And He Never Met A Stranger

by Curt Kovener curt-line.jpg

Neal Cravens passed out of this world last week. But we should be grateful

that he chose to pass through this community. He lived nearly all of his 91

years on a farm east of town.

To say that Neal was a tightwad doesn’t do respect for the rest of us

tightwads. He was a collector of what most of us would consider junk, but

for Neal he saw a longer use and a recycled purpose in many things. I recall

driving past his place next to the Muscatatuck River one day when he had a

metal culvert trussed in the air vertically. He had a 2×4 tapping on the

metal cylinder to remove the now dried mud that plugged its ability to drain

water. What many of us would discard and buy new, Neal returned to a useful

purpose.

He had this old one ton truck with a winch and boom. The truck had no

headlights, only a passenger door, a seat that was just springs covered with

a couple of burlap feed sacks. It needed a borrowed battery to start and it

had no brakes. Neal rarely got it out on the public roadway and if it got up

to 15 mph, I’d be surprised. I think it was held together by years of dried

grease encrusted dust and rust.

Once Neal said there was a cedar tree that needed to come out at a cemetery

on his property. I took my chainsaw & equipment and went to help. But Neal

had other plans. Rather than cut the tree and leave a stump to mow around,

he brought shovels. We dug out around the roots like we were going to

transplant the tree, Neal hitched up his boom truck to the tree and after

some sqeaking, squawking, popping and cracking, (and the front end of that

old truck raring up a time or two) the tree was extracted from the earth.

While I filled in the hole, Neal drug the tree off to the side and then

fired up his chainsaw and began removing limbs. The 8-inch trunk he cut to

8-foot lengths for cedar posts.

He didn’t let much of anything go to waste.

Not everything thing he collected had questionable value though. He also

collected and frequently drove Edsels—those Ford products produced for only

a few years in the 1950’s.

During World War II he was a ball turret gunner. He would be situated in a

cramped glass dome on the underside of an airplane. While he would be

shooting at German planes, they would be aiming for him. It was a very

vulnerable, very dangerous job.

After 30-some missions, Neal returned home after the war to the relatively

safe (by comparison) career of driving a semi for Morgan Packing Company.

After retirement, the gregarious man with a nearly permanent smile would

frequently stop by the newspaper office with little quips, sayings and

philosophies that he collected just like all of the other stuff around his

farm. He would have me typeset and make copies to fit into a pocket or

billfold and distribute them to friends and acquaintances. One of those

sayings which I feel pretty well sums up Neal Cravens is “Let gratitude be

your attitude.” Neal Cravens lived life simply and had a grateful heart.

He was buried on Monday not too far from where we pulled that cedar tree.