Monday, May 12, 2014


I’d lost my old favorite Woody Guthrie songbook.  I was sure of it.  Unloading the guitar case from the car, continuing our trip through Iowa, where the book should have been there was an open gaping zipper pouch.  That quick sinking feeling that grabs me too frequently on the road.  It’s gone, lost.  Back at the last motel?  First check the piggy-backed smaller pouch.  No, only a couple of papers—too tight for it anyway.
Then the thoughts and suspicions surround me.   Why didn't I have it zipped?  Must have fallen under the bed in the tight space next to it where I’d stowed the guitar.   Or was it my compulsive brother Jim, who for more than 50 years has been hording, sorting, itemizing, checking re-checking almost every object he comes in contact with.   It’s part of his autism, unavoidably who he is.   Most often only a slight aggravation for the rest of the family, but something you must at times keep in mind.

I ask Jim, “Have you seen my Woody Guthrie songbook?  I've lost it.”  He seems concerned and repeats the name.   But doesn't appear to know anything more about it.   I call back to the previous hotel.  That’s the most likely solution.   The front desk clerk, says she will check, but when I call back 10 minutes later, there has been no sign of it in the room.   Now I begin to get worried.   Jim notes this and says “call back later.”   Or maybe, “make a copy, make a copy.”   I’m feeling the loss more now, and answer that I had some old song sheets in it that are not replaceable, and that the book is out of print, not replaceable [though there is a newer edition—all is not really lost].

Our  roots tour started at the museum in Fort Dodge, Iowa

Through the next hours of the day, I’m still somewhat miserable as we do a rambling tour of the Fort Dodge, Iowa museum with my 90 year old Dad, my brother Dave, and his two older children.  My Mom had ancestors in these parts.  This is a roots tour.

s we walk together, Jim repeats more frequently, “Find the Woody Guthrie book,” as he leans in close to my ear, his way of showing the importance of a subject.   His concern mounts, though his voice is soft and steady, as my worry persists.   Finally he’s returning to this every 10 minutes.   He then grabs my attention more fully by having me spell each letter slowly as he writes them down in his slightly scraggly-dark but precise hand [that has drawn thousands of engineered figures of people and cars].  WOODY GUTHRIE SONGBOOK. 

Then I realize, as he leans in close with me on this task, that he has been trying to reassure me.  To calm my fears.  He understands those fears, and wants me not to worry.   We shared a bedroom growing up during my later school years, and I thought by simple word games and talk I’d initiate, that reassurance would always be my job.   Not so in this present moment.  I do let go of the anxiety, and am comforted by the surprise of his love in this small but not insignificant crisis.   The peripheral suspect has become a centering guide.

A day later, before doing some singing and playing with brother Dave, I decide to take a closer look in that smaller guitar case pouch.   Pressed tight under the papers I’d seen but not looked behind is my Woody Guthrie songbook.   I tell Jim, I’m thankful, it’s been found.  He's pleased too.  I am grateful.

This game of the bait and switch on myself, the lost that was never lost, I've played a couple of times in my life.  Most disconcerting—but has made me a believer, that in the end, following in God’s footsteps, accepting the help that comes in unexpected ways, we really do have nothing left to lose.

Worried Man Blues -- Listen to, sung by Woody Guthrie
He's Got the Whole World in His Hands -- Listen to, sung by Odetta


           The Cardiff Giant Hoax, our great great uncle Michael Foley had been marginally involved, Barnum Bailey                                               taking the lead.   Part of the story on this plaque in to Fort Dodge Iowa museum.

The ten foot tall gypsum quarry "Cardiff Giant"

CARDIFF GIANT lies in exhibition - discredited, but acknowledged, in Fort Dodge, IA

Grave of the son of the stone cutter at Fort Dodge cemetery
On our trip we rambled through many graveyards to get to the bottom of our stories.

Illumination by Kathy Brahney

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