alan skeoch
Dec.  12,2018

“We are putting a new roof on the farm house.”
“”Some leakage here and there along the line of the old  chimneys…Andy got
a crew of roofers together…professionals with nail  guns and  metal  cutters.”
WHo put on the old roof?”
“Now there is  a good story.”
“Who did  it?”
“Ray…did it all himself…  handled 8 x 3 foot sheets of corrugated aluminum
and put each sheet in place with a hammer and pile of lead head nails. And  did
not slip off to rock gardens below.
“Three guys up on the roof today…how could Ray do  it alone?”
“I don’t rightly know…”
“Who is Ray C.?”
“Died ten years ago…had a farm just above Ospringe…100 acres…pioneer farm 
handed down  from descendent to descendent  I expect until Ray got it.  Ray never married
and  just sort of slipped  into a  lifestyle few of us would emulate.”

The Freeman farmhouse as it was about 1918, one hundred years ago with a cedar shingle roof.  Look at the old  fieldstone foundation…perfect doorways for snakes and mice and other
creatures seeking to escape the descent of winter on the land.   Louisa and Edward freeman on left 1918 and  centre 1948.   Eric Skeoch  Elsie Freeman Skeoch and the last Freeman family dog 
Scottie.  Sunny days, as  they say.

Two Roofers…Ray is on the right in case you did not guess.  Looking at Ray put me in mind the Robert Frost poem about an old man on a winter night.

poem  by Robert Frost

All out of doors looked darkly in at him
Through the thin frost, almost in separate stars,
That gathers on the pane in empty rooms.
What kept his eyes from giving back the gaze
Was the lamp tilted near them in his hand.
What kept him from remembering what it was
That brought him to that creaking room was age.
He stood with barrels round him — at a loss.
And having scared the cellar under him
In clomping there, he scared it once again
In clomping off; — and scared the outer night,
Which has its sounds, familiar, like the roar
Of trees and crack of branches, common things,
But nothing so like beating on a box.
A light he was to no one but himself
Where now he sat, concerned with he knew what,
A quiet light, and then not even that.
He consigned to the moon, such as she was,
So late-arising, to the broken moon
As better than the sun in any case
For such a charge, his snow upon the roof,
His icicles along the wall to keep;
And slept. The log that shifted with a jolt
Once in the stove, disturbed him and he shifted,
And eased his heavy breathing, but still slept.
One aged man — one man — can’t keep a house,
A farm, a countryside, or if he can,
It’s thus he does it of a winter night. 


alan skeoch
Dec.  13, 2018

This was  Ray Clough.  Below  is what imagination can do.  My version of the Robert Frost
poem…my old man on a  winter night is Raymond, farmer and roofer.


Icicles on the window frames inside the house this night
as Ray lumbered in  from the warmth of the cattle barn
through the woodshed redolent with the smells of
split pungent cedar and the  candy sweet smell of maple
no time to tarry for the wind hammered  crystalline 
spikes of sleety snow  against his battered  face.
So bad was the night that 
The back kitchen door seemed  reticent to let 
Ray enter, acting as if a monitor off who it  would
accept and  who reject. 
Inside the wood  stove’s beatng heart kept faith
with those who would expire without the 
glowing embers.  Ray was not entirely alone
on this winter night for small grey things
scampered back to their baseboard doorways 
and  larger blacker creatures arrogantly
paused to see Ray enter.  Did Ray bring 
food to expand  relieve ehat near starvation
had shrunk.  Ray kept his boots on for the floor
was cold as fingers of  frost reached  up
from  the dirt floored cellar as if  alive.
Ray was  alone, had  been most of his life.
Loneliness on his farm meant routines clipped
short…straight lines from here to there made
 obvious from the tracks from stove 
to easy chair.   A track that stood  in sharp contrast
to the blackened floor.  The stove was  black
with the spillage of a decade’s neglect.
Here and  there were the bones of meals  long
gone…bones picked clean by the mice and rats
living in the crawl  space between the bricks and
plaster in Ray’s uninsulated domain.
And then  Ray plopped his bony frame  onto 
his eaay greasy overstuffed chair.  And Ray
sat there alone saying nothing but listening
to that winter wind as it ground the icy  sleet
into the once  tight and windproof shell  of his house,
walls that time and neglect had made porous
enough for outside creatures to find their way inside.
Earlier on this cold October night Raymond
had chosen to flee from Alan’s farm where he, alone,
had re-roofed  the ancient house.  
Why did the woman  scream when he knocked
on the darkened front door?  Was he that frightening
to others?   Some gourmet party was in progress
and the smells were sweet yet foreign to Ray whose
taste in food had  been reduced  to oat meal and fried
chicken with a dash of  hard liquor.  Marjorie came to
rescue Ray from the fear he engendered.
“Ray, sorry Alan is  away right now…love your roof,
Come in and meet the girls.”
Wordlessly Ray moved  backwards, down the steps
to the security of his  half ton truck.  He had  cattle to feed
and wood to chop.  An escape to make.
Now he sat alone again on his threadbare chair while
the wood  stove embers and  wild  things in the walls
warmed his  spirits.  He was  alone on this  cold  night
with fear in his  heart engendered by the fear of that woman
who answered Alan’s door with a scream and flight.
More fear in Ray than in the woman’s scream.
A tear dribbled down his face a dripped on his old torn  coat
as it worked its way through his layered clothing to
the  tartan  shirt and  the tip of his inner once white, now grey winter wear.
Clothes that were his costume to stave of the cold to come.
Ray stared  affectionately at he dust clad framed family
on the kitchen wall beside the calendars  nailed one atop the other.
His  reminder of grandparents long gone but present still.
They would  understand his tears and were they here this night
they would grasp  his  lean shoulders  with a warm embrace
but that was not to be…never to be…for Ray was alone
and would remain  so  until his  dying day 
which  he recognized was not that far away.
“Maybe,” he thought, “I’ll see Alan in the morning

And Ray fell asleep in the chair beside the stove
as he did often on these cold  pre-winter nights.
His dream was a  wish.  A wish that the woman at the door
did not scream but Ray also wished he had the nerve
 to join the
cluster of females as  they supped on foods fantastic
and  drank the wine of friendship.  A nice dream.
A false dream.  A sad dream.
The tear by then had been absorbed then evaporated
in his clothing and wafted as  a puff of air through the kitchen.  
The tear had  risen from his  shirt
and coursed through the rest of the
 house in search of something…anything…
unseen the tear floated  to the bedroom where Ray occasionally slept
beneath his grandmothers patchwork quilt.  
The tear eventually cooled and attached  itself
to the photograph of Ray’s parents hanging above his  bed.
There was  a time when Ray was not alone.
But that time was long gone.
And  soon Ray felt so would he.
Asleep, asleep…
Ray’s time worn fedorah slipped from his head silently
No sound in the house for the embers  were now ash
And the rat beneath the stove had curled up in comfort
As had the curled up garter snakes whose long bodies
slid easily through the chinks in the old  fieldstone foundation 
Also  curled in comfort were two raccoons, one in  each
abandoned  chimney…asleep until mid January when
the urge to copulate would assert itself and the empty chimneys
would again become a family homes.
Mice scampered across the dirt engraved floor with its
resistent knots giving a  rolling effect.  Some knots polished
by Ray’s heavy boots, sometimes  encrusted with manure, but
most of the floor was  black  … unswept.
“Needs a  woman’s hand”, commented  the odd visitor but
visitors were few and far between as Ray drifted deeper into loneliness.
His sleep was deep by now…body  limp in the arms of that soft chair
now contoured to Ray’s body shape for he slept here often.

All things considered, Ray was content.
He lived  as he liked to live
Did what he liked to do
Had  only the cattle to worry about…

But he had  been jolted that night.
Why did that woman scream?
Scared  Ray.  Worried  him.

just one old  man ALONE.

alan skeoch
Dec.  13, 2018

The story of Ray Clough was triggered  by the three man crew ripping off Ray’s  roof and putting on a roof less
prone to leakage.  That was  Dec. 12 and 13, 2018.    Ray’s  roof had lasted nearly 25 years and would last another 25 for sure but little bits of seepage
would bring wood rot and limit the life of the farm house.   Be nice to see it survive the 21st century.  Outlive me and
certainly out live Ray for he died just a couple of years  after roofing the house.  His visit to collect his pay, a visit that
triggered the woman’s scream was talked about by the gourmet women for some time.  He appeared in the dark
dressed as in his picture.  His clothes  were always the same.  “He was not the marrying kind’, they said not really
knowing Ray at all.

Below are the new roofers.  Three young men from Poland whose English was  limited.   They came armed  with power
nailing guns and motorized shears to shape the roofing panels.  When Ray did the job he used  a  hammer, lead headed nails
and tin snipping shears.   And he did  it alone.

Marjorie did  not scream that night.  She asked  Ray to come inside but by then he was backing up fast and reaching for the keys to his half ton truck.   The Gourmet club now had a different
subject of conversation.  Concerned that they had scared poor Ray.  And they had.

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