by A. Lawrence Vaincourt

I first met old Rufe when I was a boy, a kid on his very first job.
Now Rufe was a bachelor, addicted to drink, uncouth and a bit of a slob.
He was bowlegged and small but 'wang' leather tough and he worked me near into the earth,
While he made snide remarks in his whiskey-rough voice till I hated the day of his birth.

Yes, I was a boy but he made me a man for his razzing did give me a push
And he taught me the things that I needed to know, about how to survive in the bush.
By the end of the winter my hate was all gone for I finally did understand
Though he was uncouth with an axe or a saw he sure was one hell of a man.

Then one day he said I was holding my own and did pretty good work, now and then
And I realized with joy I was no more a boy but an adult, a man among men.
And then the War came and I went to sign up and Rufus he said, "Well, that's grand.
But there's only one problem, now I've got to find and break in another good man."

Then he went to the cupboard and took out a jug and he said, "Do you know what I think?"
"If you're man enough to go out there and fight, you're sure big enough for a drink."
So he poured us two drinks that were generous indeed and we talked until late in the night
And I found my way home 'neath the cold winter moon with a head that was fuzzy and light.

On the day that I left I said my "good-byes," little knowing if I would be back,
As the bus rolled away I saw Rufus wave, from the door of his clapboard shack.
When the Drill Sergeant yelled, "You're all snotty nosed kids and I'm going to make men out of you,"
I smiled to myself, because after old Rufe, there wasn't much more he could do.

So I ran and I climbed and did close order drill and I marched in a line every day.
But after the winters I'd spent in the woods, this wasn't hard work, it was play!
And though the War took several years of my life, I was lucky and came to no harm
And when it was over I turned in my gear, but I didn't go back to the farm.

Well I didn't see Rufe for many a year, for the City was so far away.
But I promised myself that if I came near I would drop in and see him one day.
When he came to the door I could see at a glance that the whiskey was taking its toll,
He was weathered and bent as the stem of his pipe and, God! he looked wizened and old.

But he stuck out his hand and he placed it in mine and he said, "Hey, I'm glad you could come,
The boy just delivered a fresh case of beer, come on in and help me drink some."
So we sat and drank beer and we talked of old times and I promised that I would return,
But I never got back to see him again, 'twas about a year later I learned

Rufe had gone to the Doctor, said, "I'm near eighty-two and I've always been healthy and well,
But I think that I've picked up a bit of the 'flu because lately I'm feeling like hell."
The Doc checked him out and then said with a frown "Well, Rufus, I have some bad news,
Your liver is shot and your going to cash in, unless you lay off the booze."

Rufus said, "I've no wife and I've drank all my life, if I'm going I'll go like a Man,
If I've got to cash in then I'll do it in style with a bottle of Scotch in my hand."
Then he called all his friends, said, "I've been to the Doc and he tells me the end is quite near,
But before a man dies he should say his good-byes, how about coming around for a beer?"

I'm told that the party went on several days and that Rufus he picked up the bill,
And they drank to his health and to his future wealth, although they all knew he was ill.
'Twas several weeks later Rufe cashed in his chips, one evening a neighbor dropped in,
Found him dead on the floor with a smile on his puss, on the table a bottle of gin.

There's some good folk say that Rufe was a bum, a ruffian, a man of no worth,
But I happen to know that, like others before, old Rufe left his mark on this earth.
Hope God in his wisdom provided a place where old Rufe and his raffish old friends
Can sit, smoke their pipes, tell each other lies and perhaps, have a beer now and then.

For I happen to feel that there's good in all men and if ever I'm needful of proof,
I'll hearken once more to the days of my youth and the life and the times of old Rufe.

© 1986 A. Lawrence Vaincourt

web site at: www.vaincourt.homestead.com

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