The Daily Register - Harrisburg, IL
Of Smoke and Rain
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By Gary DeNeal
Gary DeNeal is the editor and publisher since 1985 of Springhouse, a bi-monthly magazine focusing on the history and lore of southeastern Illinois.
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By Gary DeNeal
June 15, 2013 12:01 a.m.

Grandpa Wise sat on the back porch and, through the smoke of his cigarette, watched rain splash whitely against leaves of corn. The cornfield surrounded the house where he and Grandma lived. He was in his eighties.
I have a friend, also in his eighties, who is widely read enough to put many professors to shame. He has entertained himself royally over the decades and is, in fact, one of the brightest people I know. He claims never to be bored and I believe him. Somehow, though, I cannot picture this man staring minutes on end at rain splashing against corn leaves.
My own inclination leads me more in his bookish direction than in that of my mother’s father, which means I find myself reading at odd times throughout the day, though whether the quest is more is for entertainment or enlightenment is hard to say. Rarely do I stop and stare, so many are the diversions.
Something is missing, and that something I observed a long time ago in an old man who likely never read ten books. It is the ability to go deep into one’s very being, and there find a place where the siren-call of diversion is not to be heard.
After Grandpa and Grandma died, their house was bulldozed, yet what I witnessed there is part of my enduring present. It is a place where the rain is always white, the smoke always blue, and where an old cattle trader of few words allows himself the luxury of meditating, never dreaming his grandson is absorbing every moment.
Cigarettes kill. Sitting too near a downpour may prove harmful as well, but for a kid looking on, an old man saying nothing in the smoke and rain of sixty years ago was (is) pure enchantment, the kind found only in a few passages of the best books.

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