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Sunday, August 23, 2009

HOM: Luke 1

He was my friend and I have mentioned him before. In a store that tends to attract misfits and oddballs, he stood out from the crowd. He was a big guy, over six foot and rawboned, and I suppose ugly might fit him. The inside didn't match the outside, though. I think he'd had a pretty traumatic childhood, since kids attack and ridicule those that are different. He told me a little of the fights and battles he'd had and commented that he'd discovered at an early age that his size didn't help him much. He was a Navy vet, who'd crewed on one of the big AWACS radar planes out of Naval Air Station Adak, AK. He lived alone, worked alone as a clean-up man at the plywood plant I'd been at. He owned the Dodge pickup I've mentioned, but he parked it and walked or hitched rides to get most places, though he'd rent a car for a trip to Spokane or Missoula once in a while. He bought (invested?) in knives and guns and books, but didn't keep them at his rented apartment. He would farm them out to friends to keep for him. I had a S&W revolver of his for a while -- Drug Fair had gotten in a limited edition .44 special and sold it to him. He brought it straight to me and asked me to clean out the preservatives and take it out and shoot it, then told me to just hang onto it. This backfired once -- the man he knew died, so Luke spent the best part of a day hiking out the man's place and talking to his widow about the guns, to see if she knew that they were his. She did. Actually, this backfired a second time, when he died. I suspect that there were a number of folks who knew him only as Luke, and when they saw that Walter Popp had died they didn't connect that name to the man whose guns they were storing and are still keeping them for his return. He spent hours hanging out in three places (places with books!): the library, Norms, and in here. KALS used to play classic instrumental music in the afternoons, and every day he'd come in, take his chair by the door, and read and relax to the music for hours. I mentioned his phenomenal memory. He would often interrupt a conversation he was overhearing to correct the participants if they got a fact wrong. Irritating, but helpful . . . He was also stubborn and a little argumentative, and usually right! When someone would ask me about a certain book and its relevance, he'd step in and give the customer an in depth review if it was one he'd read. He would have been a great professor or researcher. He was wasted as a laborer pushing a broom or a shovel. Once I bought an oddball rifle, a British Enfield .22 training rifle. It looked exactly like the Enfield battle rifle, but was a single shot rimfire. Without explanation, I showed it to Luke, who glanced at it and remarked that he'd owned several of them. "No, you haven't!" I said. He replied "I SAID, I'VE OWNED SOME OF THESE!" Yeah, he was peeved. Then I told him to look at the end of the barrel. When he saw the tiny size of the bore, he just grunted and started examining it. Right after my divorce, I was trying to figure out how to pay a $300 bill I'd gotten, and I guess I was mumbling to myself. Luke glanced up from his book, put it down, stood up, dug $300 out of his pocket and dropped it on the counter, said "Here." and walked out. He was another of those friends I did not and do not deserve. TBC (Me) (Blacktail Books)