April 24, 2012. Novice, Texas.
He'd spent the day working his fields. It was spring and they were baling hay and the baler had broken down so he didn't get much done, even with his grandson there to help. Nena, his wife, had cooked up fried venison steaks for dinner and more: mashed potatoes and gravy, sautéed onions swimming in Velveeta, deviled eggs, peaches and cottage cheese. Tall glasses of cold milk.
Two hours earlier I was nearing the end of a 24 mile day. Everything ached. Everything was sweaty and filthy and chafing. The tent was waiting for me, and a PB&J sandwich for dinner. Life could have been worse, much worse, but it felt like it could be better, too. And then Jerald and Nena pulled over and invited me to stay with them that night in their home right up the road. And life got better, quick.
When he walked in, the feast was already on the table. He sat right down. Didn't think twice about his dirty clothes and dirty hands. Maybe he was right: this food came from the dirt to begin with, so why worry?
There were a lot of things that evening I'll probably never forget: the foot bath Nena brought out for me complete with vinegar to heal my raw feet, feeding the cows, the clothesline of jeans drying in the wind, the rusted trucks hidden among the mesquite trees, and of course that feast.
But what I remember most - what I'm certain I'll never forget - is Jerald's hands. He didn't need to tell me any stories. His hands told them all.
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