Jerrybob, Honduras & Pig Poop

Gerald Eckhart is another good man. He’s rich, too. He has the kind of money that can only be measured by stock portfolios and offshore, oil tanker rigs. He pays guys to pay other guys to count and then buy things with his cash.

Jerry and my father grew up together, separated by just three houses on Heatherdown Road in Decatur, Georgia. As teenagers, they once tried to start a folk-rock band called “Jerrybob and the Rooftop Wailers.” The story goes that my grandmother would not allow the boys to play their instruments inside the house, so they would climb to the roof of the garage and make up songs…

Loser, Thy Name Is Mud
Just like a cow
That chews her ugly cud
I’m a loser now
Methinks my name is mud.

Just like a bat
That drinks her dinners’ blood
I wish I weren’t begat
Methinks my name is mud.

Just like a flower
That blooms from her bud
I lose in every hour
Methinks my name is mud.

No one ever claimed they were very good… Father blew in and out on a harmonica. Jerry strummed a guitar. A boy named Thomas Flowers bounced drumsticks off of the roof shingles. And Dennis Bryson just sat there and hummed along. He was their “manager.” According to Jerry, all four of the boys traded verses when it came time to sing.

Jerry and my father did everything together. Baseball, football, homework, summer jobs, double dates… they even applied to the same colleges together. The memories that these two men shared could have made Tom and Huck wish for a better author.

They were the best of friends… ‘till death did them part.

*****

A few years after I woke up on the sofa to find father slumped over the side of his La-Z-Boy, Jerry invited me to work for a while on his ranch in Honduras: El Rancho Paraiso.

A recent “business deal” had resulted in almost 2,000 acres of land just outside of San Esteban, Olancho, Honduras. He was given the choice between yet another chalet’ in Park City, Utah, or an entire valley in Central America.

Jerry doesn’t snow ski.

It seems that Honduras is the second largest country in Central America, with one of the world’s highest concentrations of infant mortality and poverty. 68 of 1,000 children will die before reaching age five, and the annual median rural family income is less than $400.

So, Jerry started something called Honduras Outreach. It’s a ministry of sorts, incorporating people of many faiths, working in partnership with native Hondurans to improve the quality of life in the Agalta Valley.

And so on. And so on. And so on.

*****

I went there on a Tuesday. I left behind everything that I thought mattered, and set off to “save that poor country.” When I arrived on the property, I couldn’t help but to notice the stars. The 8-hour van ride from the airport had been so uncomfortable; it was all I could do to keep my eyes open. But now we were at the ranch, and I looked up. There were no light bulbs within about 90 miles, so the stars looked like incandescent golf balls, and I suddenly realized that David Crosby was right…

When you see the Southern Cross for the first time
You understand now why you came this way…

I had been there for about 7 hours when Jose Mondragon woke me with a gust of cigar smoke and a quick kick from his snakeskin boot. “Vamanos, Cabron!.. Let’s go, a-hole,” he grumbled. His voice was not deep, but definitely that of a cowboy. He looked 9-feet tall from my perspective on the dirt floor of my so-called house. Jose is a mere 5-foot, 4, and my “house” was made of dirt, rocks, water, straw and pig poop.

Perspectives change.

My father used to recount a Peanuts cartoon at parties and family reunions where in it Charlie Brown and Lucy are lying on a grassy knoll and Charlie Brown asks Lucy, “Lucy? What do you see when you look at the clouds?” She responds, “Oh, Charlie, I’m glad you asked… Over there I see the Sistine Chapel, where in 1508, Michelangelo was commissioned by Pope Julius II to paint his masterpiece. And that cloud over there looks like the Pennsylvania State House where, in 1776, the Second Continental Congress approved the Declaration of Independence. What do you see, Charlie Brown? What do you see when you look up at the clouds?” A puzzled-looking Charlie responds, “Well, I was gonna say a ducky and a horsey, but I’m not sure anymore.”

Perspectives change, indeed.

*****

10. 39 Days with Pepe.

11. Sightseeing & No Name Maddox.

12. The Funeral, Sex on the Beach & Sex.

13. THE Test & a Mountain out of a Molehill.

14. A Sticky Situation & Bazooka Bubble Gum.

15. Joy Follows Sorrow.

16. I Am The Greyhound.

 

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