by Kevin Carrel Footer
Dennis is going to the moon. He asked me if I wanted to come along and though I have signed up for most of his adventures, I’m sitting this one out.
He’s got the crash helmet and the air supply ready. He is still working on propulsion but assures me he will have it sorted in a few weeks. The problem with getting to the moon, he tells me, is not that it is too far away but rather that it is is too close: whatever you do, you don’t want to overshoot it.
Dennis has cheated death over and over. Stories of him going right up to the edge and coming back are legion and he’ll probably return from this one intact. Nelly his wife has seen it all before; she doesn’t even look up from the puzzle she is assembling as he makes his preparations.
And he’ll have a hell of a story to tell. Like he told me the other day, “Sometimes a good story is worth a bad experience.” When he has landed and the dust settles, he’ll probably sit in his shed and record on tape how he went to the moon. It will go into his archive of “yarns” and people will hear him in his own voice tell how he faced certain death and somehow lived to tell the story. “I would have given a pretty penny if my ancestors had thought to do something like this for me,” he says.
I have my own Dennis stories – the river trip in a storm, going through the McDonald’s drive-thru on horseback, learning to throw knives, breathing under water – and I tell them all the time. Of course, the very best Dennis adventures are the ones you can’t tell anyone else. They wouldn’t understand and you might get yourself in a heap of trouble, whether marital or legal. But mostly they just wouldn’t understand.
There was a time I would have followed him anywhere. Now I am more selective, recognizing that he has his stories and I have mine. Still he did say to me once that in a tight situation he’d prefer to have me beside him than one of those blustery guys full of tattoos and Big Talk. He said quiet guys like me were more reliable when push came to shove. Coming from someone who’s never without a knife on his hip, I took it as a complement.
Dennis hates authority. It’s a visceral thing with him, not some nuance or posture. His kind were shoved about by police in every town they ever lived in. Not that that made them change their ways: they had a long-running feud with some neighbors in Oklahoma and ended up on the losing end, prompting the flight to California where like other Okies they became “fruit tramps” and followed the ripening through the Central Valley. Dennis was good with a slingshot and many times he used it to put food on the table, mostly rabbits.
My own thinking always seems muddled and flawed next to him. Dennis doesn’t get muddled. He starts thinking about something and then pretty soon he’s got a plan and that plan becomes a course of action. Like right now: He’s getting the parts together for his moon adventure – if only he can remember where he put them.
America’s going to be awfully proud of Dennis when he pulls it off. Hillbillies and Okies have gotten a bad reputation in recent years and it’s not every day that a California-Improved-Okie sonofabitch sets foot on the moon and shows the world what you can do with some grit and spare parts.