Our office late last month resembled every other property in Park County that is under renovation. The furniture was crammed where it did not belong, the computers were disconnected from the server …
Our office late last month resembled every other property in Park County that is under renovation. The furniture was crammed where it did not belong, the computers were disconnected from the server and the electrical plugs — and the old gross carpet was being systematically ripped up and replaced with clean new squares of carpet. While we all welcomed the change, it kind of displaced those of us who work in the newsroom.
That isn’t much of an issue for most of us, but since I have deliberately chosen to live back of beyond, there is little in the way of affordable internet service, while most everyone else can work from home. As such, I spent the days we were persona non gratis in the building gathering information and talking to residents.
Because the Powell Library has free WiFi, I was hovering there, checking emails when I noticed an older gentleman struggling to place his books in the return box.
As I stepped out of my car and over to the bench where this gentleman was seated, I noticed a couple of things. One, he had a lot of books. A lot. And he was using two hiking poles to help him walk.
When Earl Wolf stood up, he was completely bent over. The poles were a genius way of dealing with the damage to his body. How that damage occurred, or whether it was simply age, I do not know. I did not ask and Earl did not offer the information.
But as we chatted, he seated in his car, somewhat protected from the sharp March wind, and I standing outside on the street, he did share some high and low points from his history.
His wife, Polly, is in a nursing home. She is 98 and Earl chuckled when I suggested she robbed the cradle, since he is only 97. In addition to visits, he sends cards to her, and recently she sent one back with a photo of herself enclosed. He took the photo along on his next visit, but she did not recognize herself. She has been in the care facility about 18 months, Earl said. They have been married 76 years.
Earl helped build the bridge at Wapiti. He and the crew poured concrete for a support pier until 2:15 p.m., when they broke for lunch.
“After a little bit, the crane started up by itself and smoke started pouring out of it,” Earl recollected. “I had just been hired as a mechanic and went over and disconnected the battery.”
The crane continued to act up, eating solenoids that Earl kept changing — until another mechanic pointed out the battery was hooked up backward. That solved the problem and Earl kept his job.
He was born in Pennsylvania, where, in 1922, his father won an Overland sedan with curtained windows. His mother drove it until she passed away. Earl was 6 years old at the time.
His father replaced the sedan with a Model T, equipped with three floor pedals. They were for reverse, drive and a brake. It ran off a hand throttle.
We chatted about other things: cars and engines and families, the way things were and how they used to be.
After Earl drove off in his fairly modern Ford, I wished that I had found out where he lived, because I would like to spend more time with him. I did give him my card, so he can find me if he so chooses.
The thing is, I want what he has. He is content, not self pitying or angry about things he cannot control or change. He has worked his entire life, and now that he is older, he spends his time reading and visiting Polly.
I want to know how to live like that. We should all want to be more like Earl Wolf.