The Intensive at the farm started in early June. I had decided to work half the summer then join the Intensive in mid-July, but I called Rose to ask if I could come down on weekends until then.
"No," he said harshly. "The farm is off limits to everyone who isn't taking part in the Intensive. I don't want commuters swooping in and making off with the honey."
When I finally arrived at the farm, I was stunned by all the cars and activity. Two months before I had visited a farm that, although desolate and austere, was also intimate and private. Now the parking area was jammed with old vans and brightly painted cars, and a cluster of tents dotted the hillside across the road. Inside the yard small groups of young men, many with long hair and full beards, sat on the porch or lounged beneath the giant sycamore tree in the side yard. I felt suddenly like an outsider. The two group members I knew best--Leigh and Augie--were not at the Intensive. Leigh had been much less involved with the Pittsburgh group lately, and Augie was off trying to start new groups.
I greeted the few people I knew and was introduced to some of those I didn't. No one was actually unfriendly, but their aloofness made it clear they considered me a latecomer with plenty of dues to pay before I would be one of them. In an attempt to make conversation I asked one of the guys I knew what they'd been doing so far.
"Digging," he said, and everybody laughed. I smiled and nodded my head, but didn't pursue it.
"Where's Mister Rose?" I asked. "I guess I should check in or something."
"Inside. If you need a bellhop, just ring." They all laughed again. I excused myself and headed for the house. As I opened the screen door and walked into the small kitchen I could hear Rose's voice coming from the narrow dining area to the right.
"How could you come down here without any food? What did you think this was, some kind of commune?" Rose was leaning against an ancient refrigerator, facing a gaunt youth who had his back pressed tightly against a metal cabinet.
"Well, yeah, I assumed it was." There was some subdued chuckling among the guys seated at the long wooden table that filled the room. "I figured that's what a Zen retreat was all about."
"Spare me," Rose said comically, but with enough irritation that nobody laughed. "I'd burn this place to the ground first. As soon as you take away individuality, the whole group automatically sinks to the level of the lowest common denominator. Is Phil in here?"
He looked around the room. Seeing me, he paused to say hello, then continued.
"Well anyway, when Phil and his girlfriend pulled in last summer, there were already a few people living here--Augie, Frank and his wife, and..." He turned to someone at the table. "What was that speed freak's name?
"Rick," someone said.
"Right. Rick. So their first night here Phil says, 'Let's make a stew. We can all throw something into the pot.' Everyone thought that was wonderful. That's sharing. That's spiritual. So Frank had some rice and potatoes, Augie had a piece of chuck roast--he always has meat. That boy could eat the rear end of a cow in one sitting. I forget what the speed freak had. But when it comes to Phil's turn, he reaches into this filthy knapsack and pulls out a rotten onion and a scraggly carrot. That was his contribution to the stew.
"And that," Rose said with finality, "was our one and only experiment with communal living. Nobody's going to take advantage of anybody else on this farm as long as I'm alive."
But the skinny kid hung in. "Don't you think that if you had more patience with these people they would have made the adjustments to live together equitably and in harmony? I mean communally?"
"Patience?" Rose said, his voice rising. "You don't think I've got patience? If I had any sense I would have boarded up this place long ago. You wouldn't believe the stunts people have pulled out here."
And he proceeded to itemize. It was not a short list. Somebody destroyed his new rototiller trying to make a rocky, dried-up creek bed into a garden. Two others once threw knives all day at the huge, ancient sycamore in the yard and almost killed it. Somebody else cut the seat out of one of Rose's antique cane-bottomed chairs to use as an outhouse fixture. And on and on. The guys at the table were falling all over themselves in laughter.
I was enjoying it, too, but I couldn't stop thinking of the car full of gear that I had to haul out to the woods and set up before nightfall. I kept waiting for a chance to exit politely but it seemed there was always one more bonehead to be roasted. Eventually I gave up and headed towards the door.
Rose stopped in mid-story. "Don't mind Dave Gold," he said, loud enough to be sure I heard him. "He's not really unfriendly. He's just worn out from doing his goofoo bird imitation in Pittsburgh all summer."
"Goofoo bird?" someone asked.
"The goofoo bird is so confused it flies around in circles that get smaller and smaller until he finally runs his beak up his ass and disappears."
Everyone howled with laughter and I could feel my face flush as I hustled to my car. I stood for a moment, slightly disoriented, staring into the trunk full of gear I brought. Suddenly there was a voice behind me.
"Need any help?"
I turned to see two guys approaching.
"Sure," I said. "Thanks."
"We figured itíd be tough carrying all that stuff alone with your beak up your ass." one said with a grin. He had a bulldog build like Roseís and long hair that was thinning on top. "Iím Al," he said as we shook hands.
"Rob," said the other.
We grabbed what we could from my car and headed in the direction of the spring to find a campsite. A dark blue pup tent occupied the spot I had hoped to get--a flat, grassy area I had noticed on my first visit to the farm. But about a hundred yards farther down the trail we found another level clearing that was big enough for a campsite. Al and Rob helped me set up my tent, then we made another trip to the car for the rest of my gear and supplies. As we worked I got to know and like them very much. I asked Al how he met Rose.
"Went to one of his lectures at Kent State. I was a psychology major with a minor in Eastern Religions, and I thought I was something of an expert on Zen. Rose's lecture was nothing like I'd read about or heard in class so I figured he was a phony.
"When the time came for questions I threw everything I could at him. Hui-Neng, Ramana Maharshi, The Tibetan Book of the Dead. I quoted whatever I could think of. He waited until I was done then pointed at me and said, ĎThe first thing you have to do before you study Zen is get your head free of dope.' Just cut through all my bull and nailed me. I guess thatís why I stuck around."
"Yeah, he saw through me pretty good, too," Rob said. He was a soft-spoken man who appeared a few years older than most of the others. He wore wire-rimmed glasses and looked like he spent a lot of time in libraries.
"I'd been reading self-help books and attending encounter groups, sensitivity sessions, stuff like that--anything I thought might help me overcome my shyness and feelings of inferiority. The first Pyramid Zen meeting I went to Rose was there, and afterwards we all went out for a hamburger. I was sitting at Rose's table telling everybody about this radical new therapy I was involved in that was guaranteed to bring people out of their shells.
"Rose looked up from his burger and said, 'Don't waste your time. You want to cure yourself? It's simple. Just hunt up the meanest looking cop you can find and punch him. You may get your head caved in, but you'll never again live in fear.'"
I laughed. "Did you take his advice?"
"I havenít found a cop mean enough to suit me yet," Rob grinned.
After a few more minutes they went back up to the house. I stayed to unpack and get settled in. By the time I finished it was dusk and a heavy mist was settling on the valley below. I stood for awhile watching it thicken and creep up the mountainside towards me.
Sounds of the evening milking at the dairy farm in the valley drifted up the mountain with great clarity, even though the farm was at least a mile away. The clanging buckets and lowing cows, even the farmer's gentle patter, seemed as close as the gathering mist. Then, all at once I felt incredibly lonely and homesick again, just as I had during my first visit to Roseís house in Benwood. I sat down under the weight of it and the mood washed over me in great waves of sadness. I couldn't believe that these recurring feelings were simply the result of immaturity, or that I actually missed my home in Pittsburgh after being gone only six hours. It had to be Rose. Somehow being close to him filled me with a nameless sense of loss. Was it something I was going to lose? Or something I long ago lost that he was calling me back to? After awhile the sounds of milking disappeared and I sat in silence as darkness closed in. Suddenly the screech of a large bird startled me from my thoughts. I grabbed a flashlight from my tent and hurried up to the farmhouse, hungry for company.
As I climbed the porch steps I was puzzled by the silence of the house. I opened the creaky screen door and walked softly through the vacant kitchen. Sounds of slight movements were coming from the main room around the corner, so I stepped through the alcove and looked in. The room was packed. Rose and fifteen or twenty people were sitting in attentive silence. Rose sat perfectly erect, expressionless, his pale blue eyes glancing slowly around the room. I moved as quietly as I could just inside the doorway and found a place to stand. After a minute or so I began to feel what I can only describe as an energy that seemed to be both outside me and inside me at the same time. It was a purposeful, perhaps intelligent, force that pervaded the room but seemed to emanate from Rose.
"I know what each of you is thinking," Rose said suddenly.
He turned to a rugged-looking blond boy who appeared to still be in his teens.
"For instance, Eric here's thinking that if his girlfriend showed up tomorrow, he'd leave this place in a minute." His voice sounded slightly different to me. More resonant, perhaps.
Eric shuffled his feet and nodded his head with an embarrassed grin. "I could actually see her driving up in her old blue Toyota." He stroked his sparsely-bearded chin. "I suppose that would be a big mistake, huh?"
"I don't guess destinies. Who knows what a person might have to go through to finally crack his head? But I will say this. Once a person steps on this path he will always be tempted, always challenged. And unless you have an unshakable commitment to this work you'll get side-tracked by everything that comes along. So if youíre serious, you have no choice but to make a vow to yourself and whatever God might be listening that you want nothing out of this life except the Truth. Then youíll get somewhere.
"And you, Paul," he said, turning to a heavy-set fellow with round, wire rimmed glasses. "As soon as the energy picked up, you thought you were going to be overwhelmed. You were afraid you'd get lost in it and never find your way back out."
A long silence followed. "You're right," Paul said finally. "I blew it. I was scared."
Rose's voice was reassuring. "Fear is nothing to be ashamed of. Everything has to live in fear. If something's afraid, it will rise to the occasion."
"You don't seem be afraid of anything."
"Believe me," Rose said, "no one embarks on a serious spiritual search without a healthy fear of death. Of course, it also takes a bit of courage to go out looking for death before your time, so thereís a paradox involved."
He moved on. "Now Dan here, he's wondering whether or not he can risk dropping that rooster ego he's been carrying all these years."
Dan, who was built like a fireplug and had the face of a boxer, didn't flinch. "Thatís about right. What do you think? Should I?"
"That's the wrong way of looking at it. You can't set out to drop an ego intentionally. Too many other egos will rush to its aid. The only thing you can do is keep working, keep focusing your vector until you have a breakthrough that leaves the ego behind.
"And then there's little Davie," he said, glancing over at me. "He feels like he just missed the last stagecoach out of Dodge."
Everyone looked my way as if noticing for the first time I was there. I had been thinking of myself, as usual. Thinking of the sadness and longing that seemed to fill me when I was around Rose.
"Mister Rose, how can a person keep from being overwhelmed by moods?" I said.
"Walk, donít wobble," he said quickly, almost before Iíd finished speaking. "A sane man walks straight all the time." It sounded like an enigmatic fortune cookie, but I nodded my head anyway, as if I understood. He smiled at me, knowing I didnít have a clue, then softened his tone.
"Moods are the message medium of dreamland, " he said, looking straight at me. "Theyíre like colored glass through which we view the world. Itís through moods that more permanent states of mind are created. I maintain thereís only three basic moods: Fear, Seduction, and Nostalgia. Ninety percent of what people do in this dream world can be traced to the nostalgic mood. Nostalgia is the language of the soul. It Ďs the inner- man trying to get through the earth-manís paradigm, trying to communicate with him."
I was caught off guard by the unexpected nature of his explanation and by the way he looked at me as he spoke. When he stopped talking I realized I had taken in almost nothing of what he said. I started to ask him to elaborate, but he had moved on to the boy on my right, a teenager who had apparently been brooding over his parents.
"No one should hate his parents," Rose told him. "They sacrificed their spiritual future for you. They hatched you, then instead of reading or meditating, they spent twenty years working and worrying like hell so that you would survive and have the opportunity to be in this room tonight, if you were so inclined."
And on he went around the room. Somehow he held all our minds in his mind, finding just the right words, expression, and tone to let us know not only what we were thinking, but why we were thinking it. After awhile, people started to drift in and out, grabbing an apple or fixing a peanut butter sandwich. Rose didn't seem to mind. As long as there were people in the room he continued talking.
Gradually, the crowd grew smaller as people left without coming back. Rose ended the meeting by asking what time it was and remarking on the lateness of the hour. At that, everyone headed for the kitchen and started pulling food and snacks from their personal stashes. It was probably just my newness to the Intensive, but I wasnít hungry or in the mood for conversation. I left without saying anything and made my way back to my tent. All I wanted at that moment was to be alone and think about what had just taken place at the meeting. Minutes after I crawled into my sleeping bag, however, I was asleep.
The next morning I awoke to the sound of a loud engine in the distance. I was conscious that Iíd been hearing it for some time, and that the sound had incorporated itself into my dreams. It took me a minute to figure out where I was. The noise seemed to be coming from the direction of the farmhouse so I dressed hurriedly and ran to see what I was missing. As I approached the yard I could see several guys standing around an enormous railroad tie, probably twelve feet long and eighteen inches square. It had apparently been dragged to it's present location by the hulking black truck that was still idling nearby. Dan was unhooking the chain and several others stood staring at the tie like it was a dead body.
"What are you gonna do with that?" I said.
Dan looked up. "Mister Rose wants it loaded onto that truck," he said, pointing to an old stake-body parked a few yards away. "But I donít know. Itís a monster."
"There's six of us now," I said, anxious to be a part of something.
Dan finished unhooking the chain then reached inside the truck and shut off the engine. "All right," he said. "Letís do it."
We lined ourselves up evenly along the sides of the tie then squatted down and gave a mighty, noisy heave. Nothing happened.
"Get on the ends," someone said.
We quickly arranged ourselves three to an end and gave it all we had. The tie stayed put.
"We need ropes," Larry said, turning away and heading for a nearby shed. In a few minutes he returned with three thick lengths, which we ran under the tie at evenly spaced locations. Each of us bent to grab an end and got ready to try again.
"Thereís no way you're gonna hoist that post onto the truck with ropes," said a familiar voice. Rose was standing several yards away with a milk crate full of what looked like engine parts on his shoulder.
We looked at each other with disgust and determination. How long had he been watching? Nobody wanted to fail in front of Rose.
"Come on, ladies," Dan said, almost under his breath. "Let's give it our best shot. Ready? One, two..."
On "Three!" we heaved and grunted until the veins in our foreheads bulged. The tie never moved.
Rose put down the milk crate and walked over to us. "See if you can get one end of her off the ground, will you?" he said.
All six of us crowded around one end and after a false start or two were finally able to raise one end five feet in the air. Without a word Rose ducked under the middle of the enormous tie and stood up, taking the full weight of it on his shoulder.
"Now," he said, "get the damn thing balanced."
We scurried like squirrels for positions, bumping into each other, shouting orders, no one wanting to be solely responsible for the crushing of the Master.
We must have looked like the keystone cops to Rose. "Hell, just get out of the way," he said finally, and with an incredible display of strength and speed, raced to the stake body and threw the tie onto the truck bed. The heavy springs heaved and groaned under itís massive weight.
"I hate to see anything die slow," he said.
We just stood there, staring at the tie and then each other.
"Mister Rose," Dan said, "how the hell'd you do that? Did you use between-ness on that thing, or what?"
Rose pulled a white handkerchief from his pocket and wiped his brow.
"Yeah, I got in between a bunch of deadheads and lifted the post onto the truck."
We all laughed, except Phil, who was still too stunned. "I canít believe it," he said. "That thing is huge!"
"The power wagon even had trouble dragging it up from the racetrack," Dan said, gesturing to the rusty black vehicle that had woke me up. It looked like a tow truck from the 1950ís. On the battered doors were painted the words "Farm Use," and there were several bullet holes in the body, including one that had turned the windshield into an intricate spider web of cracks.
"The engineís about shot on that thing," Rose said. "Doesnít have much compression anymore."
"Looks like somebodyís been using it for target practice," I said.
"Yeah, it took some hits during the shoot-out," Rose said.
"Shoot-out?" I was not sure I'd heard correctly.
"We had a little trouble out here a few years back when I was first trying to get a group started. I had some real weirdoes staying out here. Dopeheads, hippies." He looked around at our faces.
"You was here that time, wasnít you, Pete?"
Pete, a tall boy with close-cropped hair, nodded. "Yeah, Iím the only one left from those days. The locals had never seen anything like us, I guess. It made them nervous."
"The locals didn't know what was going on out here," Rose went on, "but whatever it was they aimed to put a stop to it. One night a couple carloads of hillbillies pulled up in front of the house at about two in the morning and started shooting up the place. Bullets were coming through the windows and the walls."
Rose shook his head at the memory and wiped his brow again.
"Inside was a real circus," he went on. "We grabbed my hunting rifles and returned fire. These hippies on my place were always preaching peace and love, but when the shooting started they could really handle the rifles. This one speed freak, what was his name?"
"Rick," Pete said.
"Right, right. He was loading and firing a single-shot rifle so fast it sounded like a machine gun."
"Anybody hurt?" I asked.
"Nobody inside the house. One of the boys in the cars got shot. I got arrested for it even though the hillbillies attacked my place and fired on us first."
"But a man's got a right to defend his property," I said.
"It was a young kid who got hit in the car. He came from one of the bigger clans in the valley, and I guess the cops figured they had to arrest somebody. They put me in handcuffs and shoved me in the back of a cruiser. My son was living out here at the time, you know. He was about twelve then. A bullet ripped through the trailer where he was sleeping about a foot above his head. If something would have happened to him, there wouldíve been real trouble, believe me."
"What happened after your arrest?" I asked.
"I posted bail and came back out to the farm. But as I sat there in the farmhouse it hit me: this could be the end of it. I could lose the farm, my family, the group, everything. And even though I can never forget this world isn't real, once it starts affecting you like it is real, then you have no choice but to react.
"So I made up my mind to fight--to protect my farm, my family, my work. To die or kill somebody if I had to. Because even though the group was just a bunch of potheads, at least it was a start. If I let the hillbillies scare them off then the serious people who might come in the next wave would have no place to settle. Besides, Iíd made up my mind early in life that no matter what happened to me Iíd never give in to fear.
"Iíve been asked why I did this, why I took up a gun to protect my farm. Well, I did it because those people were struggling for purity, struggling to become as little children. And youíve got to protect that struggling, just like youíd protect a little child."
We stood there in silence for a moment, then Rose looked at our wrists. "Anybody got a watch? It's almost eight, isn't it?"
With that, everyone began to drift off and Rose walked into the house. I noticed several people starting up the hill across the road and decided to follow. When I caught up to them I fell in step with Phil.
"Where we going?" I asked him.
"See what? Whatís the daily schedule?"
"There's no schedule. The only planned activity is the evening meeting."
"Well, eight o'clock must mean something. Everyone scattered. "
"If you volunteered for physical work thatís when it starts," he said. "Ends at noon. Everybody else spends the day pretty much as they please."
"Whatís Mister Rose going to do now?"
"Eat breakfast, probably. Maybe go into town and check his mail."
The "pit" turned out to be an enormous hole in the earth, probably eighty by forty feet, and five or six feet deep. Around the perimeter was a cement foundation, with brick pillars begun at the corners. Everyone grabbed a pick or shovel and began working.
"Whatís all this?" I asked Phil.
"It will be a group community building someday," Phil said with a straight face, "Right now itís a hole."
I was truly amazed. "You did this with picks and shovels?"
Phil grinned at me then picked up a shovel and jumped in. For awhile I just stood and watched. There were nine or ten men in the pit and they worked like they'd been together for some time. The pickers broke up the hillside and the shovelers loaded the loosened rocks and dirt into a wheelbarrow. Then Dale, the biggest of the crew, stepped between the handles, while two others grabbed ropes looped through the front of the wheelbarrow.
"Mules!" Dale yelled. The two front men pulled while Dale lifted and pushed. The wheelbarrow picked up speed, until they were practically running up the wobbly planks that led out of the pit. Once on level ground, Dale took the load another twenty yards and dumped it over the steep hillside with a triumphant shout.
It looked like good, clean, dirty work, so with a shrug I jumped in. Soon I was swinging a pick and taking my shifts as a mule. The first few minutes were exhausting, even overwhelming, but once I got a second wind I began to enjoy it.
By noon I was exhausted but happy. I felt I'd given a decent account of myself and the others no longer seemed like intimidating strangers. We all washed up at the spring, then I returned to my campsite for lunch. Afterwards I hustled back up to the farmhouse for whatever was next on the agenda. But Phil was right. There was no agenda. Everyone had their own routines and were either busying themselves with some small tasks, or had gone off by themselves to read or meditate.
I was too tired for physical activity and too listless to sit still for any mental work. The campsite proved to be an impossible place to do anything. The heat inside the tent was as unbearable as the bugs were outside. Around mid-afternoon I wandered back up to the farmhouse and saw that Rose's van had returned. When I was unable to locate him in the house or yard, I asked Phil where he was.
"Same place he is every day at this time. Up in the pit, laying bricks."
"Is it okay to go up there while he's working?"
He gave me his by now familiar look of slightly irritated condescension. "I guess so. As long as you don't get in the way."
When I reached the top of the hill, I realized why the pick and shovel work was a morning job. The late afternoon sun was hot and merciless in the shadeless pit. Rose was standing on a step ladder over one of the pillars, carefully laying bricks. Two guys from Ohio--Art and Sandy--were cleaning and hauling used bricks from a mammoth pile about thirty feet from the pit. Frank, from the Pittsburgh group, was mixing cement with a hoe in a large, encrusted mortar box. The three young men were sweating profusely in their shorts and t-shirts, yet Rose seemed cool and dry in long pants, long-sleeve shirt, and a wide straw hat.
I watched him lay brick after brick with his thick, sunburned hands. Were it not for Rose's methodically slow pace and the clumsiness of his helpers, they could have been mistaken for a father-and-sons contracting team laying bricks anywhere on earth. There was no philosophy, no confrontation, no Zen. What talk there was between them was brief and direct, and concerned only bricks and mortar, strings and levels.
My initial impulse was to offer my help, but then I thought better of it. In spite of their silence and attention to the task at hand, something else seemed to be taking place between them. Something I wasn't sure I should interrupt. I turned and walked away, content to wait until the evening meeting to spend some time with Rose.
But when I returned from my tent after dinner, Rose's van was gone. I learned to my surprise that Rose rarely stuck around for evening meetings, although there was considerable disagreement in the group as to whether he was purposely leaving us to our own devices, or simply had more important commitments in town.
The evening meetings turned out to be mostly confrontation sessions, and whether it was because we had become so "intense," or simply because we were eighteen roosters cooped up without any hens, the sessions were harsh and sometimes even brutal. No one hesitated to tell you what was wrong with you, and if your feelings got hurt, that was just another ego you'd get confronted about. I was constantly amazed that there were no hard feelings afterwards. In the mornings guys who had been at each other's throats the night before worked side by side in the pit, joking, trading barbs and stories.
A recurrent topic of conversation in the pit was Rose, and I noticed that as soon as someone mentioned his name or started recounting an incident all other conversation stopped. As well as Rose seemed to know each of us, none of us seemed to have even the vaguest appreciation of who or what he was. Every new story from someone else was like a clue, a piece of a puzzle, and although no one said it outright, I think we all sensed that no individual could ever solve him. Only by chipping in our little pieces would the puzzle come together.
One day we were talking about how lucky we were to meet Rose, and offering our theories as to why he seemed to take such a special interest in us. Craig, a sturdy, jovial boy who had lived for awhile in South America, suggested we had earned our way here by some past actions, or karma. Someone else said it was destiny. I said I thought that Rose saw something inside each of us, some great hidden potential. Each of our theories had the common thread that we were somehow "chosen."
Dan, swinging his pick with both grace and power, had a minority view.
"Bullshit. You're just here, that's all." We waited, but Dan was a man of few words.
Finally Rob asked, "Do you want to explain that?"
Dan kept swinging as he talked, spitting out phrases on the downstroke. "November TAT meeting. Last year. We were all sitting in the room off by the kitchen. Rapport. Energy. Lots of juice--the place was humming."
"I remember," said Scott, a quiet engineering student from Carnegie Mellon. "The time with Bob Martin, right?"
"You got it," Dan said, still swinging. "Bob's an old friend of Rose's. An alcoholic. Heís a royal pain when he's drunk, but impossible to be around when he's sober."
"In his own way, Bobís an incredible guy, though," Scott said. "Literally a genius at math, physics. He knew Einstein personally. Heís also read more esoteric philosophy than anyone on earth. Thatís how he and Rose got hooked up. The trouble with Bob, though, is he canít live what he knows. Alcohol and women are his life." Scott stopped talking and looked to Dan, remembering, perhaps, that it was Danís story.
Dan swung the pick in silence a few times as if considering whether to go on. Then he stopped and leaned forward on the handle, catching his breath.
"Bob begged Rose to help him that day. Said he'd taken the cure, been to AA, tried everything but just couldn't stay on the wagon. Rose just looks at him a minute then stands up and puts his hand on Bob's head. He holds it there for about ten seconds then jerks it away like he was attacked by something. And when his hand came off it was like all the demons in Hell flew out of Bob's head."
We all looked to Scott, as if expecting a more traditional explanation.
"That's about right," Scott said, nodding thoughtfully. "I remember it was a real still day. There wasn't any breeze outside at all, but suddenly a rush of wind blew a backdraft through the wood stove, scattering ashes all over the floor. Mister Rose's face got red. Beet red, redder than I've ever seen it. Veins were popping out on his head, and even though it's cold he starts sweating like crazy. I seriously thought he was going to have a heart attack. And meanwhile Bob is literally beaming--happier than I've ever seen him. Like heís just been set free."
Dan picked up the story again. "After a minute or so Mister Rose walks out to the dining room and a few seconds later I follow him because, like Scott says, I think he might keel over and have the Ďbig one.í There was Rose sitting at the table, crying. Any you guys seen Rose cry?"
No one had. I couldn't even imagine it.
"Me either. I'm real concerned and I say to him, 'Mister Rose, he ain't worth it.' Rose just looks up at me with tears running down his face--not even trying to wipe 'em away--and says, 'Who am I to say?'"
We all stood in motionless silence for a few moments, then Dan grabbed his pick and went back to work.
"So don't go pinning medals on each other just because Mister Rose lets you hang around," he said between swings. "He works with whoever comes through the door. Heís willing to fight and die for us, yeah, but not because weíre special. Itís because were here, thatís all. When we get scared or bored and go back to our games, he'll dedicate his life to teaching whoever comes along next."