I have retired!     I have retired!      I have retired!   I have retired!

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A man looked up in a tree one night

to see the dark colored shape of a turkey in flight.

With no gun in hand, he looked again and,

the white of a card moved with the wind.

Too far to reach, too tall to climb,

the balloon snagged fast to a small pine.

The balloon cam down the very next day,

when the buzz of a chain saw made the tree sway.

But, on its way down to the man on the ground,

the balloon - tree hung and became limb bound.

Not a turkey he sought, but a purple balloon

sent aloft by a child from a local classroom.

He grinned as he thought, now why should he

be sent such a message now caught in a tree?

With help of a pole to lever the tree,

the balloon came down; it was finally free.

The message was simple to even he,

“Just Say No” was its powerful decree.


The mountaineer tried to call you on Thanksgiving Day

to tell you he’d found your balloon that day.

And, other times too, he tried to get through,

But, hunting season was in and he had plenty to do.

The day after Thanksgiving, he took his last buck;

an eight-pointer with a spread worthy of the book.

So proud was he, he forgot your balloon,

now hanging aloft inside a room.

To tell of the hunt, the Master in him,

told a tale of a buck shot on the run,

And, tracked nearly a mile on fresh fallen snow,

to where his run ended far below.

His heart pounded heavily from the rush of the chase,

but happy was he despite its pace.


From that day forth, he pushed himself on,

cutting wood in the morning,

b’fore heading to his stand.

At night in his chair, he’d ponder his thoughts,

with others he’d share, but likely as not.

And other great hunts he oft retold,

to Mike and Don, they knew them cold.

He liked to hunt Spring gobblers best.

It takes a good man too - you know the rest.

When first light came, he’d grab his caller,

and tease the old Tom up the hollow.

He didn’t always call him in,

but when he did, what a grin!

Talk to him about the trees;

he knew them all by name with ease.

Which ones to seek when hunting game,

which to cut for a lasting flame.


It was he and his dog who faced the cold nights,

warmed by the wood stove that burned bright.

A friend with coon dogs stopped by,

set his dogs a running ‘til they cried.

The mountains echoed with their song on trail; their

owner called them to no avail.

The howl of the wind shattered the peace,  and many a

night there was too little sleep.

To every season, there was a call.

When he couldn’t sleep he heard them all.

The wind through the trees made the old cabin shake, and

the pipes would freeze beneath the sink.

Oh, how he loved to see a full moon rise,

when the sounds of the mountains came truly alive.  When

the darkest of fears were finally appeased,

by the screech of an owl in a bare tree.

He was not lonely, though alone was he,

for solitude was peacefulness to him, you see

Most of us will never find,

the kind of peace that was his mind.


The friend came back to fetch his dogs,

the ones that had run off the night before.

He met the Man coming in,

and was the last to see him ever again.

Haunted by images of him still,

driving a Jeep he called “Old Will”.


The morning came and another day began...

for the person they called the Mountaineer Man.

Others of us called him “Clay”,

he was the same man either way.

If something broke or quit on the spot,

he’d turn and go into his shop.

And in his shop along the wall,

were parts with lives long and tall.

“Guess what this came off?”, he’d say,

“It’s just what I need for today.”

He worked so hard with what he’d got,

fixed up what other’s forgot.

He’d fashion a part from discarded steel,

file it down to fit a wheel.

His day was full of doing what had need,

never slowing to rest ‘til he’d completed the deed.


He’s put some pintos in a cast iron pot,

and onto the wood stove to keep them hot.

While I don’t know for sure what he did his last day,

It seems to me, it happened this way.

The evening had come and sitting we he,

Clawhammering a tune, the old-timey way,

that few anymore know how to play.

He’d picked “Shootin’ Creek” with some of the best,

and Skip-to-my-Lou with some of the rest.

I’ll never know which tune he was on,

when up with a start he ran for his gun.

The turkeys, no doubt, had come through the yard,

for out the door he ran, leaving it ajar.

He probably missed a long range shot;

For it was then we know his heart stopped.

Catching him outside to die on the ground,

his 30-30 at his side and snow all-around.

The fire gone cold in the stove where inside,

by its dying embers his dog, Tyke, pined.

Each waiting for the Master who never would return,

the dog and the banjo which held his last tune.


I picked the banjo once as I put it away,

enough to send the Mountaineer’s soul away.

Freeing it now of all its stress,

letting it go to its eternal rest.

Up it arose, higher than the balloon,

which a few weeks before he’d freed from its doom.

No message from he, will ever come down,

on a purple balloon to us on the ground.

Up it arose above us all,

until out of sight once and for all.

Where the abundant turkey and plentiful deer,

are now his angels and source of cheer.


The Mountaineer is gone and our hearts are heavy.

But his life was by choice and not for many.

Understanding a choice not easily made,

was all for us he ever bade.


They laid the Mountaineer to his final rest,

listening to Don Parmley’s best.

His banjo wept as it played for Clay,

the very eloquent, “Going My Way”.

And the chords cried, but never broke,

and said the words that no one spoke.

Other music was made that day,

though ‘twas a vacant seat for Clay.

And, “Bubba” sang as He was lowered away,

a song written at the cabin in a better day.

“Back to the Mountains”, said it all,

for His life WAS the mountains you recall.


What did you stand for this mountain man,

who many love, but few understand?

What did he leave us, to know he counted?

He asked little of life,

yet still was cheated.


What message has he left us, that man gone he,

on wind and water and endless breeze?


He loved the mountains more than change,

and was content with Where he was.

He belonged to another era in Spirit and Mind,

but was content with What he was.

And the highest peak, if it could speak,

would whisper now our plea.

For the message that he left us was,

The right to be he...


Suzanne V. Pabst

Charity, Virginia

December 23, 1989