Stuck on Open. For Karl Zimmermann
Built like a professional football tackle, he loomed larger than life all those Depression years of our growing up in that Tuscarawas River town where we heard his deep voice proclaim he had ridden into town on the spring flood and ended up owning rich riverbottom land where receding flood waters deposited him.
A meticulous gardener, barefoot and barefisted, he smiled as he said: "A nobody could fill my shoes." He worked alongside our crew of twenty, raising acres of rhubarb, asparagus, strawberries, sweet corn, melons, tomatoes, spinach - produce enough to keep his truck on the road to Pittsburgh six nights a week all summer long.
By his example, hoe in hand, he taught us gardening, women, and generosity. So many times I heard it, I close my eyes and hear it now, his gravel voice turned tender: "That is a problem. I'll have to see what the little woman thinks." And I see her still: a little woman who filled completely the doorway of their white farmhouse.
When poverty and winter winds froze our breaths and Depression hunger gnawed our bones, he drove his truck to haul our coal. With him you could order half a ton of coal and know he'd deliver a ham or side of bacon and five-ton load saying: "You pay for the half-ton coal you ordered; that crazy mine's loading chute stuck on open."