In (partial) memory of Silas Clark
"Silas Clark, age 79, of Bristol, VA, went
to be with the Lord on Friday, February 22, 2013 at the Wellmont
Bristol Regional Medical Center. Silas was born October 11, 1933
in Mendota, Virginia, a son of the late Burley and Rebecca Clark. He
was a lifelong resident of Scott County and Washington County, Virginia
where he had worked as a tobacco farmer. Mr. Clark was a member of
Willow Branch Baptist Church. He was preceded in death by two sisters,
five brothers and brother-in-law, Amos Murray."
of my memories of Silas come from that golden childhood period when I
assumed the stars (adults) revolved around the earth (me). In
other words, I really have no idea who he was. Except for the
obvious: farmer, father, salt of the earth, 'seng hunter, Gargamel.
offspring reacted to Silas's deer- and turkey-slaying with taunts of
the worst evil we could imagine --- likening him to the villain in the
Smurfs. And our good-natured neighbor played along, pretended to
chase us, and didn't mention our inconsistencies when we took home
turkey primaries to cut into quill pens.
By the time I was in
sixth grade, my family was still being drawn back to our long-sold farm
like moths to a flame. Silas and Onie's next-door house was a
safe resting place in our afternoon journeys. Mom made us bring
shoes --- "You don't have to wear them, but they have to fit in case
the car breaks down!" And sometimes she'd let us sit in the open
hatchback and bump our heels on the "dirt" (gravel) road along the
We'd stop and gather
berries or persimmons, depending on the season, at favored roadside
spots, then I'd hunt minnows, scooping fish out of Silas and Onie's
creek with a five-gallon bucket. Back home, I poured the bucket
through a banged-up colander and let our city cats enjoy a country
feast as the fish flopped vainly in search of liquid air.
"You'll use all of our
fish up!" Silas's grandson
complained once. Adult-Anna agrees, and cringes even more at the
use to which we put our creek-caught crawdads, racing them down the
gutter into the storm-sewer. But at the time I was mourning the
loss of our own wooded acres, and Silas and Onie tacitly took my side
and let me treat their creek as my own.
During my fishing time,
Mom was sitting under the spreading catalpa, talking to Onie, who had
been a life-line during Mom's ten years on the farm, her own family 800 miles distant in Massachusetts. I would drop by the
shade tree, but soon became bored with adult conversation.
Instead, I ended up coaxing Silas's kittens out of the hole at the
bottom of the shed. There were always new kittens, but the farm
didn't become overrun because the road was nearby and lethal. I
remember the passion with which Silas condemned the speeding drivers,
and how easily he stroked the soft balls of fur.
Recently, Mom told me she
learned easy family affection from Silas, mentioning how struck she was
to find him holding three young daughters on his lap, when her New
England parents had kept touch to a minimum. Love --- so
complicated for most of us --- was simple for Silas.
Years earlier, when
my mother-to-be showed up and turned a rented store
into a honkey-tonk, Silas's teenage son was attracted to the
action. What did the newly-saved Silas do? Invited the
hippie to dinner, then crammed her into the car with his five kids and
wife and brought them all to the fair. The more the merrier.
My father's relationship
to Silas was built around work. I can only guess how Silas must
have taken this overeducated, idealistic, new farmer under his wing and
shared ideas as well as equipment. Silas went so far as to turn
Daddy on to the farm being auctioned off next door, which is how we
became neighbors when I was a few months old. Our right-of-way
through Silas's land felt like a daily handshake, rather than an
But you have to remember
that the world still revolved around me then. That I was intent
on capturing tadpoles in Silas's cows' water trough and oohing and
ahhing over the year's newest calves in the barn. I was thrilled
to drink from a dipper at the outside faucet, the water so cold it
almost hurt, and to sneak stale potato chips discarded from the factory
and trucked home to feed Silas's livestock.
truth is that I knew Silas only as the non-astronomers among us know
the stars. He was bright and memorable --- definitely part of
Orion's belt --- but I'd be hard-pressed to tell you a fact as simple
as the color of his hair before it went gray. All I knew was the
gestalt of Silas --- warm and strong and full of boundless love.
And that's why, I
explained to my family, I couldn't begin to eulogize him on the
blog. Because all I really know is how much I miss him and how
his death has left a black hole in my life. And reminded me of a
time when the sun revolved around the earth...even though that sun had
kids and grandkids of his own. The more the merrier.
include: His beautiful bride of 60 years: Onie Mae Cresong
Clark. Children: Linda Ann Hawkeye & husband Vinny Halil
Larry Wayne Clark, Freda Hall & husband Allen, Christina "Tina"
Rehfuss & husband Rafael Vega Laboy and Donna Clark-Wohlford.
Grandchildren: Carl Buttry, Duane Buttry, Alex Hawkeye, Anthony
Hawkeye, Joel Tyler Clark, Kyle Aaron Clark, Amanda Hall, James Sitton,
William Rehfuss and Heather Maiden. Great-Grandchildren: Alexia
Hawkeye, Alexander Ulysis Clark, Evan Buttry, Corey Ann Buttry, Isa
Hawkeye, Yusuf Hawkeye and Maryam Hawkeye. Sisters: Goldie Clark
Murray. Brother: Howard Clark & wife Vivian. Numerous
--- Bristol Herald Courier
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