Lost And Found

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic

Nick Brennan goes to visit where his father passed away and learns more about the man than he had anticipated.

Submitted: January 14, 2018

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Submitted: January 14, 2018



Lost And Found

I wanted answers.

That is something that a Professor told me about writing. He said that the reason why we write is that we are looking for answers. No matter what our purpose was for our work, we needed to find the answer. I was always intrigued by that particular premise. Writers are of the nature that we need to bring attention to all kinds of issues and malaise in the world around us. With our work, we spend approximately 300 or so pages bringing a problem to the forefront and trying to get to the answer. It takes a lot from both the reader and the author but it when it works out, the sight is one to behold.

Unfortunately I didn't have that ability to solve my problem with writing.

I was in the town of Grandview, Idaho. It was a small town in Southern Idaho. Farming community and very much the picture of a town competing with the past and the 21st Century. I was sitting in a bar called "Jim's Cafe." It was a makeshift set up. A small town Restaurant with folding chairs and booths. I had placed my order and was thumbing through a Paperback Novel waiting to meet someone. 

Recently, I had been curious about my father. He had passed away in 1980 at a very young age. William Brennan was a legendary Rodeo Cowboy. The Saddle Bronc Riding Champion a record 7 times. He ruled the Rodeo Circuit from Alaska all the way to Oklahoma and Texas. Even now, when I turned on the Rodeo on a Cable TV channel, more often than not I would hear some young Cowboy mention that their main inspiration was none other than "King William" Brennan himself.

I was born in 1978. It was in a town much similar to Grandview, McCall to be exact. The town located in the Central Idaho Mountain Range. Debbie Johnson and William Brennan were the proud parents of two beautiful daughters Janice and Lindsay. However, William knew that he wanted a son to complete his family. So on that incredible hot day in July of 1978 his little boy decided to make his appearance. From what I was told, my father couldn't have been happier that I had arrived healthy and with the right amount of toes and fingers. From the little information I had been told by my grandparents, William was a doting father. In fact, he took a year off of traveling the Circuit just so he could help my mother with me. 

He had passed away when I was two years old. On my birthday to be exact. He was coming back from a Rodeo in Elko, Nevada. He didn't compete in the Rodeo that day but rather had a couple of Horses being used by other riders and was there in a more professional role as a Rancher and a Horseman than one of a Rider. He had phoned my mother that night and made plans for a birthday party to be held at the Hot Springs pool over in Riggins. Unfortunately, he had a Heart attack in Grandview. He pulled into a parking lot at Midnight to sleep in his old Airstream Trailer. 

Nobody really spoke of him afterwards. My mother married a couple of times afterwards. The first man was a Logger she had known from her childhood. Mickey Colter was a Foreman for her fathers company. He was built like a Logger too, barrel chested with a thick beard and arms built like bricks. Mickey secretly wanted to be a Rancher. To put it more appropriately, the man wanted to be William Brennan. However, he forgot that the one thing you had to do when living on a Ranch is actually work it. He and my mother divorced in 1983. From what I remembered of him, he later became a regular at the Cahill Club. A Central Idaho Cheers type of bar. 

In 1985 My mother married the man who became my Step Father. Carl Lindstrom was the Fire Chief of McCall and McCall County. He was a rather tall man standing at 6 ft 8 in. My sisters and mother he adored, however with his new son he held a very strong dislike. We came to blows more physically than verbally. But their were sparks in every way possible. When I was 18 years old, he informed me that I was no longer welcome on the Ranch and had to pack up and leave effective immediately. I had received a Scholarship to Stanford for Journalism and decided to make my way to California earlier.

Over the course of the summers of my childhood, I would live with my Grandparents. The parents of my father to be exact. They were both English Teachers and had come from a Ranching background in Cheyenne Wyoming. During the long summers, I would hear of how William Brennan was well read in every aspect of life. He could talk about the best way to train Horses and hold a College Lecture on the difference of MacBeth and Hamlet. He could read Louis L'Amour and Christopher Marlowe. My whole life I was in complete awe of a man I had never met.

Now over the course of 25 years in Reporting and in Publishing, I have written 7 books and won countless awards in my profession. I knew that I was never gonna be a Cowboy but if I could work as hard in my line of work as my father did in his, maybe I could feel a connection of sorts to him.

It doesn't help that my birthday is the day he died. I had never been one to celebrate it. What is there to celebrate? Today is the day of my birth, oh and that is the day my father passed away. Even though I was not responsible for his death, I felt as though I had a larger amount of an invisible guilt over it. He was hurrying home to see his little boy on his birthday and he died because of it. 

I had never been to his grave site. In fact, no one had ever taken me to it. My mother nor my grandparents. I had a lot of questions and no one had given me the exact answers I had been looking for. The feeling had been that he was here and let us just remember the man as he was. No particular purpose to dwell on the past or ask questions about that particular night that he passed away. 

All my life I had been wary of the grieving process and of funerals as well. You come to a building or a particular spot with a gathering of relatives that you may or may not have wanted to see this day. People say some words and then you shake hands with the relatives of the deceased. Then the kicker is afterwards. My experiences in this situation has been of after the ceremony, you go to a particular home of the relatives or a friend of the relatives and eat over cooked food and try to have a conversation about anything other than the deceased person. It is their day, why aren't you talking about them? 

I had contacted the Chamber of Commerce in the town of Grandview and asked for assistance in locating his Headstone. When they gave me the information, I made the long drive from Colorado to Idaho. 

I had taken an assignment from Colorado Magazine. They had asked for a Profile of a year in Telluride. I had a team of three assistants working with me and was in total belief in their abilities to take over for me while I had made this trip. The work was coming along nicely, we were up to Spring in the town. When I told my team I had to take a quick leave, they were understanding and assured me that the work would be completed and continue on schedule.

Pulling into a parking lot of a building called "Jim's Cafe", I pulled out my cell phone and decided to call the one person that I had no real reason to call. 

"Hello Mom," I said.

"Nicholas, what a surprise," My mother said. "How are you?"

"I'm fine. How's Carl?" I asked.

"He isn't here, thank you Jesus." My mother said.

"Why is that?" I asked. My curiosity was genuinely peaked.

"He is just being insufferable. Sometimes I question why I am still with him." My mother said.

"I do too. More often than not," I said.

"Nicholas, when are you coming back to McCall for a visit? It has been way too long." My mother said.

I took a deep breath. For what I was about to do, I knew that it could only upset her. Which was the very last thing that I wanted to do.

"I'm actually in Idaho right now, Mom." I said.

"Really? Where? I will make up your old bedroom." My mother said.

"Mom, I am in Grandview." I said.

There was a pause of a considerable length. After what could have been more than 3 minutes, she spoke again.

"Why are you in Grandview?" My mother asked. "What possible reason could you have to show up to that insufferable hell hole?"

"Wanted to visit my father." I said rather directly.

"You know where his headstone is?" My mother asked. 

"I got the information from the Chamber here. I'm at a place called "Jim's". I might get a bite to eat and go visit it." I said.

"Lavender," My mother said.

"What about it?" I asked.

"Those were the flowers he used to give me every time he would come back from a Rodeo. It was my favorite color." My mother said.

I nodded my head and hung up. Sitting in my car for a moment, I reached for my notepad and my blue ballpoint and decided to walk around town. The day was very hot. You could see the heat rise from the asphalt on the road. I couldn't have walked for more than two minutes before I felt my button up shirt soaked in sweat. I turned around and headed back to my car and changed into a T shirt. After changing I decided to walk into the Cafe for a meal.

Inside it was very much an Americana establishment. Images of the town history were plastered on the walls. There were two pool tables spread out in a game room. Sitting at the bar were a couple of old timers drinking coffee and talking about Cattle prices. In the actual dining area, there were a couple of families sitting and eating meals with the enjoyment of what to expect when you go out for a meal. I found a chair at a table and sat down. The waitress was a young girl who looked like you would expect a country girl to look. Long legged blond with the prettiest blue eyes and an amazing smile. She was wearing blue jeans and boots with a red flannel shirt. She held her notepad and pen with style.

"Well hi stranger," She said.

"Hello to you as well," I said.

"I don't believe I have ever seen you in here. Are you a tourist?" She asked.

"What gave it away?" I asked.

She laughed. 

"I know most of everyone here. I'm Starla. Who are you?" Starla asked.

"I'm Nick," I said.

"Well welcome Nick," Starla said.

I nodded my head and smiled. She returned the smile as well. 

"Can I try these Finger Steaks and get a Cherry Pepsi?" I asked.

"Sure thing sweetie," Starla said. 

She walked back and placed the order with her cook. I got up from the table and walked around the restaurant. The pictures on the walls were of a town that had prided itself on tradition and made it clear that it was the way it was gonna be. Photos were of notable residents and events of the town history. It wasn't until I made it to the door that I saw a photo that had taken my breath away.

It was dated March 24th, 1975. There were three Cowboys sitting in what appeared to be the same Cafe I was in. The two Cowboys didn't look anything out of the ordinary, but it was the Cowboy in the middle that had caught my attention. The names listed on the photo were Donny Loftus, Jim Ingraham and none other than William Brennan. They were wearing matching Stetsons and outfits consisting of solid colored shirts and blue starched jeans. I took the photo and brought it back to my table. I reached for the pen and notepad and started taking notes about the photo. One of the old timers from the bar came over to my table. He was wearing a John Deere hat with a white T shirt and Overalls. 

"Son, you look mighty interested in that photo there. What's the interest?" He asked.

"That man in the middle there is my father." I said directly.

The man pulled a pair of reading glasses from his pocket and looked at the photo with me. After a few seconds he pulled the glasses off and smiled.

"Your William Brennan's boy?" He asked.

"I'm Nicholas," I said.

"Well hell, boy you got a free meal on the house today. I'm Jim Ingraham. Your daddy helped me purchase this place. You sit at the bar and I'll tell you all about your daddy." Jim said.

I got up from the table and grabbed the photo and my pen and book. I sat next to Jim. Jim motioned to his friend.

"Fred, this is Will Brennan's boy." Jim said.

"Fred Sawyer. I run the Bank and am the School Superintendent. Your dad was a hell of a Cowboy. Everybody in this town loved it when he came by. He would stop and talk to all of us. I couldn't even begin to tell you the stories he would tell of the Rodeo life." Fred said.

"He was quite the character then, I take it." I said.

"Son, William Brennan was bigger than John By God Wayne. Everyone in these parts would worship the man. When ever there was a magazine with news of Rodeo's, We would look to see what William Brennan had done. 7 time champion is nothing to take lightly. He would come to town and he would speak at the School. We have a hell of a lot more photos here somewhere." Jim said.

I couldn't contain my excitement. The purpose of my trip is becoming more successful than I had originally intended. The possibilities of learning about what appeared to be a significant moment in his life had me thinking about the stories. The writer in me was making an appearance. I could picture a story in my mind. Generous Rodeo Cowboy helps friend open restaurant in a small town. Becomes a folk hero to small town people, especially the children. I had a very good feeling about this trip.

Starla had brought me my lunch. I was very impressed with it. Finger Steaks were golden brown and the French Fries were golden brown and the Cherry Pepsi was nicely cold. This day couldn't have gotten any better. Jim and Fred left me to eat my meal alone. Someone had turned the radio on and Chris Ledoux was singing a song of the Rodeo. It was too perfect. 

After 20 minutes, Jim Ingraham came over and handed me a photo. It was dated 1972 with a question mark on it. It showed my father and a young Jim standing with my mother. She was holding a belt buckle that read "Champion 1971" on it. I smiled.

"He was quite the guy," I said.

"You better believe it, buddy boy." Jim said. 

"I wish I had known him in my childhood." I said.

"Son, just from talking to you and looking at you I can tell you this. You are the spitting image of William Brennan. Your just the man that he was. I can see that smile of his, hell you have his walk and speak just like him too. The fact that you can listen to Chris Ledoux, who was a good friend of your father, tells me that you are just like him." Jim said.

"I always wanted to know more about the night he died." I said.

Jim took a deep breath. He had the look on his face of a man that was haunted. A decision that continually haunts a person. Jim took my hand and gave me a direct look. 

"He called me a couple of days before. Telling me of how a couple of his Horses were in use at the Rodeo in Elko. Very proud of that fact. I knew that he was wanting to get out of the Rodeo life and become a Rancher or a landowner of some sort. He had planned to stop by here and get a beer and spend the night with myself and my wife Lousie. You will meet her later. He had a camper with him and I told him to use the parking lot and that I would be there in morning. He pulled into the lot. Started screaming. He was in pain. He called out for help. No one responded. Not a damn one of us did." Jim said.

I started to feel the tears build up.

"Why the hell not? You people idolized him and the one time he needed you, no one would help him." I said.

"Hold on, boy. I was not in town at the time. I was in Nampa buying Cattle. I found out about it afterwards. He was my best friend and I wasn't there for him. I owed him everything and I couldn't be there when he needed me. For a long time I felt like his death was on my hands." Jim said.

I wasn't sure what to make of this. How do people idolize someone and yet they leave him to die? What kind of idolization was that? 

"I want to see his headstone." I said.

Jim nodded.

"It's a few blocks over. Middle of the Cemetery right by the Oak Tree." Jim said.

We shook hands and I walked over to the where my father's headstone was.

It read:

William Brennan

Husband of Debbie
Father of Janice, Lindsay and Nicholas
Forever the King of The Cowboys.

I stood over the headstone. After a few minutes I started to cry.

"Hi Dad," I said.

"It has been a long time." I said.

I sat at his headstone for most of the day, just listening to the wind. After a while I laid down next to his headstone. I closed my eyes and for a second, imagined a little boy and his father enjoying a bright sunny day. The wind was whistling through the pines, the two little girls were playing while Mom was in the kitchen. 

If ever there was a story, it would be that one. I was sure to work on it when I finished the Colorado assignment.

When the sun went down,  I got up from the ground and looked at the headstone one more time. I felt the tears start to build again.

"I'll be seeing you soon." I said

© Copyright 2018 Robert Logan. All rights reserved.

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