While recently reviewing previous entries in this blog, which has gone unattended over various periods of time, I find few photographs of individuals. Of those few photographs of individuals, the overwhelming majority are of my friend Trapper Jack even unto my inclusion of my photo of a portrait of him painted by the Resident Artist. Some can be found here and here. The impression that these photographs create is of a reclusive, eccentric, endearing older man. In this case photographs did not convey anything approaching truth at all, which then led me to a consideration of the mysterious nature of some friendships.
Jack’s current role, a role that will undoubtedly carry him to his grave, is as unofficial maître d’ at the establishment that I have characterized as one of the last of the great roadhouses. Every morning Jack stations himself on his personal bar stool near the entrance to the establishment. He stays on station there until the early evening hours day in and day out, seven days a week, while Daisy is shut inside his pathetic pickup truck parked in the shade outside—or next to a snowdrift. Jack knows everyone. He greets everyone as they come through the door and makes inquiries about their latest activities. This was how I made his acquaintance years ago.
I am one of those human beings who has joshed himself into the conviction that he is a civilized, educated, and indeed somewhat cultured creature. Jack has not bothered himself with any of that. His attitudes are utterly antithetical to attitudes that I hold dear. In his day he has murdered wildlife of all sorts profligately, sometimes with the sole purpose of demonstrating marksmanship or skillful casting. (Back in the nineties Lonnie Mack refused to do a return engagement at the roadhouse unless Jack promised to take him fishing again.) He was a legendary bar brawler. Let us here skate gracefully over the subject of the women in Jack’s life. Age and debility has put all of that behind him. He is now merely a profoundly unrepentant man who traffics in gossip and offensive jokes.
I well know that others enjoy such friendships. Many times we rationalize it all with mental self-reassurances such as, “Well, he [she] may be a despicable, worthless person, but if I were in trouble, I know he [she] would be the first to come to my aid.” Let me assure you that if I were in difficulty, it would never occur to Jack to lift a finger to help me. Am I talking behind his back here? No. I have said all this and more to his face. He laughs and seems complimented. I have no idea why I consider him to be a friend. That mystery remains. The other mystery is why I shall never give him up.