TITLE: An Uncommon Hero (1/10/2018)
By Francie Snell
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Gravel crunched under the tires and dust rose around the van as we turned onto the dirt road. Dodging and bouncing through potholes, we eventually came upon the entrance to an industrial yard surrounded by a 12- foot high chain link fence.
“He lives here?” I asked incredulously, as we passed through the open gate.
“Yep,” Sandy, said, nonchalantly.
There was no sign of anyone in the area except for a small, white, beat-up pick-up truck parked alongside a small single-story warehouse. Covering the door of the warehouse was an American flag.
As we pulled to a stop next to the truck, the door of the warehouse swung open and out stepped a big and burly young man with a grimace on his face, squinting at us against the noon-day sun. He appeared like an angry animal emerging from his den to stave off unwelcome intruders. Light-complexioned, he wore a light blue bandana tied around his forehead, grubby white t-shirt with the sleeves torn off, tattoos, dirty jeans, and well-worn army boots.
Sandy’s voice quivered slightly. “That’s Bear. You better stay here while I go talk to him.”
“Are you sure we should be here? He doesn’t look too happy to see us.”
She slipped out of the seat without hesitation and marched across the yard with her long brown hair swaying behind her as I remained in the car contemplating a plan for escape.
As she approached him, the more apparent their difference in size became. He towered over her like a massive oak over a Bonsai tree. He scowled the whole time they spoke, flashing a few menacing glances in my direction. Their conversation was brief. Abruptly he turned and lumbered back into his den and shut the door, while she, appearing undaunted by the inconvenience, turned and strode back to the vehicle.
Sandy climbed back into the passenger’s seat and sat staring at the warehouse. She sighed. “Bear doesn’t want any visitors. He said you’ll have to meet him some other time.”
And so we meekly withdrew, turned the van around, and slowly headed out the gate and down the road in a cloud of dust.
The drive home was quiet. Sandy, my dear young relative, seemed lost in her thoughts as I silently reflected on the few tidbits of information she had shared with me earlier that day: Bear lived in a warehouse with no air conditioning, no phone or hot water. His bedroom was a small area portioned off inside the warehouse with a sleeping mat on the floor. She had described it all with a casual acceptance like it was nothing out of the ordinary to her. I tried to imagine the situation best I could but it was a stretch.
Still feeling the heat of humiliation from our dismal attempt, I was no longer interested in meeting the guy nor did I see the benefit. However, Sandy apparently thought differently and was still determined, for it was a week later when they arrived on my doorstep in the middle of the day.
With a look of triumph on her face, Sandy stood next to a barrel-chested young man with a sheepish smile on his round, ruddy face. He slouched with his hands folded down in front of him, wearing the same clothes from the week before.
With an air of formality, Sandy spoke in a calm and professional manner. “Aunt Francie, I would like you to meet Bear. Bear, this my Aunt Francie.” And in a courteous fashion, the gentle giant slightly bowed and held out his hand. “Francie, it’s a pleasure to meet you.”
Trying to hide my surprise, I smiled up at him and shook his hand. “Bear, it’s good to meet you too.”
I invited them in and offered them everything in the house to eat or drink. After considering the few options, we all agreed to sit at my kitchen table drinking coffee.
Bear appeared at ease as he sipped black coffee and articulately shared about his background. At age twenty-five, he had come from a family of intellectually high achievers. His father had been a neurosurgeon and his mother, an administrative surgical nurse. He had two older sisters: one was an attorney and the other was attending school to be a doctor. His younger brother was delving into the field of politics, striving for success of his own.
Bear was also an intellectual in his own right but felt a much different kind of calling, making him the black sheep of the family. He was aspiring to be a Hell’s Angel, part of a motorcycle band of road warriors with a nasty reputation. He appeared to meet most of the visual criteria, but there was one, not so minor detail missing in the equation: he didn’t own a motorcycle.
None the less, we respected Bear regardless of his mission. After that day, Sandy and Bear started making regular visits. And soon it became our usual pastime to sit around my kitchen table in our pow wows of three.
Bear’s recall and reasoning abilities proved beyond the norm, beyond anyone I had ever known. With his uncanny street sense, it was invigorating to hear Bear talk even though I didn’t agree with his extreme philosophies. He was a self-proclaimed White Supremacist and I was a Christian; two separate ideologies that didn’t co-mingle well. Regardless, our conversations were never combative and always proved to be interesting, and a refreshing change to the everyday ho-hum of a stay-at-home mom.
God had opened a window into an intriguing life much different than my own.
During the time I was getting to know Bear I was hearing tales from the bar, stories passed on to me from Joan, my sister. She was a bartender at one of the most popular hangouts in town; a place Bear frequented.
To be continued.
980 word count
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