Passages Four

Do you save things? I do. When I’m walking along a creek bed or a forest path I find things. Odd things. Pretty things. Curious things. Sometimes I put them in my pocket. Momentos…

When I return home I put these things on the window sill in my cabin, or my bookshelves, or anyplace I can find to tuck them in. They remind me, sometimes decades later, of trips I took, vacations Kathy and I shared, people I’ve met or moments I am glad I can still recall.

The items are certainly meaningless and practically valueless to anyone beyond me. My descendants will be left scratching their cumulative heads wondering why on earth I kept this stuff. If they only knew the sacred memories they served up.

Below is one of Forrest’s interesting saves…


The Price of Freedom

History will not say that Alex LaFountain was a great sculptor, unless you throw grit and character into the mix as requirements to that end, then he would nicely fit the description.

In 1967, I met him at an art show in Great Falls. His bronzes were spread out on a display in front of us. We spoke about him casting his work in his own foundry. I was impressed because I was lost wax casting in my garage in Lubbock and was just learning the craft. He shared some ideas with me that were helpful.

As I turned to leave, Alex reached into a box and pulled out something that quickly gave me pause. It was an original wax model of a wolf. I thought it was wonderful, and he handed it to me.

The Price of Freedom
-Alex LaFountain

The Price of Freedom
-Alex LaFountain

The poor animal, with hair standing up on his back and ribs hard pressing against his skin, was chewing his leg off to gain independence from a steel trap. His turned up nose posed snarling contempt for whoever lay that horrible device in his wait.

I purchased the model from Alex with the handshake understanding that it would cast in only thirty copies.

I quickly made the mold and started casting bronzes. The first one I poured was #28, thinking that the casting bugs would be worked out before making the lower numbers, which would be more valuable. Twenty-eight of the copies were sold over time, but I liked #28 so much I’ve kept it all of these ensuing 50 years. I also kept the #1 copy, but I can’t remember why.

Valor can lay hidden in the human body for many years with no requirement to expose its existence. Then, with only a moment’s notice, it can reveal itself in astonishing ways. That’s how heroes are made.

In 1971, Alex and some friends were floating down the Missouri River on a sunny afternoon getaway. Near Great Falls, Alex heard a frantic voice crying out, and noticed someone floundering in the water. Although not a strong swimmer, he dove in and swam to the rescue. Evidently, in his struggle to save someone he didn’t know, Alex was pulled under and disappeared in the sweep of water.

Every time I look at my The Price of Freedom bronze I think of Alex, and how tentative life is for all of God’s creatures. f