December 15th, 2008

Keeping the Treasure
By Neil M. Travis, Montana/Arizona

Bud; that's the only name I ever heard anyone call him. He was an old widower who lived down the dirt road from our house, and my mother used to send me down to his place with a plate of cookies, or a fresh baked apple pie. Mother said she felt sorry for him since his wife was gone. My father would go down and help him cut up his winter supply of wood or fix his fences.

For me Bud was a fascinating man. He was never was too busy to talk to a small boy with a big curiosity, and he knew everything about all the things that young boys are curious about. He could skin a rabbit, track a deer, catch a trout with a fly he tied himself, whittle a whistle from a willow twig, and paddle a canoe down a river without tipping over. He knew the names of all the birds, the trees in the woods, the wildflowers that bloomed in the spring, and even the stars that filled the night sky.

Bud never had any children. My mother said that his wife got sick right after they got married and he took care of her for many years before she died. I never heard him talk about her but he had a picture of her right in the middle of his kitchen table. There was a chair in the living room draped with a quilt with the word 'Sweetheart' embroidered across the face. No one ever sat in that chair.

Bud had one room in the house where he spent most of his free time. In the corner was his fly tying table where he spent long winter days tying flies for himself and all his friends. One wall was covered with book shelves that groaned under the weight of his extensive library of outdoor books. There was a locking cabinet with his shotguns and hunting rifles and a cabinet that contained his fly-rods and reels. Beneath a large window that looked out over the fields and wood lot behind his house was a large oak desk; a desk where he sat everyday and read a well worn Bible.

For a curious young boy this room was a fascinating place, and I would often sit at his fly tying table and watch him tie flies. In time I came to learn how to tie flies and use a fly rod to catch trout with flies I tied myself. He taught me how to track a deer, where to find grouse in the aspen groves, how to paddle a canoe, and how to just sit and enjoy the quiet of a winter woodlot as the snow sifted down between the leafless boughs of the oaks and maples.

Over the years Bud imparted to me a love and appreciation of a world filled with all the wonders of God's creation. We tramped the hills, waded trout streams, watched summer fade into autumn, listened in hushed wonder as skeins of snow geese talked their way through the night sky as the icy fingers of the advancing winter pushed them south. I came to treasure all that is wild and the blessings of experiencing all its beauty.

The years flew by and all too soon the carefree days of youth gave way to the demands of life. Those demands took me away from the farm on that old dirt road, away from the hills and trout streams, the aspen groves where grouse lived, and the snow geese filled autumn skies. The last time I saw Bud he was sitting his big oak desk looking out over the fields, his old Bible lying in his lap. His smile was warm, but when I said good-bye there seemed to be a sadness in his warm blue eyes.

Shortly after I returned home I got a call from my mother. "Bud died last night," she said. "Your father and I were with him at the last. Said to tell you to keep the treasure. When I asked him what he meant he just smiled and said you'd know." ~ The Chronicler

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