When the wise old man was working on an Arizona ranch back in the 1950s, he became acquainted with the cowboy character actor Flybird Nord, who, besides being in demand in Hollywood, was an actual foreman for the Circle-K. He had mentioned Mr. Nord to me several times, usually noting his desire to do actual work apart from the movie set but I did not know he had mentioned me to the actor. Our home phone rang at around noon on Independence Day.
“Dr. Ford, this is Flybird Nord.”
“Uh, yes sir, you are a friend of…”
“Yes. I just talked to him. He called from Bright Leaf there in Atlanta and I am flying out to visit him. I will be happy to stop by if you and Mrs. Ford would care to accompany me. It will be a quick turnaround but we are both getting kind of long in the tooth, so I really wanted this visit.”
I had a lot of questions, such as, how old are you now? Do you still fly your own airplane? Weren’t you a producer for Shane and Giant? You know, things like that. So, I was not a little comforted by his next statement.
“My son will be flying us out. I am 94 and do not pilot much anymore. Shall I pick you up at the Hope airport or Texarkana?”
Well, we chose Texarkana and it was a joy to meet Mr. Nord there at the airport. He still sported the droopy Western mustache and, though a little stooped, still had his trademark bowlegged swagger. His boots were ostrich with silver inlays. The airplane was bigger than I had expected and we actually had a dour cowgirl flight attendant. The younger Nord looked more like a pro wrestler that the son of his father. I immediately discerned that he visited the gym regularly, as well as the tattoo parlor.
The wise old man was thrilled to see his old friend and tickled that my wife and I were along for the visit. The most interesting part of our time there was the rich conversations of the cowboy actor and the wise old man. In discussing today’s unusual political configurations, they identified what they called a zeitgeist of independence. The wise old man concluded that 1776 was the first Brexit borne of the desire of English-speaking peoples for independence. These two old fellows gave a whole new meaning to Independence Day.
Our muscular pilot and the dour attendant went out in the rental car and found some of the best ribs imaginable. When the wise old man said the blessing, he did so in this fashion, “Lord, you are good. You gave us choice and chose to make this crowd here, my dear friends. I am glad you did. Even though we value our independence as a country, we never want to think ourselves independent of our Father in heaven who knows what to do with ribs. Plant us by the river, Lord, and help us to produce fruit, even in old age. Amen. Pass the potato salad.”