Sunday, October 7, 2012

Sad News: Brother Al (Whiddler) has passed beyond the absurdity

Remembering Brother Al by Sydney Reichman
    Sydney Reichman
Dear South

by Sydney Reichman

He was your sun,
tatooed with a cotton sack
from the day he could stand

growing fierce
against the dirt of poverty

and song that captured an innocent babe
and turned him wild
into all that he could alchemize

for he was
born with a science mind
an artist hand
an engineers soul
and a heart for those that
needed heart

and he spun, and wove and pounded the metal of
all he was and would become
on an anvil
carved out of the bones
of all that he could never be

his song came from something deep
something in us all
something we could never be

I could have learned so much more
about each bark and leaf and how the
stars collided
about the rains and what they
would bring
for the stories he told
so many years ago
the inventions he created
they are talking of them now
and yet this mind of poverty?
this small bundle of dynamic muscle
knew it so long ago
ahhh what poverty does to us all
Deprives us of our richest ones
who go unnoticed on
account  of being born in a
cotton field

so while dear south, he was your sun
he was my TRUE NORTH


mythopolis said...

I am very sad to think he is no longer around. Sydney's eulogy/homage was touching. Thank you Sydney. I learned so much from Whiddler in the few years I worked around him and alongside him. I remember telling the guys I wished we could do a show called 'Raising the Hammer', and Whiddler went for it and over the next two days carved out a huge hammer! I would say the handle was a good 8' long and the hammer head maybe 4 feet long. It was massive and impressive and served as the icon for the Linton Casket Company shows. He made a wooden maul for me when I was learning to work with wood. A tool with which to strike a knife blade or a chisel or gouge. I still have it and cherish. He also made a carving knife for me complete with a walnut handle...I will always cherish that too. He was a natural teacher and if you were around him, you were always learning something. I have lots of other memories that flood my mind. But will stop here. He was a legend in his own time, and stories of his character and art will be told and re-told by many for a long time to come.

Anonymous said...

Thank you Sydney. Brother Al had a huge and important impact on my life, from my earliest childhood until this very day. I remember you from part of that time. Here is something I wrote in remembrance of him after I heard he had passed. Peace to you, Sydney. I love you, and I'm grateful for the love you shared with my Brother Al.

Usually, one never knew when he would appear, but when he did, there was always magic and laughter in his wake. He'd come riding in like Gandalf in some new, home-made conestoga. I remember one in particular, there were many over the years. It was an old black Cadillac with the back half cut off of the frame, to accommodate a mini-cabin made of old barn wood. It had racks and cubbyholes, benches a
nd boxes, bedrolls, a wood burning stove, various tools, rolls of leather, odd pieces of driftwood and stone to be carved, and an old beat up guitar. The side opened up and out, creating an awning and allowing the world to become a den or kitchen, a workshop or a stage.

There, we would play music and sing together. We ate plain pinto beans in the evening and drank gritty coffee boiled in the same pot the next day. We swapped stories, ideas, philosophies, visions and dreams. We would laugh until we cried, on into the night, until reveries slowly gave way to contented silence, and hard, happy slumber.

It was also true that, just as one might not know when he would arrive, so also his departures were often the same. Sometimes there was a hug and a farewell. Other times, just his unexpected absence in the morning, with some beautiful treasure left behind to say I love you, see you next time.

When last we visited together, in a little spot in the woods of the Natchez Trace in Tennessee, we did more of the same that we always did. We shared a few beers and we ate some of the homemade fig preserves Mom and Dewey had made that year. It was a more low key, somewhat melancholy time, though not without joy and laughter, too. In the morning, I followed him to an old country store/cafe where he bought us breakfast, and he filled my tank. We said a few goodbyes, and then he led me down the road to a spot where he could easily point out my direction home. At the intersection, we pulled off the road. We got out and hugged one more time. Holding my face in his hands, he smiled and looked me in the eye for a brief moment. Then, like a father, he kissed me hard on the mouth, briskly turned back to his truck, climbed in, and sped away down the road, just under the yellow light as it changed to red.

I made my long way home, and reflected on my time with him, refreshed in my spirit in the way he always left me. I didn't know it would be our last meeting, though I think, had I known it, I could not have savored the occasion much more than I already did. I had already learned over the years that these encounters were all too brief and infrequent to fail to absorb them as fully as possible. Still, his bright light is fading from the world, henceforth to be a memory only. It will be hard to accept that there will be no more surprise visits together, but I will accept it, eventually. Rest peacefully my friend, return to the dream from whence we all come. I am glad to have known and loved you.

~Son of Brother Floyd