Dave Simpson: Chewing The Fat Out On The Porch

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By Dave Simpson, columnist

Three old guys sitting in Adirondack chairs on a porch, staring into a crackling campfire.

All three of us are 69, but the consensus is that we feel like we’re in our 50s.

“Except when I first get up from a chair like this,” I say. “For the first couple minutes after sitting for a while, I walk around like an old man.”

“You ARE an old man, Dave,” one of them says, and the other one laughs. Between the three of us, there have been one knee replacement, a torn quadriceps, two rotator cuff repairs, a back operation and one heart scare.

One of us has escaped the attention of the orthopedic surgeons, so far, but his wife has had two knees and two shoulders replaced. Nobody escapes unscathed.

We worked together in Central Illinois for a time back in the ’90s. I was their boss, but our friendships survived anyway. We remain close friends. Two of us live in Wyoming now, and the third lives in southern California.

All of us have had our share of caring for aging parents. My wife and I care for her mother at age 96. The guy from California was on his way home from taking care of his dad, who is in his 90s, in Nebraska. We seized on his passing through, giving us a chance to get together, sit on the porch, and as my dad used to say, “chew the fat.”

I’ll be the first to admit that some adult beverages were consumed, and empty cans of Coors and Pabst Blue Ribbon littered the porch floor. We’re not the kind of guys who want grapefruit, or raspberries or lemon in our beer. That’s not who we are.

We make quick work of a tin of Beer Nuts, and move on to the Doritos.

The beautiful wife of the guy from California died 13 years ago from cancer. He has not remarried. The long-suffering wives of the other two don’t mind us getting together up in the mountains now and then. We joke that they must have boyfriends. (Not likely after 35 and 47 years of marriage.)

I pass around a notebook full of pictures of two of us building this cabin back in the 1980s. The third guy asked specifically to visit “the cabin,” and he finds a sad note in my cabin diary from the day his wife died.

“Look,” he says, pointing to a picture of me with lots of hair and a full beard, wielding an ax, way back in 1984. “This is when Dave had hair!”

I gamely join in the laughter. I was nice about it.

All three of us are conservatives, close to rock-ribbed. We worked together in a vastly liberal business – local newspapers – and we have plenty of stories about how crazy it once was. That business has pretty much gone down the tubes in recent years, making retirement – at least in my case – a welcome rescue from a sinking ship.

Two of the three of us don’t watch much television anymore, having parted ways with most broadcast stations and cable. One watches a lot of YouTube. They don’t listen to much talk radio. I watch cable and listen to talk radio, a creature of habit. Of the three former local newspaper employees, only one still subscribes to a local newspaper. Two get the Wall Street Journal.

We all appreciate much of what Donald Trump has accomplished, but wish he would quit giving the Democrats so much ammunition with his tweets. Supporters like us deserve a break. None of us can imagine a President Joe Biden, because he’s so liberal, and because we see evidence of getting older in Joe, things we see in ourselves, memories that aren’t as sharp as the once were, gaits that aren’t as quick, words that don’t come easily anymore.

A steak dinner on the porch, some beer and hours of conversation take their toll.

As I head off to bed, they’re still going strong out on the porch, turning their attention to religion.

A porch. A campfire. Three old friends chewing the fat.

As the kids say nowadays, “Perfect.”

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