Marshall’s gone, but Marshall’s here.
May 29, 2013
They called him Marshall and to this day – some of them, anyhow, when they gather to talk of days gone by– they call up his good name.
Call it up when memory goes back to the names of those who helped make this once-small town what it was.
What it became.
Even what it is.
Back when the population was numbered in the few hundreds.
Back before the little town was betwixt a pair of big, growing, overshadowing, dueling cities.
Back before those large cities would begin to edge toward and then push and shove at the little town.
Back before the little town would begin to shove back toward those two big cities.
To assert itself.
To compete, grow, claim a more rightful place.
Become a comparatively large city itself.
Marshall was here.
Here in and around the little town.
Here in front of the downtown stores and shops.
And on the streets in front of them.
Here to tip his cowboy hat to the ladies and to escort them across the busy highway that divided the little town.
Greet the gentlemen who had their offices, their shops here.
Here to delight the children with the incessant twirls of the twin cap pistols he wore about his waist on the big belt.
His hat was black; no matter, those in this small town who knew him knew he really was the good guy in the white hat.
His jeans, his western shirt with the pencil ever-present in the shirt pocket, were as sparkling clean as the tin star he wore just above it.
Sometimes he would ride a bicycle.
Sometimes he would be afoot.
Why, lore has it that maybe he had even ridden a stick horse.
A stick horse as colorful as he was.
His smile was effervescent, ever-present, genuine.
A giving, reassuring, welcoming smile that captivated, had an easily-communicated, readily-understood language all its own.
Actually, some called him Marshall because they knew that was his given name. Others called him Marshal – spelled with one “l” – because his attire brought to mind the attire of a law officer.
So, Marshall or Marshal, he in countless ways through his years would do his part to pull the little town together, give it heart, soul, purpose, distinction.
Give it a smile.
Give it play-like moments.
Even respite from its sometimes demanding, sometimes quarrelsome self.
Most would see him when much of the town would go to the Friday night high school football games, where he would jump in and help the lone police officer direct traffic into the football game parking lot, where he would run up and down in front of the hometown crowd, pretend to blaze away with his twin cap pistols, loudly shouting “Bang! Bang!” and in that and other ways assign himself the make-believe role of cheerleader-in-chief.
And then, game over, he would be back helping the lone police officer guide the vehicles out of the stadium parking lot.
Waving them toward home with his toy pistols.
Sending them home with added joy – spirited, immense joy that only he could bring– in their hearts, even if the football team had lost.
Marshall, in countless other ways, made his way into the fabric, the kaleidoscopic, collective picture – and vibrant life — of the little town.
He would be here, sitting on one of the corner drug store’s fountain stools along with the city fathers – the council members, the attorneys, the doctors, the merchants, the publisher – sipping his Cherry Coke which they would gladly take turns buying for him.
He would be here at the small burger place, munching the bun-mustard-onion-meat sandwich they likewise treated him to.
He would be at the bus station, patiently, energetically helping folks get off and on.
He would show up at the school, at the college campus, at the volunteer fire station where he was something of a mascot, dispensing his joy, making it fun to be there.
He would hang out down at the Texaco station, the five-and-dime store, the post office, the newspaper.
People in other towns might call their Marshall the village idiot.
Or, at best, mentally retarded.
Terms which, thankfully, understandably, finally and more civilly and compassionately have mostly faded from use.
They didn’t so much call him that in this little town.
Not their Marshall.
In this place, he was special.
In this place, they laughed more with him than at him.
For Marshall created, fashioned, nurtured his place, his respected place by abundantly giving to this town the best – the very best – that had been given to him.
Then one day Marshall was gone.
The little town wept.
They say the church was filled to overflowing when he left.
Maybe even the birds fell silent, momentarily quit singing in tribute to him.
Marshall was gone.
Taking his cheerful presence, his waving, blazing cap guns, his shiny clothes and badge, his traffic directing, his greetings, his escort-across-the-busy-highway services, the sheer joy of his being here with him.
Yet, such town treasures never really go away.
Can’t you almost hear him whistle?
Just now, wasn’t that his familiar, buoyant yodel?
For those who knew him, saw him, heard of him, Marshall and all of the rich blessings he brought with him to every part of town are with us yet.
They are here.
Here in the clear 20-20 vision of fond memory to remind, appreciate, encourage.
And always will be.