(Continued from yesterday.)
It was winter, perhaps late January. It snowed all night and drifts were as high as six feet. Dad and I spent the morning plowing, shoveling, and tending to livestock.
Mom fixed Dad and I a hearty meal at noon and she went to her sewing room. We finished eating and sipped coffee and slowing ate apple pie.
“Dad,” I said. “It seems like you and Bowden known each other from long ago.”
“Yeah,” Dad said. “It’s a long story.”
I smiled. “Planting is a good two and half or three months away.”
“You’re starting to sound like me,” Dad said.
“I was 21 years old,” Dad said. “Bowden was thirty when he started to pastor my church. He was smart and handsome. He had a career, came to town with a doctorate.
I dropped out of school. I always wanted to be a pastor. I suppose Bowden was what I wanted to be. Are you sure you want to hear this?”
“Yeah,” I said.
“My study of the Bible was serious even though college was beyond me,” Dad said. “I found so many inconsistencies in what the church taught, what they practiced, what they really believed, and what I really knew to be true and false.”
Dad looked into his cup and sipped.
“Mom and Dad died. The farm was so heavily mortgaged it went back to the bank. The only job I found was working for Clyde Harper,” Dad said. “$100 a week and a cabin. Here’s me with a 20 year old suit and shoes with holes in ’em and there’s Bowden looking like he just got done with a photo shoot for GQ.”
“But it’s what’s in the suit, right Dad?” I said.
“Well,” Dad smiled. “That’s the way your Mom thought too. Bowden and I had our eyes set on the same girl, your mom. Our battle was not only for her heart, but it was over theology. It was about that time I stopped attending the church. Your mom and I got married by a justice of the peace and Bowden went on to be a professor at Princeton’s school of divinity. He became widely read.”
“Is that why there seems to be so much bitterness?” I said.
“I suppose,” Dad said. “Backin up a little, shortly after your mother accepted my proposal for marriage I went to Bowden’s office at the church. I told him to stop trying to date your mom. We argued. He told me I’d be nothing more than an impoverished itinerate farmer and never be able to provide for your mother.”
“You’ve done pretty good, Dad,” I said.
“Yeah,” Dad said. “That was a real kick in the butt for me. I stormed from his office and went out to Clyde Harper’s and we drew up an agreement to buy his farm. Your mom and I lived in that cabin for five years. She worked at the post office, I worked at the factory, and we both worked the farm.”
“Do you think he envies you?” I said.
“How could he?” Dad said. “He’s got everything he wants, himself.”
“What keeps him coming back?” I said.
“I don’t know,” Dad said, “but someday he’ll tell why.”
“Do you think it’s mom,” I said.
“Well, I couldn’t blame him if it was,” Dad said. “Every time you think you have the other person figured out or know them they surprise you. Never overestimate or underestimate a man. A man is what he says he is.”
“What if he says he’s honest,” I said.
“Honest men never say they’re honest,” Dad said. “Only liars and thieves say they’re honest.”
“Let your yes be yes and your no be no,” I said.
“That’s right, son,” Dad said. “That’s how I bought this land from Harper. We wrote down the agreement and shook hands and when I gave him his final payment we shook hands and thanked each other. Clyde told everybody about how we did things. I’ve always had more land to farm than time.”
“Is Bowden an honest man?” I said.
“No,” Dad said, “his greatest dishonesty is to himself.”