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Our master mechanic has a new mansion to maintain

By Walter Geiger It was blistering hot Saturday morning when we buried Ed Powell in the graveyard at New Hope Baptist Church out in Pike County. Ed lies in perpetuity about a mile as the crow flies from his longtime home on McLean Road. Heat waves rose off the blacktop parking lot and into the leaves of an old oak on the church grounds as the small crowd sought what little shelter the funeral home tent provided from the onslaught of the sun. Sweat found its way into my eyes. They burned and teared. The preacher took his time praising Ed. This man of the cloth had driven from Colorado, the graveside service was his only chance to speak and, well, the message of redemption and that home with many mansions never gets old so we listened and we sweated. Ed was plowing behind a mule when Laura’s grandfather hired him to come to work at the Griffin Daily News. Ed had off the charts mechanical skills honed on a hardscrabble farm where things got fixed not replaced. So, upon arrival at the paper, he got assigned to the linotype, a cantankerous machine that elicited newspaper copy out of molten lead, wooden type cases and considerable cursing. Every linotype operator I ever heard of liked his liquor except for Ed. This Pike County farm boy even went to New York to learn about the seething, snorting beast he was hired to tame. Not only did he tame it, he mastered it. Laura’s Dad eventually went to ‘˜cold type’ and a new offset press was brought in. Ed mastered it in short order. Eventually a second press was added for the production of multiple weeklies that had been purchased. When the Griffin paper was sold in the early 1980s that second press was moved to our current building in Barnesville. Ed took it apart, moved it and rebuilt it in its new home. He knew every nut and bolt in the thing and ran it for some 15 more years. I have never seen a better mechanic than Ed. My granddaddy was good but Ed was the best. He ran that press by listening to it. A subtle change in its roar would prompt Ed to slow it to a stop. Then he would walk right to the problem area, fix it and start back up. Once the giant electric motor that drove the thing sizzled and stopped. Ed dug into it as I stood around handing him tools and pointing the flashlight. Deep into the night, he looked at me dejectedly and said he couldn’t fix it. I didn’t question him. I knew that expert assistance was needed and we found some. He let a team of three electricians fix the issue but I could tell it ate at him. He watched their every move and when they left he simply said, ‘I know how to fix it now.’ He never got to prove that but I never doubted him. Ed drove a green 1971 long bed Ford pickup. It looked rough but was and probably still is the most mechanically sound truck on the road. Laura’s Dad found comfort in that truck. ‘When we had problems with the press I knew that, if that truck was in the parking lot, everything would be okay,’ he told me. I felt the exact same way. I wish I could just park that old truck at the office forever for that feeling of comfort. Ed never left the dirt he plowed with that mule. He was a master vegetable gardener and used that soil and his green thumb to put food on his family’s table. Ed also shared my love for bird hunting. He told me of the tough times of his youth when shotgun shells with which to take dove and quail were hard to come by. ‘I learned to wait until two birds were about to cross to shoot so I could get two with one shot,’ he said. I believed him. After cancer began to tear at him, Ed could no longer hunt. I made it a point to take him doves on opening weekend. The last trip he told me chemo had robbed him of his appetite but he had eaten a mess of fried dove and how much he enjoyed them. I was glad to bring a little joy into the life of this man who kept machinery of all sorts running for three generations of Laura’s family. I was thinking about that as the preacher neared the end of his graveside chat. Suddenly, I saw that telltale shadow on the ground. Looking up, I watched as a lone dove blew past the top of the tent covering the casket and, spotting humans, darted left then right in evasion. This time my tears were not sweat induced.

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