Glenn Reuben Smith, Lee’s oldest sibling, passed from his earthly life on March 4, 2011. For four weeks, Lee and I parked our motorhome in his brother’s driveway in Madera, California, helping and supporting Glenn’s wife, Debbie, and his son, Carl, as they stood by his bedside.
Once before, we had parked in their driveway. My first impression on my new brother-in-law turned out less than favorable. When I climbed in the backseat of his shiny new car for a drive to Yosemite National Park, only about 60 miles from his home, no one told me that Glenn drove fast on curvy roads. Moreover, no one told him I am prone to motion sickness. Before we reached the park, I asked him to pull over and let me take the front seat. However, the altitude and the twisty roads had taken their toll.
I thought the hike up to Sentinel Dome, the fresh air, and the shuttle bus ride around Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias had settled my queasy stomach. However, when we started the ride along the mountain road back to Madera, my head pounded with the ferocity of a jack-hammer.
The nausea set in motion on the curvy highway earlier in the day, combined with a climb to 8,000 feet, turned my equilibrium upside down. By the time I asked Glenn to please pull over, it was too late. I threw up into the Workamper sweatshirt in my lap, but still messed up his beautiful clean car. Just when I wanted to be at my best, I showed my worst!
Fortunately, Glenn accepted me anyway. Over the years, I visited by phone and letter and at family reunions. I learned to love my remarkable brother-in-law who had planted his roots deep into the California mountains. Fresh from the Seabees in WWII, he started toiling in the sawmills and worked his way up to a saw filer in the timber mills. A life-learner, he educated himself on almost any subject and readily shared his stories and knowledge with anyone who would listen. He raised four sons in the forested mill towns and practiced his passion for camping, hunting, fishing, and hiking.
Glenn firmly set his feet in California soil, but he maintained close ties with family in Arkansas and Tennessee. He cherished his heritage from a grandfather who emigrated from Switzerland to pastor a Swiss-speaking church in the Arkansas delta. On several trips to Europe, Glenn acquainted himself with cousins who remained in Switzerland.
In mid-life, he married a horsewoman named Debbie. Together they rode the mountain trails of the Sierras. Glenn admitted he lacked his wife’s expertise with horses and cattle, but he fit the cowboy image, dressed in handmade boots and Western hats. When they settled on a four-acre ranch in Madera, Glenn joined the Odd Fellows and the brothers of the lodge became his extended family. He continued to hike with friends high in the mountains well into his eighth decade.
I will always remember one of the last things he said to me only a few days before he closed his eyes forever to this earth. One morning, I complimented his shirt, and with his usual wit, he said, “I’m a cool kid!” Indeed, he was that same cool kid who left his Arkansas home at age 16, worked in the CCC Camps, joined the U.S. Navy Seabees, and followed his curious mindset to places around the world.
At Glenn’s request, his ashes will be returned to his beloved Sierra Nevada Mountains. I am reminded of the scripture describing a righteous man: He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water; That brings forth its fruit in it season, Whose leaves also shall not wither, And whatever he does shall prosper. (Psalm 1:3) A part of Glenn will reside on a mountainside close to Yosemite National Park, ever close to the trees he knew well—their species, their grain and their usefulness to man. Another part remains in the hearts of his family and friends as we recall the sound of his voice and the stories he told. However, his spirit soars to heights he could never have imagined—not even on climbs up Mount Whitney.
Until we meet again, somewhere on a tree-shaded hiking trail, good-by to Glenn… still a “cool kid” at age 86.
Traveling in their motorhome several months each year, Arline and her photographer husband, Lee Smith, make their permanent home in Heber Springs, Arkansas. She currently is a presenter for Workamper Rendezvous, sponsored by Workamper News. Arline has dozens of magazine articles published, as well as five books: “Road Work: The Ultimate RVing Adventure” (now available on Kindle); “Road Work II: The RVer’s Ultimate Income Resource Guide”; “Truly Zula; When Heads & Hearts Collide”; and “The Heart of Branson”, a history of the families who started the entertainment town and those who sustain it today. Visit Arline’s personal blog at ArlineChandler.Blogspot.com