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It’s difficult to lose an achiever

By Walter Geiger Some months back, I found myself on the scene where the body of a man had been found in a rundown house. I got there quickly but, upon my arrival, the street outside the shack was already full of onlookers. As the police and coroner did their work, the assemblage in the streets grew to number about 200. It was shortly after noon on a Monday, a workday. I asked a police officer securing the scene why all the hangers- on were not at work. His answer was succinct. ‘We work so they don’t have to.’ He was right, of course, and I wondered how large the crowd would have been had we been on a similar scene in the cesspool that is Chicago. All these folks get a check or multiple checks and far too many wear their entitlement status as a badge of honor. I reflected on that in the wake of the passing of Bobby Caldwell Friday. Mr. Bobby was the polar opposite of the entitlement crowd. He grew up on the farm and knew nothing but hard work. He labored from before daylight to well after dusk on the farm and at the mill to provide for his wife and three girls. Mr. Bobby was the best vegetable gardener I have ever known. Laura loved his squash and he would bring a bag by the office just about every week. Often the bag also contained tomatoes and other goodies. Unlike the produce from my garden, his never had blemishes or worm or insect damage. His squash was so abundant and so perfect that he supplied the local Giant Mart store for years. It was said at his funeral that he knew when to plant and knew when to pick.Like his work ethic, that is becoming a lost art in this era of genetically altered crops. My impression of Mr. Bobby is that he was a perfectionist. He would work and work and work at something until he mastered it. He was good with his guns because he had to provide meat for the table from the woods. A nephew whose father, Mr. Bobby’s brother, had died young spoke at the funeral. He told of how Mr. Bobby took time off from the farm to teach him guy stuff like hunting, fishing and golf because his dad was not around to do it. He told of Mr. Bobby taking a 250-yard shot at a deer with his rifle. ‘I didn’t see him go down,’ the nephew said after the blast. Mr. Bobby replied simply, ‘You will.’ Indeed the buck fell. ‘I shot him in the neck to save the meat,’ Mr. Bobby told his nephew. Those of you who know of firearms know just how difficult that shot was particularly in that it was made in the days before expensive and elaborate sight optics. Mr. Bobby didn’t take up golf until after he retired from his off the farm job at Carter’s. He labored at the sport as he did everything else, hitting buckets and buckets of golf balls. Thousands or tens of thousand of balls were bashed as he honed his game. His hard work paid off. He had a hole in one for each of his three daughters and his three grandchildren. I think it is fair to say that Mr. Bobby could have been a tour level golfer had he been exposed to the sport earlier in life. Sadly, there was no time for golf on the farm of Mr. Bobby’s youth. There was time for work, time for family and time for church. That is the environment that forged so many of this country’s achievers. Our society has gone away from that model and, as a direct result, we have fewer folks willing to work hard for what they get. That makes it so much harder to lose folks like Mr. Bobby. He is sorely missed. Walter Geiger is editor and publisher of The Herald Gazette.

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