Next to my childhood home was a rental home. This two-flat had a menagerie of tenets over the course of the twenty years I lived there – all colorful, all interesting – some quite scary. My favorite tenants moved in when I was five years old – their names were Herb and Bones. I loved these guys. They were biker hippies – living the single life in 1974 – plenty of woman, “herbs”, parties and visitors.
I knew nothing of their lifestyle. This is what I knew – on a near daily basis I would knock on their door – one of them would answer (probably hung over – or worse!) – see me, smile and say, “Hey, little Fizz, what’s happening?” (Side note – my father’s nickname, in this very small town, was Fizz – making my brother Fizz Jr. and me little Fizz). To this I would hold up a Frisbee and ask if they wanted to play – they always said “yes!” What a picture – little fizz playing Frisbee in the middle of the street with a couple of long haired bikers. This is one of my best childhood memories.
I don’t know what happened to Bones, but Herb is still around. I see him occasionally and he always makes me smile. He has lived a life much like Sully – the main character in Nobody’s Fool – a life filled with selfish and courageous choices that were always fueled by an unquenchable desire to be free. Herb lives on the edge – few entanglements, always free to leave – today – if the urge should strike.
There is so much about Sully (Herb) that I absolutely don’t agree with – a world full of these guys and the civilization would be in shambles. But Sully (Herb) is the guy who will give his boss the finger (like we wish we could), he says the things, does the things and goes places many of us privately wish we could, but never will. The last two times I saw Herb, he: (1) Sold his Harley and bought a large tent, hitch hiked out west and became a sheepherder. He gave the rest of the money to his brother in an effort to help him save his farm, (2) Came back to Sycamore and moved into a shed behind the main gas station in town – room for a bed and his Harley – lived on microwaved burritos from the gas station – no TV, no fridge, and no pantry.
Sully (Herb) has no bank account. No 401K. No medical benefits. He lives a simple life in which he deals with what is in front of him – today. He is fascinating in what he reveals about what matters in life – because he is not impressed with pretension – he sees through you – sees your heart. Sully is a real man – I’ve known him all my life – his name is Herb. Funny thing is – when I think about growing up in a small town – I can think of many more Sully’s – some I’m even related to. I love those guys.
If you grew up in a small town – read this book – you will know this man intimately. If you did not grow up in a small town – read this book – this is a treasured slice of America that has been lost through the sterilization of our minds and culture resulting from sub-urbanization, mass everything and an insane desire to look and live like “everyone else.” Nobody’s Fool is a piece if genius.
Be Strong. Stay Hungry. Walk Tall.