Wednesday, December 9, 2009
Sonny the Mountain Man
During our drive into the mountains today, we stopped in front of an intriguing shack, complete with piles of Busch Light beer cans and a tattered confederate flag on the rickety porch. We were turning around as Keith tried to snap a picture of the house, and a bare-chested bearded man with an enormous beer gut and long, scraggly beard came out of the front door and asked if we needed help. Before you knew it, we were out of our car, chatting and hearing tales of "Sonny's" life like we were old friends.
"Would you like to have your picture taken with a real mountain man?" he asked. "Well, come on over here to the front porch! Come on over here, honey pie," he said to Mary. "You're one fine lookin' woman."
Mary admits to feeling a little squeamish, but knew in her heart that this was not a moment to miss. Therefore, she tried to be suave when ole Sunny placed his hand around her hips and rested it there, rather snuggly, she might add! She felt a reticence to place her hand on his naked back but then it seemed the only polite thing to do.
Sonny was a sweet old guy, with nicotine-stained teeth and beard, early signs of cataracts in his intensely blue eyes, and an old mountain shack built over 100 years ago. He proudly showed us photographs from his wedding which was performed right on this same porch. Mary noted that he was married---shirtless---in the same stained pants that graced his crooked frame on this sunny North Carolina afternoon. He told us that at the (flowerless) wedding, he begged the preacher to "hurry up and get it over with cuz there was beers needing drinking". We all laughed in unison as he sipped his can of Busch beer he had generously topped with salt.
Sonny also showed us a beautiful bound book of photographs of him and his wife. It was taken by a visitor---obviously a talented photographer---and this book was compiled and then printed on a Macintosh and given to Sonny as a gift. He obviously considered the Life Magazine-style photos a treasure, and we were very impressed with such a work of artistry that showed Sonny and his wife in a realistic, humanisitic and unapologetic light.
"I know I'll be dying soon," Sonny said, "and I'll be buried in a plot up there on the mountain." He pointed over our heads. "I married my wife so she'd inherit this house and them four acres instead of my family." He spat. "And I'll be 64 in May if I make it that far."
Sonny's aura of cigarette smoke, cheap beer and grime was something to behold, but as Mary pointed out, our time with Sonny was yet another way to honor God by being present for another person and their pain, no matter how different and foreign that person might be to us.
Thanks to Sonny for the good directions and his own brand of homespun wisdom and humor.