BALDS ARE BEAUTIFUL, HATE IS NOT
The Appalachian Trail provides a respite from our nation’s turmoil and tumult
BY MARK NEIKIRK
See Pictures Of This Trip https://tinyurl.com/3z7a54h2
When hiking in the Appalachian Mountains, any reference to a bald should not be mistaken as a description of the noggin revealed when a male hiker of a certain age removes his hat.
Rather, a bald in this context is a mountaintop devoid of its forest. Bordered by bushes, briars, and scrubby, squat trees that can withstand being windswept, balds are predominantly grassy, highland meadows. You half expect Julie Andrews to burst across the trail at any moment, singing “The Hills Are Alive” and twirling about in her pinafore and bobbed hair. Fortunately, she does not.
Balds are something of a mountain mystery. Scientists don’t think they are manmade. Pioneers did not climb these mountains and clear cut the trees to graze their cattle and sheep. It is possible that prehistoric giants, like wooly mammoths and mastodons, grazed the balds. Suppose that is what happened. Why then didn’t the balds reforest themselves after the giant herbivores were gone? It’s been 13,000 years. A forest burned by fire begins renewal immediately and, with time, is its old self.
However the gift of balds has come to us, it is certainly a gift. Atop any one of them, you have a sense of being like a bird gliding above everything. You feel you can touch the clouds and, on an overcast day, you can.
Balds are a predominant feature of the 16-mile stretch of the Appalachian Trail that begins at Carver’s Gap in the Pisgah-Cherokee National Forest. The trail crosses four balds and passes within sight of others. This was the starting point for our spring 2022 hike, beginning on Friday morning, May 20, lasting through Sunday, May 22 for four of us and through Monday, May 23, for six others. Our first steps were in Tennessee, but the trail weaves in and out of North Carolina, too.
The balds make an impression. They have the grandeur of a western mountain landscape, where the bare-stone peaks above the treeline seem more pronounced. Balds open up the Appalachians the way snow-capped mountains open up the Rockies.
“There were more amazing views in this 16-mile hike than I have seen in most of my longer hikes. Very rewarding and, while difficult, it was not exhausting,” Bob Pauly observed after we got home. “I don’t remember any hike where the panoramic vistas were so ever present along the high trail on each of the mountaintop balds. Just fantastic,” said Paul Guenthner.
Perhaps the quintessential moment of this hike came on the second day as we exited a dense forest below our final bald, Hump Mountain, or as it is sometimes called, Big Hump Mountain in solidarity with its nearby sister, Little Hump Mountain. Big brother stands 5,587 feet and little sis is 5,440.
With no trees to hide it, the trail up Hump Mountain’s was a squiggle of dark brown against a landscape of greens and yellows, effervescent in their spring renewal. It was as if a map had been drawn in full 1:1 scale, every mile equaling one mile. I found myself wishing for a tree or a bend to hide what would obviously be arduous. It was imposing to see all at once.
The day before we had walked up Little Hump Mountain, a 1.5-mile ascent that burned in the lungs and legs. Seeing “Big” Hump’s trail and knowing how taxing Little Hump had been, John Hennessey surprised even himself with his reaction. “I just had to laugh,” he said once on top.
Laugh because the climb was inevitable and immutable. It’s not like you could turn around. There was no cybernetic voice to say, “Recalculating,” and then provide a new route. So why not just enjoy it? The day was beautiful. Rain, though predicted, held off. The temperature, which earlier in the month was pushing 90, was in the low 70s. And after Little Hump, we knew this: The view atop Hump Mountain would be worth every labored breath and step it would take to get there.
Flashback to the week before this hike.
Walking toward me on the Roebling Suspension Bridge, which connects Ohio and Kentucky at Cincinnati, came a young man with daypack into which he had stuffed a skateboard and a crossbow.
We live in a time when ax throwing is combined with drinking craft beers, meaning you can get hammered before you get axed. So perhaps there is a new kind of nightspot arriving in the hippest corridors of urban living that involves skateboards, crossbows, and tequila shots. First you sit a lime atop the head of your competitor, then let an arrow fly, William Tell-style. If your competitor survives, the two of you do a shot of Roca Patrón Silver and play on. Should you split your competitor’s skull instead of the lime, you drink the whole bottle alone.
A few days after the bridge encounter, I walked into a bagel shop with its post-hippie vibe, in which sat a young woman dressed like a pilgrim across a corner table from a couple of actual ex-hippies, now gray-haired and looking like grandparents who were over-channeling Jimmy Buffett.
They were discussing pot farming in the 21st century and how today’s crop differs from yesterday’s. Everyone was earnest. Too earnest. Hempy hubris. The pilgrim was attempting to exude agri-business expertise by quoting what she’d read on the internet and heard from her girlfriend’s boyfriend. Or was it her ex-boyfriend? I don’t recall exactly. Either way, it might have helped had I been stoned, as then I would not have been so judgmental about the inanity of the conversation.
And then there was this. A young man who looked as though he has just been released on parole for selling meth emerged from a house where maintenance and trash removal were undervalued. He had a lit cigarette in one hand and a can of spray paint in the other. His black curls, unkempt and greasy, dangled from beneath his back-turned trucker’s cap.
With urgency, he walked double-time into the street around a black, Chevy Monte Carlo, vintage 1987, that apparently ran but had lost whatever class it was manufactured to have. He ducked down by the passenger’s side rear wheel well, put his cigarette in mouth so he could use that hand to pull up his pants, and deftly squirted a few splatches of paint on the fender. Then, as quickly as he had appeared from the house, he disappeared back inside. All of this as the sun sat on a glorious Sunday evening.
Finally, there was the suburban mom in a shiny new, navy Chevy SUV with two decals on the rear window, one being a stick figure family of dad, mom, three kids and dog, and the other, “Fuck Biden.” WTF? Does she drive this vehicle through the school pick-up line, decorum be damned? To church? If we’re going to make America great again, we may have to wash mom’s mouth out with soap.
People ask, why hike? What’s the attraction of carrying a few days of provisions in a backpack and walking through old-growth forests, past clear, fast-flowing streams as birds chirp and sunlight dances through the laurels? Should I answer, “To get away,” the querying party may find the reply Delphic or curt, and retort:” To get away from what?” With that reasonable follow-up question in mind, I offer the above four scenes from the city. I, and my fellow hikers, needed a break from the absurd.
As if COVID and its mess (e.g., the anti-maskers/anti-vaxers and the virtue shamers who hated them, not to mention one million American deaths) were not enough, we also have $4.49 gas, a tumbling stock market, a baby formula shortage, a president with the leadership skills of a lemming in the back of the line, a proxy war with Russia in Ukraine, and, trust me on this, an amazing new acceptance for running red lights at high speed. Toss in a nut with a crossbow, a table of potheads, a strung-out Picasso of Bondo, a revised standard for public use of the f-bomb, and it is time to get out of Dodge. Or, in our case, out of Cincinnati.
Not that respite is lasting.Within a day of our return, another of those inexplicably angry young men, who had treated himself on his 18th birthday to two new military rifles, went inside an elementary school classroom in a little town in Texas, Uvalde, with an intent to kill, which he did. Nineteen children and two teachers died. One of the victims, just 8 years old, was “the sweetest little boy that I’ve ever known,” according to his grandfather, who must wonder how life could take such a turn without a moment’s notice.
What hate is there in America to drive anyone to such violence? What kind of society have we given ourselves?
Dragon Fly. Big Pimpin’. Claus. Chill Pill. Airbag. Seneca. Wild Flower.
When you hike a section of the Appalachian Trail, you get the opportunity to meet thru-hikers, who start in March or April at Springer Mountain, Georgia, with their sights set on Katahdin, Maine.
Each hiker has a trail name, bestowed by fellow hikers and capturing some aspect of their personality or appearance. Big Pimpin’ started out carrying a chair in her backpack, which others considered opulent. She was pimping. Pretty quickly, she lost the chair but kept the name. Claus had a long white beard and bragged that he had disposed of his razor in 1987 though he had trimmed his beard before leaving on this hike. It was still of Gandalf proportions so it must have been quite the sight from 1987 to 2021. Airbag? Let’s just say all you need do is say “hello” and he'll take it from there.
The AT is 2,184 miles long and typically takes five to seven months to complete. Section hikers do this a piece at a time, taking as many long weekends as necessary, which is about 40, and those may be spread out over years. I suppose we are section hikers now, having hiked the AT on three of our trips. We have about 2,131 miles to go. With one AT weekend every three to five years, we’ll be Methuselahs before we finish.
Because of where we started this hike, about 380 miles from Springer, we encountered a considerable number of thru-hikers, who cover about 15 miles a day and allow themselves a few “zero” days were they stop in a town or a hostel. Our thru-hikers had been on the AT for a month, perhaps a little longer.
Interestingly, we met more women than men, which had not been the case in previous years. One thru-hiker told us that at least half of the AT’s starters this year are women and, if history holds, at least that percentage will be AT finishers and don’t be surprised to learn of an uptick in the percentage this fall. The women we met are unlikely to quit early. They combined a good cheer, practicality and toughness, a trio of traits needed to get through the AT’s relentless routines. Until that last step, each night is no more than rest for the next day and whatever it might bring, whether it brings the unsurpassed beauty of a cool, sunny day or an epic downpour or, toward the end, snow. Mosquito bites. Blisters. Sunburn. BO, including your own. A sinus infection or two. A cut. A bruise. Dehydration. A serious hankering for a hamburger, a cold beer and hot shower. It’s all part of the drill.
Thru-hikers are a fascinating lot, as each of them had left hearth and home for reasons all their own but generally to find peace of mind. To know themselves better. To plot a next course in life. To get away from the turmoil and tumult of the 21st century.
As weekend warriors who hike in on Friday and out on Monday, we only get a taste of the restoration they will achieve after perhaps 200 days and nights walking, stopping, camping, rising, walking, stopping, camping, rising, walking. But the taste is one we have come to consider essential. Depending on how you count, our hiking group is 26 years old, and Bob, our founding members, has 128 nights out – that is, nights spent in a tent and not in the immediate vicinity of a parked car. He could cover the whole AT in that amount a time, assuming a good pace and few or no zero days. He, and we, have some trail cred.
Thru-hikers represent a greater commitment. Still, we felt a kinship, and thought we saw ourselves in them. Maybe, if things had been a little different 40 years ago when each of us was 20 or so, we might have taken off to Maine, leaving what was a crazy world back then, too. Nam. Nixon. Kent State. The Shah of Iran. Patty Hearst. The Munich Olympics. Watergate. Whip Inflation Now.
Ecclesiastes 3, written an estimated 700 years ago, warned us: “The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun.”
Ah but those balds!
This hike started high and got higher. At an elevation of 5,512 feet, the Carver’s Gap parking lot on Tennessee State Route 143 is higher than Denver, the Mile High City. Round Bald, the highest of the balds on this section of the AT, is 5,826 feet. What’s impressive is that while standing on any of these balds, which provide a 360-degree view of the mighty mountains, you can see taller peaks in the distance. Mount Mitchell, a couple of hours away by car, is 6,684 feet and the highest peak east of the Mississippi River.
We stood in a land of giants. A hiker from another group told us of an app, PeakLens, that will identify surrounding mountains. Eric Krosnes, ever the techie, tried to download it on the spot but, with just one bar, lacked enough internet signal to do so. No doubt he has it by now.
Our hike’s net elevation “gain” was negative. That is, the end of the hike was at a lower elevation than the start. It was, however, not all downhill from Carver’s Gap. The trail immediately went uphill toward Round Bald. Despite it comparative elevation as this trail’s high point, Round was only 300 feet above the Carver’s Gap trailhead, so the climb was modest.
What happens after you reach Round’s summit is what happens over again on the AT in this vicinity. Obviously, you have go downhill on the other side but the trail keeps going down, taking you lower than where you started, meaning the next climb will be higher and harder, even if the next bald is lower than the last because of the losses and gains. It’s simple arithmetic. Jane Bald, at 5,807 feet, is “below” Round Bald by 19 feet but you drop down more than 19 feet. Hence, the net climb is greater. You descend even more on the other side of Jane. On the second day, when it was time to slug up Little Hump Mountain, its “lower” elevation of 5,540 had an Everest feel to it.
Walking up the mountainsides, I thought at times of Harvey Lewis, the Cincinnati schoolteacher and ultra-runner who has twice won the Badwater Ultramarathon – the world’s toughest race, covering 125 miles through California’s Death Valley’s heat and hills. In 2018, Harvey set out to run the AT in record time. He didn’t quite accomplish that, though he ran as much as 65 miles in one day. There were some hardships along the way, and it took him 50 days versus 45, which would have set the record. That same year, a Belgium ultrarunner, Karel Sabbe, smashed the record, finishing the trail in 41 days, 7 hours and 39 minutes. So even if Harvey had edged past the old record, he would only have held it for six weeks.
Try contemplating that while humping either of the Humps’ inclines, which rival the hypotenuse of right triangle with a base half its height. Heart rates rise above 150 (220 minus your age is the recommended max, so given that our average age is over 60, 150 is pushing it). Backs give out. Legs turn to lead. Lungs gasp. Now imagine doing that while trying to break a speed record. Harvey kicked some AT ass.
The trail provides ample time to think about such things – or anything else that comes to mind. A favorite thought of mine, and probably others, is consideration of what I might have left at home to lighten the load.
Interestingly, I posted this question on a favorite Facebook site, “55 Backpacking and Hiking,” where “mature” hikers trade tips and tales:
“About to head out for 4 days. Still trying to cut weight: tent (2 pounds) + pad (1) + sleeping bag (2) + rain suit (1) + bourbon (1) + Zero Helinox chair (1) + Kindle (1/2) + stuff: toothbrush, water pills, little bit of Dr. Bronner’s, baby wipes, mosquito/sunscreen, meds (1.5) + food for 2 for 4 days (3) + water (1) + knife (1/4) + para-cord (1/2) + clothes (2) + pack (4) = 20+. Probably some odds and ends that will boost that a little. What to add? What to cut?”
The suggestions were abundant. Some helpful. Some not so much. The most popular suggestions were to lose the Helinox and the bourbon, though some suggested replacing the bourbon with Scotch or Everclear, neither of which weighs less or tastes better. Also, asking a Kentuckian to leave his bourbon at home is like asking a Trump voter to denounce Jan. 6. Not happening.
I will, however, concede vis-à-vis the Helinox, a trail innovation that’s about a decade old now. These well-engineered folding chairs, and their knockoffs from other brands (REI, Big Agnes, Nemo, LL Bean), first weighed a couple of pounds, then Helinox cut the weight in half with its Zero model. A pound of comfort can be worth its weight in gold at day’s end.
Trouble is, on soft ground the chair’s legs sink into the dirt. The chair tips over. The sitter is cast backward to roll head over heels as everyone else laughs before the chorus of concern: “Are you alright?”
To get around this, Helinox first made plastic balls that could be installed the end of the legs. They worked but a two-pound chair became a three-pound chair. Next, Helinox made a fabric rectangle with slots for each leg, creating a stable base the width of the chair. Again, you have just added weight. Not as much weight but why spend extra to buy a one-pound chair and then make it weigh more? Many of us bought the original Helinox for $100 or more and then replaced it with a Zero chair for another $129 and then added foot balls for $35 and next the fabric footprint for $35 as well. That’s about $300 invested in a chair that, as some of the Facebook commentators rightly said, is unnecessary, as Big Pimpin’ discovered. Find log or a rock and take a seat.
I, by the way, got my pack to about 25 pounds and with each meal consumed the weight went down. Because the trail had water every three to five miles, I did not carry much water. A liter of water weights over two pounds, and some in our group carried at least that much and, on one leg, Eric carried three liters. Others carried too much food, which they regretted while hiking but not come time to eat. I saw someone eat a bagel with pepperoni and cheese on Sunday afternoon. Bob pulled out a bag of honey twist pretzels on Saturday evening and Mark McGinnis unpacked and shared a fresh bag of Goldfish Original crackers. I had only a few chocolate-covered espresso beans. Tasty, light and inadequate after climbing a bald.
We, the weekenders, carried – in some notable instances, and I shall not name names so as to protect the guilty – immense loads. Tents, sleeping pads, sleeping bags, camp shoes, water bottles, and camp saws were packed outside, attached with straps or stuffed into side pockets. Think human pack mules. Seeing all that, it is hard to imagine what might be inside. Presumably some clothes, some food, stoves, water purifiers, and perhaps a coffee cup.
Let me be clear. To each his own. If you are willing to carry it, you have a constitutional right to do so and I have no quarrel with your decision. Johnny Curtin, whose trail name is Silver Pops, once suggested that it be changed to Silver Poppins because his pack, like Mary Poppins’ travel duffel, seemed magically supplied with an endless inventory of stuff. Silver Pops shared his packing list with everyone before this trip, and I found it useful to make sure I hadn’t forgotten anything. Matches. Check. Flashlight. Check. Ibuprofen. Check. His list had 75 items on it. It’s amazing how many those are essential. First aid kit: yes or no? Water purifier and a SteriPen? Perhaps one or the other or maybe treatment pills, which work and are weightless. They do add a taste to the water. Better yet, ask to borrow someone else’s filter. Not reason to have two in the group.
Walking a mile or more uphill gives you time to think all of this through and, perhaps, lighten the load for the next hike.
Jim Ankenbauer, who is probably our most experienced backpacker, offered the wisdom of his experience. He’s cut weight on many pieces of equipment. His tent. His backpack. But he now carries a comparatively heavy water pump because it purifies quickly and removes viruses. “I’ve been sick on the trail and I’m not doing that again,” he explained.
What’s an extra pound weighed against the misery of giardia?
There are two ways to describe a hike. You can describe the big picture. The balds. Meeting the thru-hikers. The looming rain, said to be coming torrentially any minute. Some among us obsessed over it, checking the weather map at every water break if there was cell service. Bill Ankenbauer, only recently retired from his long career producing a morning news show, in which weather was always a prominent feature, was simply unable to stop being Bill the news guy. We had our own, personal Al Roker. Eventually, it did rain, though mostly after everyone was tucked tight in their sleeping bags inside tents that did not leak.
Those constituted the big picture for this trip. But a trip can also be distinguished by its details. By its little things.
Some of the little things are moments, usually unexpected and sometimes subtle. Saturday afternoon, the sun gave way to a drizzle, which dissipated into a fog that enveloped the trail as Eric and I happened to be passing through a tunnel of trees and briars. The skinny trail disappeared not around a bend but into the fog, and for the short time before we left this canopied bit of trail, we were in a mystical place. The fog wove itself into the trees, their green blended into its ethereal white. Sound seems muffled. Time slowed. Thoughts deepened.
The little things also included Brandon Zembrodt building his first Patio Boy fire.
Campfires have fallen somewhat out of favor. If not attended to correctly, they leave a mess. Rare is the backcountry fire pit that doesn’t have an old tin can or a piece of nasty aluminum foil. They are trash pits for the irresponsible. Their bigger threat is that a neglected fire will start a forest fire. Further, the smoke is not exactly good for the lungs. Some nights, if the wind shifts toward you, it’s a pack Camels in one or two breaths.
We’re careful, but we are campfire hikers. We’d done without when required by backcountry rules or disabled by rain. Mostly, though, we build a fire to sit around for dinner and then to tell stories into the night. Being one of the early-to-bed people, I don’t know the details of those stories and, even I did, we have rule: What’s said on the trail stays on the trail. Hint, though: Misspent youth stories are common. So are tales of hikes past.
The Ankenbauer brothers, Jim and Bill, are renowned for their fire-building chops. They like them big and bold. Eric is renowned for his ability to start a fire no matter the conditions. Hence his trail name, One Match. Sunday afternoon, Eric packed up to leave with me, Paul Guenthner and John Hennessey. The forecast, though wrong all weekend, grew grim, with 2 inches of rain predicted for Monday. John had a cough coming on, which would grow worse. The bulk of the hike was over, with the balds climbed and crossed on Friday and Saturday. There was a mere three miles, all downhill, to the car. The four of us headed out, wishing the others well.
A giant limb had fallen into the campsite recently. It was still green but dry enough for firewood. Bob and McGinnis took the lead in cutting wood. “Providing,” Brandon reported, “a vast amount of sawed wood. I’ve never seen Mooch work so hard” – Mooch being Bob, so trail-named because he dines on the excess food of others, which allows him to carry less. He earns his keep other ways, like by planning the trip.
Brandon, our youngest hiker at age 43, used dryer lint (a trail secret) to get a flame going. Bill and Jim took it from there, piling on the wood to build a fire that withstood the rain, which did come down hard though not all night. Thru-hikers wrapping up their day walked into camp delighted to dry out by our fire. One gave Brandon’s fire the ultimate thru-hiker compliment. He called it “trail magic.”
Another of the little things about this hike was a side trip that Eric and I took to Hampton Creek, where native brook trout are said to reside. On the way down, we passed a lone hiker carrying a fly rod. He was from Mobile, Alabama, and recently relocated to Johnson City, Tennessee. Hampton Creek, he told us, does indeed have brook trout but they are skittish. Approach with stealth, he advised.
Brookies are trophies because of their beauty and history. Not their size. Ten inches in a mountain stream would be a monumental catch. Seven inches is respectable. But their colors are kaleidoscopic and the story of how they got here, swimming the ocean from New England after the Ice Age froze its rivers, is a magnificent tale of the natural world’s persistence in assuring life on Earth. After all the serene miracles that created life on our planet despite a universe without evidence of life on all other planets, it would have been a tragedy for life to end because the temperature dropped. Thank the brook trout for being one species that said not now, not here.
Eric and I both brought Tenkara rods for this task. Tenkara is a minimalist way to fish. A light line is attached to the end of a long, telescoping rod. A fly is tied to the line, and the fisherman lays the line across the water. There is no reel. Tenkara is perfect for backpacking. The rod is nearly weightless. The tackle is a few tiny flies. My rod stuffed easily into the bag that houses my tent poles, and the poles in turn protected the rod from breakage. Eric had tried Tenkara on last year’s hike. I took a short lesson a couple of years ago but this was my first field experience.
Getting to the stream was taxing. A two- or three-mile section of the 330-mile Overmountain Victory National Historic Trail intersects with the AT and goes straight downhill for the first half mile or so. It then goes up and down, more up than down, before it met up with the stream, which bordered an old farm where a barn was made half from the remains of an 18-wheeler’s trailer and half from scrap wood. Cows obviously still grazed here, as there was manure so fresh it looked like some nasty pudding – more liquid than not. There was also the dried scat of coyotes, and the blackberry bushes, which seemed endless, were flowering and would, presumably, soon be lush with berries and likely draw bears.
We made our way down a skinny path to the stream, which was small but beautiful, tumbling from the mountains over a series of stair-stepped falls, beneath each of which was a pool where there might be fish. In short order, Eric reported a bite. Then another. It took me a little longer, but one pool produced two strikes. The unmistakable flitter of a trout rising to smack a fly was exhilarating, even if the unseen fish would measure in inches.
That flitter happens in an instant. One second your fly finds a current, which pulls it perfectly over a pool, where a waiting trout mistakes it for a bug and, bang! It strikes. A small wave wiggles over the water’s surface. A second later, the fish is gone, the water back to glass.
We worked our way downstream, trying one pool, then another, as well as different flies. A Parachute Adams. Something with pink foam. A gnat pattern. It was mostly uneventful until Eric hollered, “Holy shit!” He had nearly stepped on a 20-inch water moccasin. Not sure what we would have done had it bitten him. Google “snake bite,” I guess.
After an hour, maybe 90 minutes, the rain began with thunder rumbling. We would have to go.
Walking back, we saw an orange salamander on the trail. “He looks dry,” Eric commented. “Douse some water on him,” I suggested. He did. If a salamander can look happy, this one did.
Little things. Why hike? Because of those.
It is now Friday, a week to the day after our hike commenced. Last night, many of us were at Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church for the visitation, memorial service and reception celebrating the life of Marian Pauly, Bob’s mother, who passed away at age 97.
Our hiking group is a ragbag of men, most of whom live within a few miles of one another in the Kentucky suburbs of Cincinnati. Many of us knew one another, at least a little, before we began to hike together but some of us did not. We just signed on because someone else in the group said, “Hike with us.” Bob, my neighbor at the time, asked me.
With each passing year, we grow closer to each other, bound by the common experience of being on the trail together and sharing experiences and stories. We know about one another’s marriages (our spouses have become friends, too), children, jobs, illnesses, and most everything else from favorite cars to first girlfriends. I’m sorry to admit it, but we even know who changes their underwear every day while hiking, who changes their socks, and who changes neither.
Thus bound, it was no surprise to see one another at Mrs. Pauly’s services. Nor was it a surprise to see us gravitate to, first, Bob, and then each other. Blessed Sacrament is nearly across the street from Cornell Avenue, the Pauly family home. Marian Pauly was a pillar of Blessed Sacrament, and so the homily was more personal than most. The priest spoke as if he had lost his own mother. He recounted Mrs. Pauly’s last words to him, a Psalm: “Be still and know that I am God.” It was the priest’s favorite of all Biblical passages. How did Marian know?
In his eulogy, Bob’s brother John said his mother valued family, friends, and fun. The more you knew about his mother, the more you understood Bob who, for all the time I’ve known him, has valued family, friends and fun in exactly that order.
This is not the first funeral to bring the Patio Boys together, and it will not be the last, though let’s not rush anything.