It is ten degrees this frosty morning (Thursday, December 15, 2016) here at the Fur Peace Ranch in Southeast Ohio. Maverick and I just came in from a chilly but necessary walk across the parking lot and down the old road to the A Frame. The remains of the Super Moon were falling slowly into the tree line. From our vantage point on the road we could see the lights twinkling from Donnie’s farm over there by SR 681. My heart was heavy with the loss of our dear friend Walt Sample late last night. December 14th, 2016, was just shy of becoming December 15th when Walt’s son called to give us the news.
There is never a good time for bad news and I realize that on this planet we call home, millions die each day. That said, each of us humans navigates the world with our own universe and the circles of these universes may or may not intersect. There may be magic in these meetings. I have been fortunate in my life to have had a number of these meetings but one of the most memorable was with Walt Sample. He came to us at the Fur Peace Ranch a number of years ago… I can’t really remember when. It was immediately apparent to me that we were born to be friends and I wasn’t the only one who felt that way.
He was a man of infinite spirit with a love of all things good in this world and the rare ability to find good in most things. He had talents in many fields. In his art whether it be music or painting, the purist of truths always shone through utterly free of artifice. One must check out Big Mule Music and you will get some small idea of what I’m talking about.
In late August, one of our dear friends, Rob McNurlin, was down on The Crossroads in Mississippi and brought some dirt back from said crossroads. We called it Devil Dirt… and there was something dangerous about it. Walt thought we should strike back on the good vibe and came up with the idea of Sacred Soil from the Fur Peace Ranch. We had been doing some excavating so we had a huge pile of dirt. Walt loaded up the sifter, we made labels and le voila, Fur Peace Ranch Sacred Soil! I say ‘we,’ but it was all Walt, sitting in garage next to the Harleys giving substance to yet another dream. The entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well here in Southeast Ohio and every little bit counts.
A renaissance man…father… husband… brother to all who were authentic. He didn’t suffer fools handily… he disdained poseurs… but he treated all with respect.
He passed suddenly, without warning and he although it is not for me to say how any man perceives his own passing, I would imagine that Walt would have wanted it this way. His great heart, having done its duty, retired the field. He had many different relationships with all he knew. I did not write with him. We thought about it… talked about it… but never got around to it. We were, however, friends!
All of us who knew Walt will miss him in our own way, but none of us will ever forget him. For me that ever-present smile, hearty handshake and the sly look that said he had something really cool to show me will live in my heart always.
At this point in my life, unexpected phone calls as often as not do not bring good news. Simply put, as the book of life is opened some of us do not make the next page and that’s just the way it is.
So in closing this sad but yet celebratory little note as I looked at the Super Moon last night and early this morning I was immediately reminded that by some strange coincidence yesterday morning I was listening to Jimmy Durante singing I’ll Be Seeing You by Sammy Fain and Irving Kahal.
I’ll be seeing you
In all the old familiar places
That this heart of mine embraces
All day and through
In that small cafe
The park across the way
The children’s carousel
The chestnut trees
The wishing well
I’ll be seeing you
In every lovely summer’s day
In everything that’s night and day
I’ll always think of you that way
I’ll find you in the morning sun
And when the night is new
I’ll be looking at the moon
But I’ll be seeing you
I’ll be seeing you
I’ll be seeing you my friend… in my heart always… In the meantime
Fair wind and following seas brother. My the spirit wind always be at your back!