June 12, 2007

J.D. is one of the nicest guys I have ever met. His eyes are gentle, his eyebrows wild, and his voice a dead-ringer for Garrison Keillor. He is wise and thoughtful and paced and careful and when he laughs at something I say, I feel like I must be the funniest person in the whole world.

J.D. is the guardian of our get-away in the Catskills, as his house is the first you reach on our dusty and sun-dappled little road. This road dead-ends in a mountain Round Top, a little sibling of the Catskills so when a car drives in, J.D. pauses to peer calmly through the trees. "Here comes the mail," he'll say, or "Bob Schmidt's on his way to pour the concrete up at the Pasero's." And if it's a vehicle he doesn't recognize, he'll calmly excuse himself to go check on the visitor's identity. There have been poachers here and teenage drinkers, and J.D. is not afraid to give them the what-for.

J.D and his wife Kerry (a fabulous person with a wonderful name) are happy hermits, content to spend much of their time gardening and cooking and tending to their property. We are always welcome at their home for dinner, or to borrow the tractor, or to visit their monstrous German Shepherd, Buddy. And they stop by regularly to say hello and to offer help when needed, always graciously marveling at the work Sam and Nick are putting into the house and surrounding land.

J.D. is a performer, an accomplished actor on both stage and screen, and it cracked me up to see him when we arrived a few days ago; in preparation for the title role in a production of King Lear, he's got the most fantastic beard I've ever seen. J.D. is usually clean-shaven, but now he genuinely fits the part of "crazy old hermit mountain man" with his wild beard and sturdy work clothing. When I remarked on his transformation, he very proudly nodded, and told me he has plans for the next group of guys who ride in on their ATVs, tearing up his property.

The next time J.D. hears the familiar throttle of engines, he is going to strap on his six-shooter and plunge into the woods in hot pursuit. With this new beard of his, J.D. is really a sight to behold, especially when you see that he's toting, oh, a really big gun. The best thing about his plan is that, upon catching up with the ruffians, he doesn't intend to threaten the riders or yell at them or call in the police. Instead he plans on approaching the trespassers calmly, a hand on his revolver, and a warm smile, asking "Tell me, brothers, have you found Jesus?"

If this isn't a sure bet, I just don't know what is.