Eccentric Heroes

I have more than just a few friends out here. It’s a great community. But, I have to acknowledge, they are all a smidge odd. Which is OK, I like ‘odd’. Odd is good. In fact, odd is the more sane adjective applicable to many of my regional OTG friends.

Next up the descriptive ladder would be quirky and I like quirky, too. Sal is a big fan of quirky but knowing Sal as I do, that only makes sense. She was born in England and quirky is a bona fide industry over there. Sally is pretty quirky by Canadian metrics but barely registers on the British Quirky Standard (BQS). She claims her BQS rating is VSG (‘very stable genius’) so that kind of says it all right there.

After quirky we move up to eccentric and then, after eccentric, we get crazy and the last category of those heavily medicated but still living freely amongst the rest of us is mad-as-a-hatter or the more colloquial, ‘Whacked’. We have ’em all out here and they are all accepted if not frequently embraced (especially recently, what with Covid and all). This is a colourful (read: goofy) community and I am a big fan.

But the majority of the ‘local colour’ are also fiercely independent. Sometimes acting so independent in so many ways just adds to the Canadian quirky (CQS) rating. An Oddfellow can rise to the quirky or even eccentric fellow status when they carry independence to an extreme. And they mostly all do.

One fabulous fellow walked into the forest a decade or so ago with a chainsaw and some hand-tools and, a year or so later, launched his 45 foot hand-hewn, wooden sailboat. With mast. Then he launched it. Of course, you can’t make your own engine from the forest so his ‘yacht’ doesn’t have an engine. C’mon, that is not only odd, independent and genius, it is very, very unique.

Last week a friend-of-the-same-feather left for points south. I took his boat to our neighbour’s dock so that it could be watched while he was gone. Then yesterday he called and asked to be picked up so that he could go home. He had visited family enough and wanted back. I picked him up and took him to his boat. He needs that smaller boat to ‘zip up’ the coast 30 or so miles to get to his bigger boat that he had left at anchor in a remote bay. He had some groceries, a small pack and his best buddy, his dog. But he was moving gingerly.

“OK, dawg?”

“Yup. Jus’ a little sore.” Given that he, too, is almost a septuagenarian and still working physically regular shifts out in the boondocks, being a bit sore did not register with me as unusual. We are all a little sore out here. But then it came out. While visiting family he had undergone major surgery. He had all-too fresh wounds and bandages and stitches and the whole nine-yards. Ninety-nine percent of us would have spent a few weeks recuperating. I would have stretched it to a year!

So, here was this guy, all alone but for his dog, heading off to a remote bay miles from anywhere. It was raining, it was cold, the wind was up and he was wounded. Barely a peep out of him. He didn’t linger because the days are short and dusk was looming. He had miles of choppy seas to cover. Sal gave him some Xmas goodies and off he went. When he eventually got to his larger vessel, the boat was NOT where it was supposed to be – it had drifted a bit – so he pulled up the chain and the anchor and re-set it. In the dark. Alone. Post-op.

Barely a peep (which makes sense – there was no one there to hear one).

But this is where we add a little more colourful independence to the story: just before he came down to leave his small boat with us, he was setting up the anchoring system for the big boat and, when doing so, he fell and tumbled down some rocks and cut, banged and scratched himself all to hell. He had a bit more trouble doing the final part of the anchoring because his right arm wouldn’t go up past his chest. And, of course, there was all the bleeding and he was drenched. If he grabs the arm with his left hand and throws it up, he can hold it up there to do what he needs to do but lifting it under his own power is impossible. I suspect that he must have hit his head, too. Probably many, many times….repeatedly….over decades……

That is the only explanation…..

Heroic? I guess not by Hollywood standards. And no dogs, children or females were rescued in the scenes described above but this is a man who, in modern times, deals with what the world throws at him and does it rather nobly if not heroically. Never asks for a thing. Independent in the extreme.

Honestly? I do not know how you see it, but I am impressed all to hell.

6 thoughts on “Eccentric Heroes

  1. The human spirit and mind in my life experience is often very strong among the elderly. The good book talks about older persons as being especially strong. But as you point out the flesh is ultimately weak. I’ve worked among my elders in hospitals at several points of my career. I had a front row seat – and watched how some recovered and others did not- and the role force of will played in that recovery process.

    It seems that those who are independent and strong invest in community. They are drawn to an off the grid lifestyle – to express- but without being isolationistic and individualistic. Drawing upon the community only in times when one’s resources need to be supplemented. I suppose the challenge we elders have is knowing and /or admitting when we have reached our upper limit. It seems not knowing where that line is can be deadly Sooner or later one’s luck will run out eh?

    It’s a choice I imagine- to hang up one’s skates. And some just prefer to die with their boots on. As much as it is a choice to reach out to others when we are strong and have enough reserve to share with others in supportive ways. Something about we are only as strong as the weakest member of our community.

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    • I am sure it is a complex thing…survival and all that…..but there is no question in my mind that attitude plays a huge role. And nothing says attitude like living and being independent. My mother-in-law is 92 and her body is frail but her spirit is indominable. She lives alone now, but live well. Her husband passed at 94 and it was all we could do to stop him from taking down trees and climbing on the roof to fix things. The guy sailed singlehanded into his 90’s – and he sailed it well. Sal is naturally much the same way…..if danger doesn’t take her, then natural passing has a long time to wait. What I thought was pretty unique to her and her family, I am now seeing in many others – especially out here. They may not live longer than some in the city but they will have lived ‘more’ in that they do so much all the time and they do it alone and without much help. A decade ago (maybe longer) we had an old guy go into the hospital for the first time and a few days later, he died. But, until he went in, he was chopping his own wood, living in a simple shack and taking care of himself totally. He was 94.

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  2. I am impressed as hell by these stories and how strong people OTG have to be to get through the day. And that is a free choice you all made I guess…and I admire you all for it. But keeping actively and physically busy every day for sure helps to stay healthy….there is nothing as bad for the body and mind then sitting in your chair all day (except to drink a good scotch and/or read a book). I have seen it a lot that people row “old” fast, just because they are in nursery homes, where they are “confined” to their beds and seats…So I think you all made the right choice to go OTG and stay active untill danger or death comes. On the other hand, I think it is nearly impossible to “go back” on-grid after spending a lot of years OTG, so when your body starts acting up at a certain moment, what choice do you have “out there” if you are living alone and secluded? At what point do you decide to “go back”?

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    • Some people do make the decision to go back. We had a couple that had been here a long time (inherited family cabin at retirement) but just recently sold and moved to a small town. But they had the money necessary. Most folks out here don’t have ‘that kind’ of money. Once removed from the rat race, they cannot get back in. When that kind of change is required anyway, their options are limited. But health matters are not the prime determinant. A bad leg, a weak back, an accumulation of years just means doing OTG a bit more slowly most of the time. Cancers and kidney failures and strokes are primary health issues that prompt removal but most ageing issues are just accepted and dealt with. When you get over 80, you might also need a hand now and then but, surprisingly, Woofers, family, local young people and visitors seem to show up when needed.

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  3. Another OTG individualist.
    He would probably agree with you about the “eccentric” designation but argue with you about the “Hero” description.
    A fatalistic acceptance of his circumstances and too set in his ways to change after years(?) of a solitary lifestyle .
    Been alone so long he can probably only handle conversation and company for short periods of time.
    I remember meeting a Life House Keeper years ago when I was a kid and we visited the rock he lived on….. in my Uncles fishboat.
    I think we got two grunts out of him in a half hour of conversation.
    He seemed more interested in the week old newspaper in the Wheelhouse than any human interaction.
    A lifestyle of solitude a monk would be comfortable with. .

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    • Partly. Mostly. The older one gets the more repeated many conversations seem. After a bit, a grunt is all you can add. I am slowly approaching that stage but the emphasis is on the word, slowly. I still talk in full sentences and even paragraphs. But two-page-length monologues are now quite rare. Independence will do that but so does ‘individualism’. In the larger society we are encouraged to be normal and fit in. Be the ‘same’. Out here you are free to be yourself and there is nowhere to fit in except as a loner or a lone couple. Once you let your true character out and it expands to fit the space, the world around you changes, too. I will never go back. I will visit. I will ‘take a break’, I may even travel again (unlikely) but I will never return to the Matrix. never go back to the hive, the rat-race the merry-go-round. Now? Now I need all the space I can get.

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