Archive for the ‘Hank Cycle’ Category

Completion of “Hank at the General Store”

April 20, 2020
Hank at Crane’s General Store

The journey from the Caprock fire site to the city of Lubbock took most of the day. Highway 84 was light on traffic and even lighter on motorists willing to pick up a hitchhiker looking like he had just emerged from the wilderness. As evening encroached upon the college town, Hank decided on a quality night’s sleep in a small roadside motel south of town. A shower and clean shirt would also make him look less threatening in public.

The following morning surprised him. Late October in Texas was not what he had known growing up in Missouri. Here, a bright sun-splashed morning with a hint of autumn weather embraced him, not the biting frost he had known all his life this time of year. Crane’s General Store lay on the quiet southern border of Lubbock, the traffic occasional on the farm-to-market road stretched out front. On the south side of the store, a long stretch of cotton field lay, looking like freshly fallen snow. Hank had only read about cotton farming when in school; he had never seen one with his own eyes. To the north of the store, a lenghty stretch of land rolled out flat as a carpet, golden brown under the autumnal sun, the low horizon providing a bright azure sky with no clouds. The cool winds brought acrid smells of tractor exhaust and he saw the rusty Allis-Chalmers chugging along the empty stretch of farm land.

Inside the dim interior of the store, Hank noticed immediately the pot-bellied stove, not yet needed for winter, but already on standby. The brightly clashing colors of canned and cartoned essentials lined the tidied shelves, ready for his restocking before hitting the road again. The sight of the meat counter took Hank way, way back to Proustian remembrances of Marlin’s store down the road from his grandparents’ farm in southeast Missouri. The Marlin family lived in the back of the store, and Hank now noticed a door behind the meat counter that separated the Crane residence from the actual store. It reminded him of the residence he left behind in Turvey’s Corner less than a month ago.

Mrs. Crane (call me Annie) was a gracious soul in her late years, her silver-colored hair stretched tightly back into a neat bun, her white apron already stained from the foods she had been preparing for customers throughout the morning. Conversation with her was warm and inviting, and he learned that this store had been established during World War I, and had never been out of business, handed down through the generations of Cranes living on the southside of Lubbock. Hank had not entered a store such as this since the late 1950’s and the mental journey back into his personal history filled him with a warmth that he needed this particular morning.

Peering at the items beneath the glass, Hank ordered a pair of sandwiches to be prepared, one for now, the other to be wrapped in wax paper for later. Bologna and sharp cheddar cheese were sliced on the old white Hobart machine. The bread also was sliced from a loaf and slathered with mustard and mayonnaise. Each of the pair of sandwiches was completed with a slice of yellow onion, slice of fresh tomato from the garden out back, and some lettuce. Glass bottles of Coke were collected from the big red box at the front of the store. Hank thanked Annie for the warm moment and stepped out to the front porch.

A row of freshly painted Warmack steel lawn chairs lined the shaded portion of the store, waiting for company. Setting down his backpack, Hank settled into one of the chairs, took out one of his sandwiches, and, forgetting to open his Coke, went back into the store to find an opener on the front of the red box. Now, it was time to chew the sandwich slowly and resume his reading of Emerson from the volume of essays the minister gave him a few days ago. “Self-Reliance” titled an essay that Hank thought might be appropriate for this stage of his life’s journey.

Ne te quaesiviris extra.

“Do not seek outside yourself.” Brushing back tears, Hank leaned back, closed his eyes and paused as a wave of cathartic emotion washed over him without warning. Throughout his life, he had harbored an inferiority complex. He never regarded himself as physically attractive, he was not athletic in school and not popular either. From his early childhood, his family had lived in rural settings with no neighborhoods of children with whom to bond and play. Hank, an only child, had spent his childhood years alone, and once entering school, never really knew how to reach out to his classmates. Remaining quiet during class discussions, he listened with envy to his peers answering all questions and bravely leading out with their opinions on literature assigned. And so, to add to his physical appearance and lack of sociability, Hank harbored this notion of being intellectually inferior. Time spent working in the gas station did not improve his social condition; proprietors were mostly old men who talked and laughed with each other, while Hank stood in the background looking on. His entire life was spent measuring himself against the standard of what he saw in others, always concluding that his own spirit had been weighed and found wanting.

And now he was here, seventeen hours from his home, afoot. Why? To think, and not be surrounded by the people he had seen all his life but who never really seemed to see him. Out west, Hank was finding time, space and a feel for destiny. No longer would he have to listen to Mom asking “When are you going to make something of your life?” or Dad commenting that Hank was O.K., just had been sheltered all his life and now had no clue what to do with it. The other day, the Reverend told Hank: “God made you, and God doesn’t make junk. Read Emerson’s Self-Reliance. It’s time to start believing in yourself.”

To believe your own thought, to believe that what is true for you in your private heart is true for all men,–that is genius.

One reason Hank was ready to listen to Emerson with his whole heart came from a fact the Reverend had surprised him with in conversation: the reality that Emerson was a nominal student in school, not a class standout by anyone’s standards. In college as well, Emerson did not impress his mentors. What essentially set him apart as an American sage was this indwelling determination that he had quality to share with anyone who would listen. Hank was now listening.

A man should learn to detect and watch that gleam of light which flashes across his mind from within, more than the lustre of the firmament of bards and sages. Yet he dismisses without notice his thought, because it is his.

Emerson was now calling out Hank in the most provocative way. In school all those years, Hank always thought his ideas were wrong and inferior because they did not match what his teachers and peers were saying aloud. Now, for the first time, he was embracing his ideas because they were his. People don’t go out on the open road with no advanced planning. But this is what Hank was doing, right now, and for the first time he was ready to believe in its value.

____________________________________________________________

Thank you readers for your continued encouragement as I work on this new Hank material. I am forced to take a hiatus for a few days . . . I’ll explain later. I hope to return soon with new stories and a new painting to continue the Hank saga.

I make art in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

Hank Gets a Boost

April 19, 2020
Chilly Sunday Morning with Two Slumbering Dogs

Waking to a chilly Sunday morning with the warmth of two dogs nuzzled against me, I reached for my phone and found a message from a friend that brought to a peak a heartwarming series of events beginning last evening.

After painting most of the day, I packed away Hank and my art supplies for the night and tuned in to NBC to watch the Global Citizen presentation. Throughout the entire performance, I was moved to the point of tears. Professional musicians played without the immediate gratification of a packed audience cheering before them. Medical personnel and social workers tearfully shared their experiences with people they did not even know personally as they fought against the dreaded effects of this virus. Three emcees in separate living rooms spoke only to cameras in front of them, putting out an affirming and entertaining script and conducting sensitive interviews with people around the globe united in an effort to do something wholesome for a population under siege–(all this in sharp contrast to the negative public verbal posturing that has been filling out the daily dose of coronavirus coverage–the worst possible behaviors demonstrated intentionally in front of news cameras). What fresh, cleansing water this night performance offered to us as an alternative to the daily news sewage. What a healing balm. What a display of unity. I felt drawn in and embraced by humanity. Kudos to Lady Gaga, if this was indeed your vision, and to all you others who worked so hard to make this a reality.

As I watched, I frequently reached for my journal and scrawled out observations and responses. And in the midst of the activity it suddenly dawned on me that Hank was conceived during this coronavirus, during a time of staying put in my residence. And as I daily added stories and paintings to the saga of Hank, a number of readers began to join in the chorus, giving further definition to Hank. It was then that I realized that Hank was more than just a fictional character born in the midst of the virus; he became a source of introspection as a number of people began sharing their own personal perspectives about finding one’s way in this world.

The message this morning on my phone came from Dave Shultz, my friend from Palestine, a professional photographer and like myself, somewhat of a wanderer. He has made a home in Palestine, but still owns a home in New Mexico, and the coronavirus found him trapped in New Mexico, just as it confined me to Lubbock, away from my own home. So, here is my mesage from Dave that has helped crystalize what I’ve been feeling since last night’s presentation:

I woke up at 3:30 this morning thinking about Hank. You built a character that has become very real to me. My mind just wouldn’t settle down and I finally had to get up and do some writing. I apologize for hijacking your character but I still want to share my thoughts.

Dave

I don’t see this as a “hijacking”. Rather, I am delighted every time someone else finds a piece of himself or herself in Hank. I believe there is some of all of us in Hank. And thus, this fictional character has in a sense become real. And now, with no editing, I share Dave Shultz’s contribution to the Hank series:

Hank was often asked by people he met on his journey if he was lonely. He would answer with a slow smile and tell them there was a big difference between being alone and being lonely. Some people got it and others were confused but that was always his answer. He thought about it a lot and realized some thime ago that he was never lonely when he was alone. In fact, the loneliest he had ever been was when he was with someone and wished he was alone.

Being alone was a good time to think. There were distractions but they were short lived and his thoughts returned easily to whatever he was pondering on. Today he was pondering on habits and rituals. He came to the conclusion that he did things and performed tasks out of habit but the way he did them was a ritual.

Setting up camp was a habit. The ritual came in how he did it. He always gathered wood in the last of the light and started his fire. Building the fire was a ritual. He used dried grass and bits of bark first. It would always light with a single match. Then he would add small twigs and slightly larger sticks. As soon as those were well caught, he added larger sticks. That was the fire he cooked his evening meal on and just before he crawled into his bed roll, he would build a pyramid of larger logs over the fire. They would be slow to catch and burn slow during the night. In the morning, the unburned ends of the logs radiated from the coals like the spokes on a wagon wheel and he could simply push them into the glowing embers to get a morning fire started.

Preparing his bed was another ritual. He would clear an area of sticks and rocks first. Even the smallest pebble would feel like a boulder at two in the morning. Once the ground was smooth, he would hollow out an area for his hips. He frequently slept on his side and if he didn’t prepare an area for his hips, he would wake up stiff and bruised. Not the best way to start a day. By the time he had his bed roll smoothed out the fire was just right for cooking and that was always his next task.

While he was cooking and eating his supper, he enjoyed staring into the fire but after clean up, he always sat with his back to the fire and allowed his night vision to return. The dark night sky would start to twinkle with tiny dots in a few places and with patience, all the stars would reveal themselves and he would start picking out the constellations his father had taught him as they lay togethr on the backyard grass just before bedtime.

They were old friends and you can’t be lonely with so many old friends to share your evening. He would seek out and visit Cassiopeia, Cepheus, Draco, Ursa Major and Ursa Minor and note their position in the sky. Then he would find the three constellations whose brigthest stars (Altair, Deneb and Vega) from the Summer Triangle – Aquila, Cygnus and Lyra. Sleep always came easier when he had a clear view of the summer sky.

Hank would take off his boots and place them close to hand before he slipped into the bedroll and as he lay smiling at the stars, he felt a peace he never felt in a city. He knew if he were staring at a ceiling instead of a sky full of old friends he would be longing to be exactly where he was now. He would sleep well and dream of trails unmarked by any boot prints other than those behind him.

Thanks, Dave Shultz, for extending Hank’s story, and thank you readers for always following.

I make art in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

Westward Wanderings with Hank

April 11, 2020

Good morning. I’m thrilled to announce I have broken new ground with a watercolor of Hank enjoying coffee by the fire (written in the previous blog). The painting is underway, but there isn’t enough to show viewers just yet. However, my mind keeps wandering while painting, and so another Hank story has taken shape. I’m going to share it now–the events preceding Hank’s coffee by the fire. When we read a novel, we enjoy the linear progression of events. However, in many cases, the author did not write it that way. More often than not, many scenes were written out, and the progression was arranged before the final draft and publication. These words from N. Scott Momaday say it much better than I ever could:

I perceive the writings herein as the pieces of a whole, each one the element of an intricate but unified design. They are the facets of a verbal prism, if you will, patterns like the constellations.

N. Scott Momaday, Man Made of Words

And so it is with Hank. He only showed up in my writings weeks ago, though some of his stories were written years ago. Now I am piecing together and editing these into a narrative, all the while skipping back and forth from future to past to present. One day I hope to have a book of these stories and illustrations organized to share. Meanwhile, I’m glad to release the fragments as they emerge.

The draft of the following story immediately precedes the events I shared in Hank’s life yesterday, and the painting posted above is a plein air watercolor I did a couple of years ago in Caprock Canyon.

___________________________________________________

Hank thanked the driver who picked him up on Insterstate 20 as he got out of the sedan in Sweetwater, Texas. Hank didn’t feel too self-conscious about his appearance, knowing he had showered and put on clean clothes just this morning before saying Good-bye to Uncle Leo in Dallas. Catching the eye of a local old-timer on the sidewalk, Hank said he just hit town and was looking for a decent place to eat.

The old gentleman said “Ya can’t beat Mrs. Lizzie Allen at the freight depot over there” he said, gesturing toward the next intersection, a freight depot at Broadway and Oak. Hank thanked the gentleman and in a few moments found himself seated at a small cafe table. Mrs. Allen not only served up the best fried chicken, fresh okra, corn on the cob, with mashed potatoes and gravy; she also sat down after pouring him fresh coffee and opened up the conversation:

Where are you off to, good lookin’? Hank realized his large backpack identified himself as transient.

“Don’t really know for sure. Left St. Louis three weeks ago and decided to see what was out west.”

“Well, if you want civilization as well as wide open spaces, I’d recommend Lubbock. Just go a little further west on 20 then veer north on 84. Pretty countryside if you like mesas and canyons.”

“Well, I think I know where I’m going now. I love your coffee. Would you happen to know how to make this over a campfire? I tried it a few weeks ago and didn’t much like what I swallowed.”

His stomach filled, a ham sandwich wrapped in wax paper from Mrs. Allen tucked neatly inside his pack, and instructions on how to make cowboy coffee, Hank was ready now to head up Highway 84.

______________________________________________________

More later. Thanks for reading, and please check out my website at http://www.davidtrippart.com

I make art in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog knowing I am not alone.

Working on the Hank Cycle

April 4, 2020

Wow, It’s a frigid, 30-degree temperature Satuday morning in west Texas! The corona caution has us staying indoors anyway; it’s just easier to do when it’s this cold outdoors. I have started my next painting of the Hank Odyssey, but there is not enough to show for a meaningful photograph at this time. So I have decided to post my Hank series as it stands to-date:

Jerry’s Texaco

Over-worked and under-rested, the aging men of Turvey’s Corner began their early-morning drive to St. Louis, twenty-three miles down Highway 30. Around the first bend of the highway out of town, they found a welcoming stop at Jerry’s Texaco. Bell cables clanged as the sedans rolled up to the gas pumps, and Hank, the young attendant, pushed aside his college books to hustle out and service the customers. The aroma of coffee brewing inside usually lured the men out of their cars and inside for caffeine stimulation and the exchange of local news stories. Visits here always seemed to make the workday go a little better. Hank enjoyed the joviality of the men jostling with one another in good humor. At the same time he knew that none of them were interested in the contents of the books that absorbed his attention, so he remained quiet but always near at hand in order to grant whatever requests were made.

Six Subjects in Search of a Painter

Night descended and Hank was up late again, bedding down in the storeroom of the old filling station.  He had closed the place at dark but was too engrossed in his college studies to pack up the books and head for his garage apartment in the next county.  So, with the owner’s permission, he would spend another night in the back of the station amidst the smells of gasoline, oil, pit grease and the grime that had built up over two generations.  The Texaco station was anchored on historic Route 66 on the outskirts of Turvey’s Corner.  Interstate commerce had all but obliterated the sleepy town, and as soon as Hank graduated from the community college, he would depart as well.  Local townspeople and patrons had no knowledge or regard for the things that stirred the soul of this young man.  His volumes of Thoreau, Frost, Whitman and Twain had opened to him worlds beyond this community. 

His few camping possessions stored in this room (Griswold frying pan, stove top percolator, kerosene lantern, Maxwell House tin) were the tether that kept him bound to the wild.  He would be packing up his gear soon and leaving without notice.  It was time to emerge from this cocoon and embrace the world calling out to him.

Hank was restless. Last night after he closed the filling station, he packed up all his gear in the back storeroom and moved it to his apartment–the residential part of an old general store that had recently re-opened as the town’s bakery. His rent would be due tomorrow, and he had the strange notion that he would not be here any longer.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is heideggers-hut-darkened-and-muted.jpg

Taking out his watercolor pad on a whim, he decided to sketch and paint the doorknob separating his residence from the bakery where he could hear the workers scuttling about the kitchen just beyond the wall. As he focused his gaze on the doorknob, his mind drifted back over Homer’s Odyssey that he had been reading in recent weeks, and he sensed a wanderlust coming over him.

What Lies Beyond the Door

Hank continued to paint deep into the night, long after he heard the crew in the bakery clean up the store, lock the door and leave him to the approaching hours of silence. As he continued to contemplate, gazing at the doorknob, he thought about the world beyond the door, and determined that come sunrise, he would be on the other side. Like Odysseus, he would be seeking a return to his primal identity, to Ithaca, to a place he could call home.

Hank’s Odyssey (still in progress)

The crisp October winds were just as delicious as the palette of Indian reds, assorted greens and bright yellows punctuating the foliage springing from the limestone bluffs towering behind him. Hank had packed his belongings and departed his apartment at daybreak. Now with Walt Whitman’s “Song of the Open Road” surging through his being, he stood alongside Route 66 on the edge of Turvey’s Corner and said good-bye to the town that had cradled him since childhood:

Afoot and light-hearted I take to the open road,
Healthy, free, the world before me,
The long brown path before me leading wherever I choose.

Henceforth I ask not good-fortune, I myself am good-fortune,
Henceforth I whimper no more, postpone no more, need nothing . . .

As Hank stood with his thumb out, waiting for any willing passing vehicle to pull over and pick him up, he sensed that he was not alone; a spiritual Presence seemed to be watching his every move. Thinking back over the history of Turvey’s Corner that had occupied his mind in recent months, he thought about the Osage warriors that massacred the first family to move onto the site of his current town.

In 1795, Adam Turvey had moved his family from the Kentucky wilderness to settle into the hills ringing the north end of this small town. Osage warriors massacred the Turveys one day in March of 1800. The sketchy details claim some sort of dispute over the borrowing of horses. The grisly details of the slaughter haunted Hank from his childhood. But this morning, as he stood along the highway, he felt the spirit of the Osage looking down over him with approval. Hank was leaving a town where he felt he had never belonged, and as he departed, he felt a kindred spirit that understood full well the feeling of not belonging and the restless search for a place to call home.

Hank Under Oklahoma Skies

When I heard the learn’d astronomer,
When the proofs, the figures, were ranged in columns before me,
When I was shown the charts and diagrams, to add, divide, and measure them,
When I sitting heard the astronomer where he lectured with much applause in the lecture-room,
How soon unaccountable I became tired and sick,
Till rising and gliding out I wander’d off by myself,
In the mystical moist night-air, and from time to time,
Look’d up in perfect silence at the stars.

Walt Whitman, “When I Heard the Learn’d Astronomer”

Reclining against his backpack, Hank savored the warmth of the fire that neutralized the chill of the October night. He had left Turvey’s Corner just this morning, but thanks to a pair of truckers, he had managed to put nearly twelve hours between himself and the town he just left. Finding wide open plains west of the town of Vinita, he now rested his stiff body and gazed in wonder at the millions of stars filling the deep night sky. Slowly drifting toward a satisfying slumber after his fireside snack of S’mores, he overheard the words he had just read from Kerouac’s On the Road in the glow of the firelight:

Nothing behind me, everything ahead of me, as is ever so on the road.

Deep in sleep, Hank relived some of his most cherished memories of boating and fishing on Big River south of Turvey’s Corner. One day he would return to fish his favorite hole at the base of the huge bluff his friend had christened “Rock of David.”

(Now you know the subject on which I am working currently, and I hope to publish pictures of the in-progress painting soon . . .)

Thanks for reading, and please check out my website http://www.davidtrippart.com

I paint in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.