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Saturday, June 7, 2008

it's crazy ken




The next wise fellow that tries to explain to me that the world has "two types of people" and follows with some lame attempt to simplify humans into a arbitrary dichotomy needs a punch to the throat.


That's a picture of the man who taught me most everything I know about steel work. And that is the preface to a new part of my adventure here.

That's not my dad who didn't teach me a lot about metal work. Despite the fact that he ran the Metal Museum for 30 years, he gave me about two hours worth of teaching in the steel shop. It was my fault, he says. "You could have gone out to the shop at anytime and played." He has a point. The smithy is in what was my backyard until a few weeks ago. I tried to heat and beat the iron but it was rarely fun unless one of the guys in the shop helped me on a actual project.


James Ara Wallace is revered in most circles he has encountered. He was born in South Dakota to Colonel(ret.) Josiah and Vicki Wallace on an army base in the Black Hills. He has forgotten more than I'll ever know. He worked for Korczak Ziolkowski blowing the armpit hole on the Crazy Horse monument. He was a hard rock miner in Colorado, a forest fire fighter, semi-pro surfer, mountain climber. He's got stories to tell and will do so with a little bourbon and a blazing fire most anytime you can catch him.

I like this picture of my dad. A few weeks prior, he buried his wife and left the place that he defined and made him for a 300 square foot cabin in the White River valley of Norfork, Arkansas. Then the rains came. He spent the previous night moving his stuff to high ground and helping others in the valley as the river rose about 30 feet in 20 hours. He slept for about fifteen minutes until we went to watch the water rise up to his doorstep but leave his only home dry in the storm of past transgressions raining upon us.
I looked about as perky as this but was behind the camera and so I'll just tell part of the story because that's what I do.
The day before, Allison and I left Arkansas after spending a few days visiting my dad and getting some clean air. We left before the rains were too bad and had been able to move his books and tools up. From that point, Allison drove and an argument proceeded to develop in the car. One of the single most disadvantaged places to argue is the passenger seat of a vehicle. You lack all control and are stuck unless you throw yourself out of a moving vehicle. We get home and unpack. Somewhere, things go from bad to worse and I try to sleep in my truck. Surprisingly, I slept well. Though I'm trying to sell my ragged truck it is more than versatile. Wake up. Go to work. Phone rings. "It don't look good. They cut off the power and are evacuating the valley." My dad sounded half dead on the other line and there was no way in hell I could be at work with so much to worry about. I tried to borrow Will Keeler's (he's the man) Tahoe but he left the key at his house and so I put my destiny in fate's hands and took my truck across the bridge.
I couldn't take it above 55 or it would choke and the brakes aren't great and it was raining like hell. I spent what little money I had on a carton of cigarettes, gas, truck-stop speed, and a quart of water. The driving was okay until I got to Black Rock, where the lower half of the town was flooded and no one could go through Hardy because the bridge there was under water. So I took the alternate route through Cave City. I love the town names in that state. I finally made it to be with my dad. We couldn't do anything but watch. It was around this time "High thoughts in low times" was started. I had quit drinking and was touched by the hillbillies watching their ramshackle homes fill up...

There shall be more to come. I just need some rest.
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