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  I squatted down to get another shot from beneath his chin because I needed views from all angles; above, behind, from the side, and from down below, like a view up to DAVID from the floor of the Academy in Florence. Michaelangelo interpreted a man after God’s own heart. I was attempting to do the same, but, along with every other way that my work is unlike the Italian genius, I had my man right in front of me. The real deal. Another man after God’s own heart. Not a king or a slayer of giants or an adulterer, but, like David, just another man, human, believing not just in what is seen, but what is unseen.
Forming a head in clay is not like drawing one on paper. On paper, only one angle is seen, the rest are only suggested. But to push the clay into shapes and squeeze the form of a nose or a jaw line means that all the angles can and will be seen. In his case, the bold angles would not be mistaken – he had large masses of flesh. Distinct.
I felt a strange furry mass rub against my back. It almost tipped me over onto my face, since my hands were balancing my twenty year old Canon AT-1 and not my forty year old upper torso. Looking over my shoulder as I reached down to steady my squat, I knew it must be an animal. A wolf? It was my first sensation. Then instantly, I had visions of a mountain bear. But the man after God’s own heart had not appeared alarmed. That’s when I realized it was a dog. It was a big dog.
“A real German Shepuhd,” I heard the chin say on that cool March morning. “He just seems tame. He’s really a trained killa’ who could tear your throat out on command. We had to get guard dogs and increase security back in the sixties when things got worse up here; death threats and all. Especially after Dr. King’s death. That’s why we had to put the fence up.”
I was squatting at a precise moment in history. Very distinct. The man had spoken to a hundred and sixty million people in just about every country on the globe. It seemed like yesterday that I was listening to the same big voice, only thirty-four years younger (the voice and me), and from the living room of the house where God had dropped me off after my daddy was crushed in a baby blue Volkswagon. Who travels in a baby blue Volkswagon to buy Black Angus cows? Them bug’s is like a tin can on wheels.
My daddy did and he died and it broke his young wife’s heart and she died. Right after JFK rode down that Dallas street for the last time, there in front of the Book Depository with Jackie trying to crawl out the back, that’s when my mother died. Time was marked. I was six. I remember.
I can also remember sitting on an orange plastic pull-out sofa with that voice speaking through the TV box. My grandma heard the same thing I did. You come now. Don’t wait. You, up in the top sections, you come. Your friends and family will wait. We will pray with you and give you some lit-tra-toor. Come now.

In 1958, he fathered a fifth child, Ned. The team was preparing for the Australia and New Zealand meetings that would prove to be the longest series of meetings he ever held outside the United States.
I was born that same year and I remember being aware of him when I was a kid; large crowds, a song by a man named Beverly ( somebody gave a boy that name ), and more verses of “JUST AS I AM” than necessary; certainly more than I could remember and all of them more than I could comprehend. That’s right. The words that can change life passed right by me. I must have heard the sounds of the words and not the actual words. That’s the only thing I can figure.
I could be found stretched out on the pew next to Grandma where I pointed up to the long pine planks sandwiched together forming the open vaulted V-shaped sanctuary ceiling. I counted them every week. Forty seven on one side, forty eight on the other. Every week I counted just to make sure and I heard the sounds of the words bounce off the planks.
Every couple of months we had crumbled up saltines and grape juice. The bread of life. Feed me till I want no more. The taste was different coming from that gold plate; better than saltines from the box that I crumbled into my tomato soup. But the church crumbled cracker bread of life meant something. The end was near. Forty-five, forty-six, forty-seven, forty-eight. And then Sunday dinner. Good cracker.
I found him to be a big man in all ways; body, head, hands, and heart. To be life-size, this bust would need a larger armature, more clay than any of my other works. Eudora Welty had that hump on her back and Andy Wyeth had the turtle neck. But it was about more than the clay. Who would even try to capture this fella? Nobody would be satisfied. You tried to do a portrait of who? What were you thinking? We will pray for you.
Before attempting any portrait bust, a good understanding of the person is necessary – who they are, what they dislike, how they sound, how they move. Research. I did not grow up with him around the house though he did visit once a year from that TV box, usually around the same time Dorthy found the munchkins. But that had been years, a distant memory. Though still quite visible, it was not enough.
On that cool March morning, I stood there with him on his back door stone steps on top of the mountain. I had known of him my whole life but I had only been studying him for a year. Now it was March, and it was personal. And it was a big dog and the man had a big voice even though he was on his own stone step and not my grandma’s TV. In March, it was still cool on the mountain.