Mountain Man

Marlon was a gentle but exuberant soul. He was also a bit of a duck out of water. His background in sales in no way qualified him for the editor’s position at the aviation publishing company in Wyoming. Duck feathers for background in either aviation or publishing, he must have turned on the Marlon charm and sweet-talked his way in.

No, Marlon wasn’t much of an editor — but at least he was exuberant about it, and gentle enough to never offend. Marlon was exactly the kind of co-worker you like to spend the majority of your weekdays with.

Marlon was also a mountain man. He gave tomahawk-throwing and sharpshooting exhibitions all over the state with his powder musket, tricked out in buckskins and a Daniel Boone raccoon cap. He looked the part, with his ruddy cheeks, salt-and pepper beard and aw-shucks persona. He could clip a feather in half at thirty paces. Then he’d do it backwards, using a mirror.

He even taught me the feather trick (well, not backwards). Go light on the powder and the gun won’t kick on you, I learned. Old buddy Shep back in Iowa loved to overload his blunderbuss, and the one time I fired that beast I overshot a refrigerator-sized target by twenty feet and landed on my ass. Gentle exuberance, even with a firearm: that was the Marlon way.

Man, I loved hopping into his pickup on a bity November Saturday to ostensibly hunt deer. More gentility, the deer were safe enough with us. The only casualties were feathers. The banter was unending. I’ve never laughed so hard on a cold day in the middle of nowhere.

When I took my leave of Wyoming I was pretty sure the publishing company’s days were numbered. I’d give it about two years, I told my wife. Sure enough.  Jobs in Wyoming are not exactly a dime a dozen. The last I heard, Marlon was trying to make a go of it as a professional horse masseur. Suited his gentle side. Captain Morgan rum suited his exuberant side, far too exuberantly. I’m told Marlon drank himself to death, leaving behind a grieving widow and devastated young son.

I cherish my keepsakes, his pencil drawings. He once had me model for him as a sleeping hunter — he was a hell of an artist. So much talent. Another feather clipped, up in a puff of smoke.


Mountain Man

Sketch created by Marlon

David McCabe is a retired editor and publications production manager, now living in Ottawa.
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