. It was magic, a confluence of stars and planets and characters, an alliance of destiny and chance, an ordained roll of the dice. We were best friends, all of us, and we still are over time, space, and now, dimensions.

We came together as kids, then scattered on the four winds like dandelion puffs. But Gare Bare remained, carving out a living and a life on the family farm at the edge of town, bracketed by the river to the west and by the town to the east and north. There’s a pasture and a gravel pit to the south.

In recent summers, he’d post pictures on Facebook of his garden, the campfires he loved, of deer stealing apples from his trees, and always he ended with “Life is great in Frederick, S.D.” Like he was an ambassador or something. Well, he was. I don’t know if tourism picked up much in the wake of these advertisements, but it would have ruined things if it had.

Our gang gathered in pastures and shelter belts, at a slough we called Lake Metigoshe, under the stars, beers in hand, reveling in moments we all subconsciously knew would end. Sometime. Someday. But not then. We cruised gravel roads at the speed old farmers go as they study the progress of the wheat, as they snoop past a neighbor’s new grain bin.

Once, when three of us were packed into the back seat, Gare Bare and I started jostling around, and I’m not sure how it happened, but his door flung open and suddenly he was gone. Horrified, Witte braked his parents’ Impala to a stop, and we scrambled out to find him crawling out of the ditch under the red glow of the tail lights, tire tracks on the sleeve of his winter jacket. “I got runned over,” he said, unscathed.

For me, it was a Tom Sawyer existence, but Gare Bare came from another place, a “Midsummer Night’s Dream.” He was Puck. A jolly instigator, a marshmallow imp, and when he really got things going good, he didn’t laugh. He giggled, and it was infectious.

When we were teens, he so agitated me once that I throttled him. There he was, lying on his back giggling as I kiddingly and lightly (I thought) choked him on the floor of the Ponderosa Bar. But when he went limp in mid-giggle, I thought I’d killed him.

That would have ruined everything.

I’m glad we had him as long as we did.

It could have been a heart attack. His was a big one, unconstrained by his body.

If you ever met him, you loved him. He probably was getting ready for church, and if so, he had a lot of catching up to do. But he’ll be all right out there in the universe. How could it be any other way? He was a blessing and we were blessed. How can you wake to the sun and sleep under the moon, and miss the divinity?

A blink. A streak. A spark. A flash. A wisp. Lightning. Thunder. Calm. So is life, and in between the best lives, laughter, that in this case, defies Newton’s Third Law. For all the tears shed for Gare Bare, there will always be more laughter. A perfectly imbalanced cosmic teeter-totter.

Damn, I’m going to miss him. I’ll still drive by his place as I always did when I hit town to see if he was home. I can still feel the warmth of the last campfire we shared on my shins. I hold in my mind an image of two friends in recline against the windshield, legs sprawled across the hood, watching an impossible night sky, laughing, philosophizing, drinking cheap beer and cultivating rich memories.

A friend shared with me something his tribe says at times like this: “I’m going to miss him fierce.” I will. Fierce.

Things are still great in Frederick, S.D., and always will be, but things are a little less great today and so will it be forever.

© Tony Bender, 2019

Leave a Reply