It’s been a harrowing sort of couple of days. Slow revelations. Anticipation. Two men were murdered, a couple of miles up the road from my home on Sunday. One of them, I knew only by reputation, the other, Rick, had been to my home on Saturday morning. He was at my home several times throughout the course of any given week. JL found odd jobs for him to do, gave him rides. They shared coffee and cigarettes.
But we didn’t know it was Rick. We didn’t know anything, except the alleged murderer’s name, for a many hours Sunday night. So we waited, distracting ourselves with this and that. Contemplating. Who could have been murdered? I drove right by there. Had anything looked unusual? Murdered people were silent on the ground yards from where I drove—shouldn’t I have seen—felt—known—something was amiss in our tiny universe? It is strange to feel apprehensive in retrospect.
Finally, around 10pm, news reports included names and ages. We all immediately recognized Kenneth Moore, Jr’s name—but the other was a puzzle. Robert Mann, Jr., 42 years old. And he worked for Kenneth. Did Rick have a brother? Maybe a cousin that worked for Kenneth? Because he was a Mann, and he was 42. He was even a junior. But, we had never heard anyone call him Robert.
Early Monday morning, there was video of Mr. Mann’s mother and father on the news. They were standing out in front of the home we knew belonged to Rick’s parents. There were people standing in the background—we looked—could one of them possibly be Rick? It was dark, we told ourselves, too dark to tell.
On the local newspaper’s website someone asked, is this the Mr. Mann who rides his bike throughout the county? We waited for a reply, knowing deep inside that it was.
I mentally stepped through the weekend backwards. We went to the grocery store, Saturday at about 3:30, we drove by the site of the shootings. Oblivious. Coming home, about 5:30, up the same road, nothing out of the ordinary. At the end of Stavemill Rd—Bootleg Hollow to the locals—I stopped at the stop sign. A man in a black sedan pulled up to the intersection from the narrow dirt track on the other side of Dorset Rd. There were antennas all over his car. I remember thinking, that’s odd, what’s a state cop doing down there? No county officer had a car like that. It was state, or even federal. We made eye contact, the way you do when you face down a driver trying to decide who has the right of way. I decided, he was on a dirt road, my road was paved. I pulled out. Had the look been a warning, hey lady, get your kid home, there’s a murderer on the loose—right here in Bootleg Hollow? I know other stories about Bootleg Hollow. Will this event add to the mythology of the place?
The online reply came to the news site, Yes, it was that Mr. Mann. A monosyllabic knowing.
Rumors galore. They were killed execution style. It was drugs. It was between Kenneth and the murderer, Rick was in the wrong place at the wrong time. The murderer is a good man, something, or someone drove him to this…
Real news came slowly.
The two had been working on a hay baler. Baled hay scattered across fields made this seem likely. Had the twine jammed, and they were working to fix it? At some point, in the morning, the alleged murderer came to the property, and left again. Rumor has it that Kenneth, Jr was shot in the back. Was he walking away from a fight? Was he attacked, unaware of the danger he was in?
Only half the hay is baled. It stands stark in fields under cloudy skies. Kenneth, Sr. went looking for both men. Did he try to call his son on his cell and get no answer? Did he look at the remaining hay in annoyance? Did he cuss under his breath as he looked at the threatening skies? Was he angry about the job left unfinished in the fields? I would have been annoyed in his shoes.
What he found was his son, his namesake, dead. Rick was dead. No I love yous, no goodbyes. Was that moment forever seared into his brain with the anger he possibly felt moments before? There could be no I’m sorrys. What will he be able to tell his granddaughter about her father’s death? How will he sleep at night?
I drove by that property several times in the course of running errands on Monday. Kenneth Sr’s truck was parked at his son’s house. How will he cope? Get through tomorrow? There were several cars at Kenneth Jr’s house.
In stark contrast, at Rick’s mom’s house, for a while, there were no cars. Then two, then four. Rick’s family had a reunion on Saturday afternoon. I hope the day ended in hugs, serenity, and closure that the Moore’s will never have.
I had time to digest the news as I drove from Powhatan to Lovingston for my retreat. Time to consider the changing landscape of my adopted home. I drove through Cumberland, and Buckingham through county seats that had no chain grocery stores, or McDonald’s, by fields of freshly mowed hay. I kept envisioning Mr. Moore’s hay abandoned in the field, with thunderstorms in the forecast. I hope there is enough of the old ways left in the county, that someone thought to go and pick up that hay for him while he planned a funeral…
I arrived at The Porches in time to see a double rainbow. It seemed to arrive as a welcome wagon. It offered an invitation to solitude and serenity. A place to slow down. A place to quiet my thoughts and breathe air unsullied by sorrow. A place to regroup, to read, to write. I’ll finish my essay “Learning to Fly” while I’m here, and hopefully see it published by the time the Decorah eaglets fly in July.
Even the internet is slow here. Expect pictures on my Facebook, as I can upload them from my phone.
Word Count: 1031