Keith Eubanks II

Archive for March, 2010|Monthly archive page

A Man . . . A Big Man

In Dreams on March 20, 2010 at 3:44 pm

Daniel Boone was a man. Yes a big man.
With an eye like an eagle and as tall as a mountain was he.

I have been watching reruns of Daniel Boone with my daughter, Maddy, over the past few months. We have all six seasons on DVD and I like to share the old shows with her. I was saddened -incredibly saddened- to see the morning newspaper yesterday and the news of Fess Parker’s death. Before I could read the caption I recognized the familiar coon-skin cap and friendly, wizened smile and I knew he was gone. Sudden and unexpected tears filled my eyes. I never knew him, but like so many others, I felt like I did. For a second, I was a little boy again, and it is the boy that feels the loss most profoundly. He was a childhood hero, an icon, and Daniel Boone was -and still is- great televison. It’s a show that didn’t have to apologize for its lessons in morality or its ideas of entertainment as good clean fun. Families shared time around the television set and Daniel Boone became a role model for little boys like me   . . .  and their fathers I think.

I read an interview not long ago where Fess Parker discussed the show and its popularity. He was proud of Daniel Boone and said that he was constantly approached by people wanting to share their memories with him. He knew what they were going to say, but he listened, and talked, and shook hands and people loved him for it.

He was by all accounts a gracious gentleman.

My father was fortunate enough to have met Fess Parker at his Santa Ynez winery. It was hard to be jealous of dad – though I was. I could hear the excitement in his voice as he described the meeting and I could understand that excitement.  There’s still a little boy in him, too. I was happy he got to meet him. I always hoped I’d get the chance, someday.

I remember, many years ago, playing at the park across the street from our house in Tranquillity. I was pretending I was Daniel Boone and was whittling a piece of wood with a new pocket knife – a very sharp new pocket knife. I missed the piece of wood and the knife carved a long piece of skin off the top of my hand. The blood and pain came quickly and my first impulse was to run home to my mom – but I was still in character. I decided that Boone would deal with this kind of thing himself so I grabbed a eucalyptus leaf and pressed it over the wound until the bleeding stopped – not very sanitary, but it worked. I still have the scar on my right hand to remind me of the adventure.

Years later, in a college history class, I chose the historical Daniel Boone as a research project. I studied him like a scholar and read several biographies of the man. On a trip across country I stopped in Kentucky and visited the original site of Boonesborough. There is a reproduction of the fort a short distance away, and I toured it, but what I really wanted to do was walk on the grounds of the original site. It didn’t matter to me that there was nothing but a marker to note the history if the place. I wanted to walk in his footsteps, and I did. And it was really cool.

As I walked through the grass near the river I felt both nostalgia for the Boone of my childhood, and the historical reality of the man and the place.  But even then it was Fess Parker’s face I associated with Boone – I couldn’t avoid it.

The old memories were strong.

I’ve always been interested in Daniel Boone. I still am. The true account of his life reads like great fiction, and the word “legend” does not overstate the reality of the man. I am excited to read the latest biography by Robert Morgan, titled  Boone. The book sits on a shelf in my study . . . waiting. I thinks it’s time to pick it up and visit him once again. It was, after all, Fess Parker that introduced me to Daniel Boone so many years ago.

I didn’t learn this until yesterday, but Fess Parker and Ed Ames -the actor that played Mingo on the show- remained good friends throughout their lives. They lived only 15 minutes from each other and Ed would visit Fess on Thursday nights and sing songs around the piano.

Fess Parker was 85 years old -as was the real Daniel Boone- when he died.

I think I’ll wear my coon-skin cap today.

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It’s not the years . . .

In Collectibles, Dreams on March 4, 2010 at 6:20 am

A statue of Indiana Jones, as he appears in The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, sits atop a bookcase in my study. He stands in the ruins of a Mayan temple, whip in hand. At his feet, the golden mask of Orellana. Indy’s face shows his age, lined and weathered, but his eyes are clear and bright. The famous fedora is pushed casually back on his forehead. He looks a little wiser, a little more content, a little more self-assured.

And it is an excellent likeness of Harrison Ford.

A friend, seeing the statue, asked me recently why I had “old Indy” up on the shelf, not the younger version from Raiders of the Lost Ark. I can’t really explain why I like this one so much, but I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately. Maybe it’s that another year has past, and another birthday reminds me that I too am getting older.

I guess I like the statue because it reminds me that Indiana Jones is still out there doing what he does best.  And as it turns out,  a full life may not be measured in years after all.

It’s the mileage.

My brother-in-law recently bought a Porsche. It was used, with very low mileage and it was expensive. He explained to me that the value of these cars is based not just on the condition of the car. Cars with fewer miles are worth more, so an older Porsche with lower mileage is actually worth more money than a newer model with higher mileage. I wondered why someone would buy an $80,000 car and then not drive it – or only put a few thousand miles on it and then sell it. The car isn’t really something to enjoy then, it is an artifact sitting in some warehouse – or four car garage.

Maybe I’m missing something, but if I owned a Porsche, I’d drive it until it fell apart.

Socrates said that the unexamined life was not worth living. These unexamined lives, I think, are a lot like Porsches sitting in so many garages. They are meant to be driven. And lives are meant to be lived and living them comes with wear, tear, depreciation, and failure.

Mileage.

I remember a scene in Raiders where the Ark of the Covenant has been secured in the cargo hold of a smuggler’s ship, and Marion Ravenwood says to Indy, affectionately, “You’re not the man I knew ten years ago.” He responds with one of the best loved lines in the film, “It’s not the years, honey, it’s the milage.”

It’s been repeated many times and in the repeating it has become something of an adage on the inevitability of aging, but I don’t think Indy was complaining. I heard satisfaction, maybe even pride. He earned every bump and bruise and scar and that’s just the way we like him. Maybe Marion likes him better that way too. Maybe Indiana Jones couldn’t really live his own life until he left the shadow of Abner Ravenwood and set out on his own.

“You aren’t the man I knew ten years ago,” she says.

None of us are.

The Indiana Jones films chronicle the evolution of Indy’s obsession with artifacts. In The Last Crusade, a young Indiana idealistically – and relentlessly – pursues the Cross of Coronado, and for a moment he actually holds it in his hands. But only for a moment, and his eyes fill with tears of frustration as the relic is taken from him. In the very next scene, and many years later in Indy’s life, he fights for and finally reclaims the cross. The real point of the scene isn’t revealed, however, until the end of the film when a temple in the canyon of the crescent moon is collapsing, and Indiana Jones is about to fall into the depths of a chasm as he reaches for the Holy Grail.

And for a moment -just a moment- he has his hand on it. He reaches for the cup much like he fought for the cross, obsessed, relentless, unwilling to let it go. It’s a lesson that comes with age, and it is his father’s voice, older and wiser, that cuts through the crashing rock and chaos, speaking calmly, compellingly.

Indiana . . . let it go.

And he does.

And he is never the same.

Mileage.

This is why I like “old Indy.” It’s in the eyes and the set of his mouth. It’s in the tilt of the hat on his head. This is a guy that has learned to let it go. All those things we cannot have, we cannot change, we cannot forget or forgive.

The grail is a metaphor for life – or your Porsche. Either way, it doesn’t matter. You’ll have to let it go, eventually.

So drive the car. And enjoy it.

It’s not the number of years that make a life meaningful. It’s the mileage.

My wife told me a story a few years ago that still makes me smile. Her office at that time was just down the hall from mine and the corridor was filled with students waiting to meet with me. My door was closed -I wasn’t there yet- but the students began to wonder if I was in my office and just not answering. She overheard one of them say, “He’s kind of like Indiana Jones. He probably crawled out the back window to avoid us.” The students laughed.

I liked the comparison. And when you inspire that kind of mythology, you can’t go wrong. But you’d better do your best to live up to it.

I know how I will celebrate my birthday this year. I’ll be working. I could take a personal day, but I love what I do and I feel the weight of the responsibility that comes with such a calling – or quest.

And I know that one day I’ll have to let it go.

But not today.

It’s going to be a long day, this March 4th. I start before the sun comes up, and my kids will be asleep long before I come home. And when my shadow crosses the doorway, I’ll be looking for a good piece of chocolate cake and a glass of wine. Brooke might rub my tired shoulders and ask me where it hurts.

And I will probably fall asleep.

“Well,” she might say, “At least you haven’t forgotten how to show a lady a good time.”

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