In Memory Of A Man I Never Met

by Curt Kovener
(This is an encore column from the Curt Comments archives.)
This column for post Memorial Day weekend is being written from the woodland wilderness. Many of these meanderings are inspired here, but this one for this time seems particularly appropriate.
It seems we rarely have light rains anymore. When it falls, it falls in five-gallon bucketfuls. But the upside is that when the precipitation is over, it is truly peaceful to be listening to the creek babble below the back deck and the various woodland birds engaged in some competitive songfest. The woodland symphony is soothing to the soul.
I was fortunate and privileged to purchase this woodland retreat over two decades ago from the widow of Marvin Meyer, a man I never met but over the years have gotten to know.
Marvin was a building contractor who in the mid-1970s, while I was occupied with college classes, he carved out a lake site, built a home and outbuildings in the forested hills and valleys in the middle of Hoosier National Forest of northwest Jackson County.
Over the years and multiple remodeling projects, I have discovered how Marvin left his mark on the place. I suspect he was an independent and possibly cantankerous sort. Maybe that is why I feel some kindred spirit.
In renovating the bathroom, bedrooms and living room over the years, I have found some peculiarities of different wood and construction technique and would inquire not expecting an answer “What were you doing here, Marvin?”
I suspicion he was a bit of a tightwad as some framing and rafters showed signs of being used lumber recycled into his home. I suspect that much of this abode was built using leftover lumber from his other contractor building projects. But there is nothing wrong with being frugal as it is yet another reason I feel a connection with the builder.
Some years back while cleaning our some shelves left in the basement, I came across a note pad and a flat contractor’s pencil. Both were imprinted “Marvin Meyer – Building Contractor – Freetown, Indiana”. I have put them up for safekeeping and a historical memento of significance probably only to me. It was a gift offered up, I suppose much like the Native American arrowheads and spearpoints I have found at the woodland wilderness.
I’ve often marveled at Marvin’s sense of adventure and courage to clear then construct a half-mile driveway through the woods to build a house in the secluded, hilly acreage. Some of the base material used in the gravel drive was used brick from a building demolition. There’s our kindred reuse, recycle, tightwad attribute again.
While he undoubtedly spent quite a bit of time developing this place of solitude, he didn’t get to enjoy it.
I was told that he was putting the final touches on the home when he ran out of some finish nails. He straddled his motorcycle and made his way toward Seymour.
In a particularly hilly area of State Road 258, as a group of bicyclists pedaled west, a car pulled out to pass the group and right into the path of Marvin’s motorcycle. He was killed instantly.
Recently I did what I had long wanted to do: I sought out and found the woodland retreat’s constructor’s resting place.
The stone says simply: Marvin Meyer 1933-1977. As I stood at his grave, I introduced myself and added “though you probably already know me from some of my earlier conversations.”