Thursday, July 20, 2006

Saying Goodbye to Sinner

Back in my wilder days one of my good friends was Leo Durkin, who grew up on a ranch south of Ft. Pierre and who always took his own approach to life. We hadn't seen each other for a long time, having taken different roads, and my last visit was to help his friends and family say goodbye one last time. Mine kept taking me further away, on to new things, while Leo--or Sinner, as his family called him--stayed close to home, making his travels between the pages of the many books he read and from the stories that others would come to tell him. He kept a close eye on the things nearby, the wind over the Missouri River, the plants and animals that came and went with the seasons.
It was with Leo (furthest left) that I had my first political discussions, back in '72 when McGovern was running against Nixon, my first physics debates (Can a two-wheel-drive motorcycle do wheelies?), some of my first drinking, my introduction to some great books (Another Roadside Attraction and Even Cowgirls Get the Blues), and some great bluegrass music (Norman Blake).
He had a lot of friends, and the simple ceremony and the Native American drum group would have been just what he would have wanted. Danny Hall put a fitting end to the farewell, singing "My Heroes Have Always Been Cowboys" and "Desperado" at the lonely cemetary at St. George as they placed Leo's ashes in the bone-dry hill overlooking the Missouri and the Durkin ranch.
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