For two years (another reason I didn't blog at all!) I was a freelance contributor to our local newspaper, Commonwealth Journal. I wrote feature articles, mainly for their insert magazines, and also contributed my photography.
One of my favorite subjects, and articles, was a man who lived in Sawyer, Kentucky, in a very rural part of McCreary County not far from Cumberland Falls (and near the delightful hamlet of Honey Bee!). Oscar Hamilton was 92 when I interviewed him in January 2015 and spryer than either myself or my husband. He showed us around his farm, and brought us to the largest white pine tree in Kentucky. We visited for a while and before we left he gave us a quart of some lovely, dark unpasteurized wild honey that he put up. We promised to come back and visit in the spring when he wanted to give us some of his blackberry starts. We never did.
The other day I thought I'd look up Oscar again and make plans to go see him. Almost immediately I found his obituary. He died last October 10th at the age of "94 years, 10 months, and 24 days." It saddened me to learn this, not that he didn't have a good, long life, but for selfish reasons: we never got to see him again.
I know his life was full and he spent all of it on his farm in Sawyer, at the edge of the Cumberland River (made into Lake Cumberland when he was a younger man). But to think of the world without Oscar in it–well, it just makes me sad. We both knew many "old timers" like him back in New Hampshire–old bachelor farmers, or widowers, who were self-reliant and survived many of life's tribulations and passages, but always on their own steam and with their own resources. They are, indeed, a dying breed of men.
One of the first things Oscar shared with me (I didn't ask) was that he was a life-long registered Democrat. It used to be that most people in rural Appalachia were Democrats, before the Reagan era, in particular, and before other issues hijacked the Republican party (I'm not getting political here, I promise: one reason I'm on a social media diet right now). So I would have liked to have asked Oscar what his thoughts were on the very contentious 2016 presidential year.
We were glad to at least have met Oscar on that cold January day. And at 54 I'm realizing that there might not always be a "next time."
I also got to thinking about Oscar today as this would have been my father-in-law Tom Pond's 90th birthday: **March 9, 2017. Another great man but from a very different world as Oscar. A person is alive only as long as they live in people's memories: two of my children remember their grandfather and our youngest was only a year when "Badda" died in June 2011. Too soon–but there is never a right time to lose someone you love.
I'm going to try and upload the pages of the article here in this post: just click on the images, below, to enlarge and read.
You come back when you're ready!
**March 9 is also our Old Order Mennonite friend Melvin Hurst's birthday (he is 66 today-another self-reliant soul-and his wife, Anna, is my best friend here). It is also Elisha Wilson's birthday. Another Kentucky native, Elisha is very much like Oscar but only a few decades younger–he installed the miles of fencing here on the farm and is true blue. We couldn't be here without any of them.