My brother and I used to make fun of him. Fun of him when my father brought us there. Fun of him because all he was to us two kids was an old man with a big nose who wore a captain’s hat and an old torn up blue pea coat. But I think it may have been, even more so, his soft foreign accent and the way he would totter off with his bad leg right after telling my father what he needed done. We laughed, my brother and I did. We laughed at his long wisp of white hair that stuck out behind his left ear from under his hat. Every time we saw the old man, we would laugh and talk about him after we got home.
“Did you see his hair today?”
“Yeah. What’s up with that anyway? Why is that the only part of his hair that’s long like that?”
“I have no idea. We should ask him some day. That would be so funny.”
And I swear he wasn’t a pretty man either, I’ll tell you that right now. I remember leaning against one of my father’s old rusted trucks and looking at those big blue veins running through his bony aged hands. The hands with those huge worn out knuckles. I remember the tan pants he would wear virtually every time we saw him and his white button-down shirt that was now much more yellow than it ever was white. The shirt that was always untucked and those muddy shoes he used to wear. Obviously he didn’t mind his appearance because all we were to him was a man and two young boys who were there to help him out.
We were just kids who really didn’t care where we were. All we wanted to do was to explore this old man’s huge piece of land. Two kids who wanted to explore the old man’s land – the old man who would completely, totally and utterly ignore us.
I had it worse than my brother did. At least when we showed up he would get a nod or a tip of the old man’s hat, a small gesture of acknowledgement. I got nothing. I got nothing at all and it made me wonder what I had done wrong. I didn’t know why I was never looked at and never even noticed. Even after my father introduced me to him, the old man still chose to ignore me. I didn’t know what someone could possibly have against a nine year old kid he had never laid eyes on. I’ll tell you this though, it made me feel small. Smaller than I’d ever felt before.
Now, I’m not saying that my brother had it much better by any means. After the tip of the hat or the nod, he got nothing more. He would end up on the same playing field that I was on and he wouldn’t be noticed by the old man during the rest of our visit. After a while we got used to it and would either just help my father do what he was there to do or we’d slowly make our way through the land to discover what it was all about.
I do want to talk about this old man’s land though because I feel that it’s important to this story. My brother and I, we found some really interesting places on that land. Places that I think about often and places I remember well. And believe me, there was a difference between the land and the property that this old man owned. The property held his estate. The land held something I can only describe as magic.