World Class Lester, from Alabama,
I don’t have enough time for this project, especially about someone I know and care about so much, but I want to enter something just to show my interest. I know him so well I know I can write at least something. So consider this a draft (anyone who may be interested).
Lester is both a renaissance man of the American dream and a tragic hero. But someone not-from-here might flatter to compare him with the prodigal spirit of Tom Sawyer or condemn his current plight to some karma owing to his being an Alabama “redneck” upon whose wife had had her vengeance.
His north-central Alabama drawl hasn’t changed in 60 years, nor has his enthusiasm for living. Neither has changed his loyalty to those he loves, nor his zen appreciation for every moment he breathes: not changed his willingness to startle and delight strangers, nor his patience with what he might call solitude–but is really self-imposed isolation because he is such a sensitive soul that certain tragic events in his life eventually made him decide about 15 years ago that it would be better for him to leave everybody alone.
He’s the alpha male, first of four boys who all became union steelworkers, like their father. Lester was the outspoken one. I remember he got on my nerves slightly when we were very young because he would speak to get everyone’s attention, and with a stutter. In later years drinking heavily didn’t drown the stutter, but incidents which would cause him to sober up would erase both the stutter and his mischief for a time.
After the death of his father by tragic accident at the steel plant, his father’s wife and children were never the same. Life had centered around the father. None of these boys, now men, nor their wives had genuine respect and appreciation for Lester’s mother, a closet intellectual inclined toward depression. The huge monetary settlement further distanced them all. Lester’s mom found herself threatening to write this one or that one out of the will.
Lester tried to keep the family together. At one point when all were laid off for a couple of years, he started a business which employed them all. It was nothing less than a Cable company. He built the disc receiver, improving upon the original design. He and his brothers were the first to provide cable to several little towns in a rather remote area of the county where Lester’s grandmother had lived. That area would have been neglected by a larger company. He charged $5 a month for basic cable.
Later, when back to the Mill, the business sold for a grand profit, and he helped his wife start her own business–he also paid off the mortgage of their home. She has had a business of her own, of one kind or another, ever since.
I suppose the success of autonomy inspired him to dabble in projects of his own. He always did have the adventurer spirit, did all he could do to know his world–researched and explored with equal passion. He knew where all the gold mines were in Alabama, as well as unmarked burial sites. He had an eye for arrow heads. It was not telling his wife about certain money-making ventures–I suppose his drinking as well, that led to his divorce.
Frankly, in my opinion, they had grown apart. Who knows which one wanted freedom more. Him, I guess. But, she really stayed busy. She had that business, and was in school. But, my poor sweet friend yet found himself the damned of the woman’s scorn, after 22 years and two children. She considers him a horrible person he was, as though he were actually a horrible person. After taking everything (almost) in the divorce, she also had emotional leverage to keep the children away from him too–supposedly because of his drinking.
Certainly, there’s no way for me to know what his wife and children may have endured at his hand, but at my age, and from my background, methinks I’ve seen worse. And, with that, before I get into things that would make me cry and sit here all day, I shall call –end of story.