No Eva, they never will

Published 3:02 pm Friday, August 6, 2010

A friend gave me a bumper sticker that read: Never let the truth stand in the way of a good story.

Why she gave it to me, don’t know.

But I thought of that last night when I was reading “Boxes: The Secret Life of Howard Hughes.” What a great story, the truth not withstanding.

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The first time I remember Eva McLelland was a decade or more go when she called to ask if we would be interested in running one of her poems in the newspaper.

“Let me read you one,” she said. She read it, and then she questioned me on it.

“What did that poem mean to you?”

Honestly, I had half listened so I stumbled with an answer. I could tell that she was disappointed and I was sorry that I had not listened.

“Do you have another?”

That time I listened.

Over the next few months, Eva called often. “I’ve got another poem.” I listened with both ears.

Then one day she asked me to come out to her “ranch” near Goshen. The ranch house was a trailer, filled with boxes. I couldn’t tell if she was moving in or out. I left with some poems she had written but stopped short of saying that we could run them in the newspaper.

Enough time passed that I was surprised to hear her voice on the telephone. Excitedly, she told me that she had won a poetry contest. It was a prestigious honor. She has been invited to the presentation ceremony, if I remember right, in California. But her husband wouldn’t agree to let her go.

I didn’t know she had a husband.

She said that he didn’t like to be around people. Eccentric, reclusive.

When I went out to read the information about the poetry award she was to receive, Eva’s husband appeared at the edge of a wooded area. At a glace, he appeared to be wearing a shirt and boots.

I didn’t find that too surprising.

Surprising was being met at the door by a man in his birthday suit yelling, “Welcome aboard!”

I took it all in stride.

Eva said her husband stayed in the woods often to hide from the helicopters that flew over looking for him.

I wanted to ask who was looking for him and why but I thought better of that.

Eva didn’t go to the awards ceremony and that was a great disappointment. I told her that I would have left Tarzan in the trees and left on the next fast train west.

“Boxes” brought to mind the times Eva hung up the phone in the middle of a poem because the phone was “bugged.” I thought that was odd but, looking back on it, if

Nik was Howard Hughes, or thought he was, he had reason to think the phone was bugged and to hide in the woods.

“Boxes” is an interesting read. And, I couldn’t help but think, now this could be … no … … maybe. But truth is often stranger than fiction.

And, if Eva McLelland’s story is true and the real Howard Hughes was living right here among us then true is stranger than fiction.

But whether the story is true or not, I think Eva believed it to be.

That’s what I “get” from her poem, “Joys of Yesteryears – Today’s New Sorrows.”

Joys of yesteryears

Are today’s new sorrows.

Ne’er for one moment, add time

That one borrows.

Hold fast to the belief

That in one moment of relief,

Time reverts to predestiny –

To erase a present calamity,

And set everything straight

Before it’s too late.

“Will they ever believe me?” she asked.

“No. They never will,” he answered.

It’s too late, she wrote.