Jilly D.

The bitterness of Winter

In Mourning, Time and seasons on January 24, 2011 at 4:12 am

1992 I moved from Athens, Georgia, to Enfield, New York. That first winter was the worst. Until now. The blizzard of 1993 is the big one local metereologists refer to; six feet of snow fell in one day.

mind of his own

I’d befriended an elderly neighbor down Enfield Center Road at the intersection with Buck Hill. He lived in one of three trailer homes on the corner plot of the corn field. The old man had a dog; mutt with true devotion. 

 Nobody came to visit him. I walked my dog past his trailer several times a day and struck up a friendship.

Told him one day that October I was driving up to Fulton, New York, to do some field research on newspapers and the communities they serve. He wanted to ride along on my daytrip and show me the town. He’d lived there many years.

I picked him up in my red Nissan pickup and he brought a long shotgun that he wanted to trade at a gun shop in Fulton that would be along our route. Not what I had expected. I didn’t quite know what to make of it. He was adamant about going. Said he also had to get new batteries for his hearing aids at the place where he bought them; nobody else carried them anymore.

He talked almost all the way there. Wild stories about his early life and the woman he loved, his wife. And that she had loved others. He said his son-in-law put him up in the trailer as though he were nothing. He’d been a big man at one time, he assured me. He didn’t deserve living like a dog with his dog.

I dropped him off at the gun shop while I went to interview the editor and publisher of a small weekly newspaper.

I came back around for the old man at the strip mall where he’d found his hearing aid batteries. He got back in the truck, but he had the same old gun. It wasn’t the Winchester 30-30 he’d talked about getting in trade. I didn’t know much about guns but when I asked why he needed a different kind of gun he said the handle on this one was just too long. I was glad to get the gun out of my vehicle when we returned to Enfield Center Road.

It got cold and colder that winter. I didn’t see much of the old man outdoors that fall or over the holidays. The snow got so deep the town had to bring in backhoes to dig out the roads and haul the snow away in dump trucks.

Enfield Center Road was a tunnel through snow walls as January went on and on.

The ambulance threw its red lights and siren out into the cold air and my heart came up through my throat when the EMTs arrived down on the corner. I strained to see out the second story window down the road.  The sirens went silent. More than an hour later, they drove away without any emergency lights on.

The old man was gone. He shot his dog first. Then he shot himself.

It was a cold winter in 1993. He’d had enough. He’d lived until he couldn’t take it anymore. Planned it that way.

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