Our friend Tombstone Drifter

This morning, around 3 AM our friend Gene Smith passed away after a strong and amazing full out battle against cancer.

I thought when I started this entry that perhaps I could, through simple words, give you all insight into the magnitude of Gene’s spirit.  Words, nah, Gene was larger than life, Gene WAS life.  Never have I met a man who lived more.  He would not give up, determined to survive, determined to not let go of his hold on his earthly life.

Until near the very end, he went into his gun shop in St Boniface nearly every day, even during his chemo, radiation and treatments.  And his friends responded, also going to the shop in droves, making sure that they could have moments with the friend they loved.

He loved being alive, his aptitude for life made us all live a little more fully.

Gene was involved in the out doors. From his early years, up north,in the woods and on the lakes  of northern Minnesota.  He spent time in Viet Nam, and in the last handful of years did a yearly trip to Indonesia, to travel the roads and highways there with his biking buddies from around the entire world.  I think going there was a way for him to regain some of the innocence of his youth that he lost during the war.  In Alaska he guided fishing parties to the hidden lakes of the state.  Here in Minnesota, he fished, hunted, biked with his buddies, encouraged music, encouraged laughter, belonged to the Old West Society.SASS, and I am sure organizations I have no knowledge of.

He went to places that meant a full gusto filled existence.  It is true that I am repeating myself a lot, when I talk about his joy of living, but good grief this man LIVED!!!!

We love Gene, we are sad that he is gone from us, and wish for his wife, Gretchen, a measure of solace, a measure of strength during this time.  She stood by him his constant help, his constant good spirit.  We love Gretchen and honor her.

So maybe Gene is now free from pain, tumors, and the ravages of age, and is even now wheeling his way along the highways of heaven, wind sunburning his face, astride a big old Harley.  He is fishing in pristine, cold, deep lakes, hunting in tall wooded mountains. We like to think that, and we smile.

Installment # 3…On the trail

After his late start, Irvin has not traveled far before the trail disappears into the gathering night.  With a muttered oath, he swings off his horse, and prepares a meager camp for the night.  No use with a fire, it wasn’t cold, and he would be leaving at first light.  Unsaddling his horse he lays down under the big sky, watching the stars above him, wondering what the next day will bring, and mentally kicks himself for heading on this journey to find the kidnapped woman and child.  Hell, he does not even know if they are alive or dead, or what he will find if he doe catch up with the gang.  As far as he knows, he can get killed himself.  Groaning, he rolls over to sleep.

With the lighting sky he is already on his horse, and follows the rocky, hard to read path.  Occasionally he stops at a swatch of hair, or cloth snagged on a sharp rock or branch.  “Smart” he says to himself.  ‘Ya know that she must be leaving those behind.”  His heart aches some for the brave woman, he wonders if she knows that her man lay dead in the wagon behind them.

So he follows, slow behind, until around noon, he comes to a burned out fire pit, empty cans left behind.  These yahoos are not bothering to hide any trails, most likely figure that no one will follow far.  Stopping, he kneels by the pit, stirring it a bit with a stick, the ashes feel warm and small embers flare up with his motion.  So they are not far ahead.

He stands thinking.  If he hurries too fast after them, he will not have any surprise, or possible cover, so it is best that he take some time, travel slow, look for cover to hide his approach.  Not easy in this terrain, and the horses need water soon, so does he, the canvas panniers on his pack horse are running low, evaporating some in the day’s heat.  The longer he waits though, the more pain can be happening to the captives.

So he continues through the afternoon, picks his slow way over the rocks, leaving behind.  his string of packs, cobbled under an overhang in the shade side of the canyon, knows he will be coming back for them later, after this was all done.  He travels lighter this way, quiet.  The trail markings continue, and seem fresh when he sees them, no blurring of edges.  The silence is around him, not broken by much of any sound, just quiet. “Quiet is good” he thinks, “I can hear more.”   But he adds the worry he feels for the left behind horses to the worry he has for the lost pair ahead.

Nearly thinking he has misjudged the distance to find the gang, he considers heading back for his horses, and starting over again in the morning.  But, then, in the near distance he hears a child scream.

In Memory Of Dave Niedzielski 1950 to 2011

“It’s a pretty day to make things right” from Open Range.  This phrase sounds like you, always the shoulder, the big man with a big, big heart!  Dave you are a friend of many and your life has left only goodness in our souls. We are blessed that you were in our life, thank you for being a friend. There is a whole lot of missing going on!