Vagneur: Holly Holloway’s peaceful world
If you hang out at the Woody Creek post office for any length of time, you will witness what I call the “Over 90 Club.” These postal patrons, all of whom have lived in the neighborhood for umpteen years, like 50 or 60, are all well over 90 and they drive their own cars to pick up their mail. If they know you, they love to visit and will tell you things you probably didn’t know.
The last visit I had with Holly Holloway (Jan. 2, 1917, through June 11, 2016) was at the post office. He nimbly got out of his car, came my direction with a smile on his face and his hand stuck out, ready to shake. There’s something humbling about it when a man much older than you, a man with more experience and who has seen so much of life from a different perspective, seems genuinely happy to see you. It’s a compliment, and that’s what Holly did — just his presence made people feel good. He lived in Woody Creek for 59 years.
Holly (that’s Gilbert Kenney Holloway Sr.) wasn’t the kind of guy you hung around with, simply because he had a very large family, which was the focus of his life, and he ran his own electrical company and had many responsibilities. That didn’t leave much time for Holly and me to get to know each other, but of that large family, several were about my age and our interactions turned into friendships that will never be broken.
It’s a funny thing about some families — there is an aura of calm that exudes from within, that emanates outward and brings understanding from the outside world back into its fold. If you’re a friend of part of the family, then you’re a friend of all of the family, and I’m guessing that’s how Holly might have looked at people.
It wasn’t always roses from the beginning. We didn’t know the Holloways were coming to town or that they had some kids around my age so one day, a buddy and I came around a bend in a main-line irrigation ditch and there were a couple of strangers looking back at us across a fence line. Hackles rose and war was declared, albeit silently as we weren’t too sure how to handle the situation, and besides, the tightly strung barbed wire kept us from actually coming to blows.
Several days later, unable to persuade my dad to declare a range war and after being admonished by him to welcome new neighbors with a degree of respect, I spied another Holloway kid out irrigating their newly acquired property just across the fence. According to Charlie Holloway, I rolled under the wire to get on his side and we shook hands, beginning what was to become a lifetime friendship.
Another of Holly’s sons, Roy, became my best friend in high school, where we chased girls together and played our hearts out on the football field. One particular play, a forward pass from me to Roy resulting in a game-breaking touchdown, still stands out in both our minds. We diligently hunted the hills to the north of Woody Creek for elk and deer, camping out most of the time.
When they first came to town, the Holloways lived at the Snow Chase Lodge, just about large enough for their family. Another son, Jim, was working on our ranch one summer and he’d occasionally invite me to spend the weekend at the top of Mill Street with the family. That’s where I really got to see them all interact and how they all managed to be completely at home within their own skins within a large family. Mrs. Holloway cooked the most sumptuous meals, always followed by homemade dessert of some type, the cherry pie most notable in my memory. It was through conversation over these meals that I truly began to feel like a part of the family.
Not too long ago, I spotted smoke rising from what I call Holloway Draw at the top of which is their home. Thinking that maybe they needed some help managing it, I roared down there in my Jeep. Holly and his youngest son, David, were burning some odds and ends they had collected around the place and we sat and visited for a very long time, all of us intermittently poking at the fire. Whenever I was around Holly, the world always seemed so peaceful, just as it did that evening, and I was reluctant to leave.
And now as I visualize the smoke from that fire winnowing its way up into the sky, so too can I imagine Holly’s soul winging its way to the eternal home he was so certain awaited him. If anyone ever deserved it, it was Holly Holloway. Rest in Peace, my friend.
Tony Vagneur writes here on Saturdays and welcomes your comments at email@example.com.