Back in 1992, Gusewelle went traveling, so his column wasn't in the paper for quite a while.... or maybe they reran some of his older columns, I don't know for sure. It's been a long time. What I do know is that I missed him, and when he finally returned and his usual column showed up in the paper, I was very happy. Now, back then we were having some tough economic times; Cliff had lost a good job and we were struggling to make ends meet. To keep my mind off my troubles, I began making up poems. I wrote poems about my grandchildren, about my chickens, about the Sunday sermons at church. (Some of them were incredibly lousy, by the way, but it gave me something to do.)
So I decided to welcome Gusewelle back with a poem, and here's what I wrote:
I write a poem every day; it helps me mark the time.
I take my daily happenings and put them into rhyme:
A verse for each occasion, like the birthday of a friend,
A tribute to a loved one, at his mortal journey's end,
Or, just to say "I love you" to a daughter or a son.
If there's a poem in it, you can bet I've written one!
Poems for my dairy cows, and poems for my pets ---
When something's down on paper, it's a thing I won't forget.
Today, Gusewelle, the poem's yours; it's just to let you know
That I like what you're doing, and I want to tell you so.
You've given me some insights that I never will forget
On growing pains and bird dogs, fat cats and cigarettes.
From your farm in Missouri to far distant, foreign shores
I've read each golden word you wrote, and only wanted more.
We don't agree on things, but I can say without regret
That I consider you a friend, although we've never met.
A couple of days later I received this:
Over the next two or three years I sent a couple more homemade poems to Gusewelle, and I always received a brief note acknowledging it.
One winter he started out his column "Tap tap tap... Is anybody there?" as though nobody was reading his words in the January cold. I answered with the following:
To Gusewelle, from Prison
(Tap, tap tap) We hear you tapping;
(Tap tap tap) We know you're there.
Some of us were only napping.
January's hard to bear.
I keep busy with my cattle.
They must be milked twice a day.
Keeping busy's half the battle.
Sometimes it's the only way.
On my brand new word processor,
Every day I write a rhyme.
Winter is a cruel oppressor,
But I somehow pass the time.
Now I babysit a child
Whose mother hasn't finished school.
Kody has me quite beguiled
And I enjoy him as a rule.
Prisons aren't formed by walls
And iron bars don't make a cage.
January always galls.
You're only going through a stage.
Keep in mind that we were still having a rough time financially, and I was talking to myself in the verses as much as to Charles.
Another time he wrote in his column about the day when he began working from home rather than driving to work. I wish I'd kept the articles that inspired the various poems, but alas I did not. I remember he mentioned the five-dollar chair he had there at home, and I thought, "I want that chair!" I asked him in rhyme to leave it to me in his will. This one is my favorite.
To C.W. Gusewelle
Greetings to you, my old friend:
It's good to have you back again!
The K.C. Star seems dry and bleak
Without your column thrice a week.
Your office now is in your home:
Your desk, your lamp, your telephone.
Well, I want something you have there;
When you pass on, I want your chair!
I'll pay your
wife the price you gave
When you lie mould'ring in the grave.
If it will hold my broad derriere,
I'd really like to have that chair.
I'm sure the old thing reeks of smoke,
But even so --- this is no joke!---
Don't vacuum off the feline hair,
Just ship me your old, faithful chair.
Five dollars doesn't seem too high;
It's what I'd call a real buy!
Perhaps the muse that met you there
Will visit me, in that old chair.
Some day, when you have time to kill
Add one brief post script to your will:
Give to your wife her proper share,
But leave me that five-dollar chair!
He always sent a brief note acknowledging my efforts. It brightened my spirits every time.
So yes, I'd like to see and hear the guy in person. I doubt if he even remembers my silly poems, and it doesn't matter. It's all about my memories of somebody who took the time to acknowledge that I was alive.