We don’t need to talk about houses on the hill—his words, difficult to hear over the sudden roar in the corner 1920’s bar. The Broncos had just scored a touchdown on TV, and the patrons dressed in Denver orange were clinking mugs of Tiny’s beer with each other. And he, a John Wayne fan, and I, a poet without a windmill to interview, had stopped by just to share a legendary platter of Tiny’s home-cut fries.
Or why the pine cone on the window ledge, I offered in reply.
So many things don’t make sense: Snatches of conversation; watersheds without catchments; pine cones found on a second-story ledge. But what would intrigue be if everything added up?
Intrigue: which one is it: The noun for the secret scheme designed to harm or cheat someone? Or the verb to cause to be interested or curious?
When my son was born, his German grandfather became his favorite retreat. Snuggled against Opa’s broad shoulders, he would listen to Opa’s folk lore from the Ukraine: No nickname, no wealth; Babies born with six toes will own windmills, but babies born with big hands grow up to be thieves. A thief worries his neighbors are waiting to rob his house.
And afterwards, after the answer comes . . . comes, what?
He wants to tell me about John Wayne, but the Oldies radio station we are listening to in the car is playing Christmas music and Gene Autry is singing Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer. Shhh, this is a good song! We drive from one alley to the next looking for the next great photo-op, singing Rudolph lyrics before returning to our disjointed stories.
In a valley of green plumbs and Corriente cattle–this is where he likes to think the Duke once lived. But by the time this greatest Duke fan moved to southern California, all the windmills were gone. And the cattle with their horns.
What is left? I ask.
The car bounces across the frozen, snowy ruts in the alley behind the butcher’s store, and he pauses to frame his reply: Do you know—there is even a Dale Evans Boulevard and Gene Autry Parkway down there? Right in the Anaheim suburbs, Disney to your left and the Angels ball field to your right. And the funny thing is—all the time you listen to them sing and watch them in their movies, you never think of them living in a house.