Whitesburg KY

Best present was call from old friends

Points East

Late in the evening on Christmas Eve I was in bed enjoying this year’s entries to my pal, Fred Beste’s, most recent publication of his tome called “The Wonderful Book of Wonderful Letter s, Volume 22 ” wherein a hundred or so “writers” from across the country contribute essays about whatever is on their mind and, also, wherein, we having been doing this annual exercise throughout most of our adult lives.

And sometime after the first of the year I will make the duly required review of said book. I mention it here only to let Fred (who gets the news from Kentucky) know that I am reading and enjoying because my concentration was interrupted by a telephone call that brought more joy to my holidays than I can explain in coherent terms.

Loretta answered the phone and began nodding up and down and shaking her head and doing all sorts of other animations that nobody on the other end can understand or appreciate as she listened, because you really have to have a live cam to communicate with Loretta if you really want to understand her on the phone. About the time I had decided the call was not for me she said, “Hang on, I’ll put him on the phone.”

And I was thinking, why on earth would a good, loving woman and devoted wife put a telemarketer on the phone to her loving husband way after dark on Christmas Eve?

But she passed the receiver over to me before I had a chance to object and said, “Its for you — Truman Caudill.”

“Truman Caudill!!! Surely not THE Truman Caudill. He of Blair Branch and married to Margie Blair, the sweetest girl I ever knew,” I literally yelled into the phone!

“That would be me,” he said. “But you ain’t been married to Margie for lo these many years. She can get pretty bitter when she gets her dander up.” I could hear Margie giggling in the background. Margie, who graduated eighth grade with me in the spring of ’63, was one of the two girls in my class along with five boys including yours truly. The odds were in Margie’s favor way back then.

Truman finished a couple years ahead of us and came to the conclusion that high school was not his thing and I’m not so sure he made a bad decision. Truman’s dreams were so far beyond anything the rest of us had in mind that he gave up on the educational establishment and became a truck driver.

But Margie stuck it out there on the hollow to raise her younger siblings after her mom died of cancer when we were in high school and the rest of us trotted off to college or trade school or made the march into the mines. Margie made the family work and never once thought that a sacrifice. Margie finished high school and married Truman.

And what Truman may have lacked or missed out on in terms of academic or economic accomplishment in the larger world, he has given back to everyone who has ever known him, a sense of joy and that incredible sense of well being we feel when we’re around him.

A stroke, some time back , took away his ability to play the five-string banjo in the oh-so unique special style and fashion just his that unfortunately was not recorded in media that would preserve it. I’ve never heard his rival on a flat top guitar and that, too, is lost unless some miracle comes along that will relieve his paralysis.

But I know for sure that Truman Caudill is an absolute treasure and that Margie is a saint. And I know for sure, after the Christmas call, that Truman and Margie are safe and secure for at least another year or two in their little cottage on the hillside beneath the beeches and hemlocks near the head of Blair Branch.

I know for sure that I’m going to try and get them to get away and spend a week or two with Loretta and me here in the flatlands come this spring, but I’m not sure I’d be doing them any favors unless Margie agrees to put us up for a nice long visit to Blair Branch too.

A call from Truman and Margie Caudill! I still cannot believe it, but no finer present ever crossed my door on Christmas Eve.

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