Today I was hunting through old photos trying to find examples of the “old lady” shoes that our grandmothers were lucky to be able to wear when they were our age, and came across this one.
I had cropped this photo a long time ago to try to straighten it somewhat, and to leave out the tip of a railing that was intruding into the photo. I found the original, here. And there, peering at us from the porch, half-hidden by the tip of that railing, was Boltz.
Here’s a closeup of Boltz, obscured by age and grain, looking like the outsider that he always was.
Boltz lived with my grandmother and grandfather Hunter. I don’t know if Boltz was his first or his last name. I didn’t know how he came to be there, but I know that I loved him as a child. He died when I was about 8 years old, in 1954, just after we’d moved away from his and our hometown. His was the only viewing I ever attended. My mother, always protective of me where death was involved, had said I didn’t have to go to the viewing, but I wanted to see him one last time. He’d been like a third grandfather to me, and I may have spent more time with him than with my own grandfather Hunter. Pappy Hunter was one of those quiet, stoic men who said maybe 12 words a year, and when I think back on it, Boltz may have done a lot of his talking for him.
Boltz had been dead for at least forty years before it dawned on me that it was kind of odd for my Grandma Hunter to be living with two men. When I asked my mother about it, she said that Boltz and Pappy Hunter had been high school friends. One night in the twenties, when my mother was still a child, Boltz knocked on Pappy Hunter’s door and asked if he could spend the night because his wife had kicked him out. He spent that night, and all the nights until he died, probably thirty or more years of nights and days, in the Hunters’ house.
As far as I could tell, Boltz had no other family. As I said, I don’t know if Boltz was his first name, his last name, or his nickname. I don’t know if he contributed to the household in any way, other than entertaining me. I don’t know how old he was when he died, but I would guess he was in his mid-fifties. He was an outsider, peripheral to everyone, but I remember him. Just before my father died, he told me that Boltz had been a butcher by trade, and he showed me the knife that Boltz had made for my mother and father as a wedding present. That knife was one of the few things I took from my father’s house after his death. Here it is with my Wusthof: