A friend remembers Bob, Odelle Buckles

MEEKER I I stop at the VFW to have a beer. I run into Mike Gould and over the laughter and music blaring from the juke box, he tells me sadly of Odelle Buckles’ memorial service. I missed it, working out of town lately so much. He sighs and says they brought Bob Buckles up for the service from Lafayette, where he’s been living in an assisted living home near his daughter’s place. We are both startled by how quickly all this happened.
Wasn’t Bob just out irrigating, waving to all the people racing up river, honking? Wasn’t Odelle just telling me of so and so, who’s married to Jim’s cousin, you know the one that just had the baby girl. I had to laugh thinking of all the times, Odelle with her quick wonderful memory had me reeling with names and dates, trying to keep up. Her bright eyes gleaming, little head bobbing like a water ouzel as she tried to fill me in on local folks and what they were up to.
We both know the Buckles well. I used to live with my family on the Buckles ranch and Mike’s dad was the John Deere mechanic Bob was friends with.
Mike smiles as he remembers sitting on Bob Buckles’ bench next to the famous white fish fishing hole, watching his father and Bob fish.
I laugh and tell Mike of the first time I fished down at the hole with Bob and his buddies. They were all using fence staples for weights and spinning rods and I had a fly rod, with a strike indicator and little tiny soft weights above my fly. I caught quite a few fish and Bob was really impressed. Every night for a week afterward, Bob would come by our place and watch me tie flies and quiz me on how I rigged my rod. He was convinced that I had the secret fly.
When I put a bunch of flies in his big rough hand, he tenderly clasped that prize and carefully carried the secret flies off for safe keeping. For years afterward, every time I’d see him, he would ask with his funny head-cocked grin if I “had any of them fish fleas” for him.
I drove past the old ranch last night in the full moonlight, the fields gleaming snow white. I was going slow, remembering so much. I thought I could see Bob, walking in the moonlight with his little irrigating shovel, his pipe firmly fixed in the corner of his mouth.
I turned around by Lake Avery and started my sad slow drive down past their place, thinking of tiny Odelle hurrying about weeding her beautiful gardens, changing the water here and there. The moon shone cold-white on the empty place.
Suddenly, a truck full of snowmobilers roared up behind me, blinking their lights, honking for me to get the hell out of the way. I slowed down more and they roared by, mad at the fool going 10 mph.
The world keeps roaring by but somehow Bob and Odelle will always be moving slowly about that beautiful little meadow. Goodnight, Bob. Sweet dreams, Odelle. Your little ranch is still as pretty as ever.