She welcomed me into a hallway that opened on the right into an
open kitchen and breakfast room. A large bay window revealed the
Smokey Mountains. The inside walls were exposed logs with traditional
chinking and the huge fireplace was made of stones roughly mortared
together. Could rern a mans reputation.
I would work there in the sitting area by the fireplace. She and
her sister from the West Coast poured coffee. I went back to the
car to get my sculpture stand. Bill followed, polite but present.
I set up the stand and brought in the works one at a time; the bronze
of Andy, the clay figure of Eudora, and finally, the clay bust of
the man of the house.
I think its just marvelous, I heard Miz Ruth say
from the sink as I returned from the car one last time with my sculpting
tools. I think he will like it.
We discussed the process, how I had arrived at the present state
and what needed work. Ruth turned to Bill, obviously there to watch
me and any other visitor who was at Little Piney Cove for the first
Why dont you see if he will come up here? Hes
back in the bedroom. She smiled as she looked at the bust,
then at me and then back at her clay husband peering out the mountain
top window. In March, it was still cool on top. Hes
not moving very well this morning. Oh, but I think hell be
surprised and delighted. Dont you? The West Coast sister
He does know about this, doesnt he? I hoped it
was an unnecessary question.
He will in a minute. She giggled almost to herself and
turned to the sink. Her sister walked over to the bust, staring
at the brown clay face, eye to eye.
Its just uncanny, Ruth. I think hes going to speak.
I heard the slow shuffle of feet easing down the planked floor of
the hall. I was repositioning the stand so the bust would be looking
at the man. When I turned around, there he stood in the opening
to the kitchen, six feet four inches, with white long hair, thinning
and combed back, his eyeglasses big rimmed and tinted like watered
down ice tea. He wore blue jeans and the jean jacket that once belonged
to Johnny Cash. The face was very familiar to me; every angle. I
had felt the contours for months. I needed to look at the real face.
I was. He did not look so much surprised as shocked, standing there
looking at his own face looking back.
Ruth dried off her hands with a dish towel. I heard her still snickering.
I walked over to shake his hand. Before you say anything,
remember, this is really not about you or me, its for your
lovely wife. She sort of put this together.
Some of the tension in the room needed to be broken. After all,
there he stood with a stranger in his kitchen on an early Saturday
morning. Not only that, he stood looking at his own head sitting
on a platter by the fireplace looking back.
I realize this must be a little bit of a shock.
Shes shocked me a few times before, he glanced
over to her, his face showing the beginnings of a smile, as he slowly
walked over towards the stand and the bust. For a few seconds there
I think its just marvelous, Ruth seemed to be
baiting some response from her husband.
How did you do this? he asked as he turned to me, then
moved over to his comfortable chair with good light and eased down
in front of the sculpture stand.
Well, its taken quite a bit of research; watched a lot
of sermons on video. Youre not a bad preacher, by the way,
I was looking for some much needed comic relief. The sisters chuckled
in harmony. That helped some, but it was the genuine smile of approval
from the man himself that helped the most.
I began to explain the process of building the armature, applying
the clay, how the tools worked, and describing the difference between
works in three dimension and those on paper. He acted interested.
So what now? His tone was not really lets get
this over with, but one of how do we proceed from here?
Well, to really get it right, I need some measurements using
these calipers, I showed him the aluminum prongs that are
used to measure dimension and proportion, in his case, to measure
life size. One to one.
How does that work? he was looking at the prongs.
If you dont mind, Ill show you. I took the
calipers and moved towards his face. I felt Bill tense up from the
corner. I measured pupil center to pupil center then compared that
to the clay model. Perfect match. I knew better than to take credit.
I laughed a muffled cough.
What? He was curious.
Were right on. The measurements are perfect. Your eyes
are the right distance apart. He could hear the surprised
tone of my voice.
Arent they supposed to be? He looked at me and
I looked back. He seemed less surprised than I did, as though it
was meant to be.
As we worked on, I made other measurements, checked facial landmarks,
and found some off. The head size was right but some of the structures
were just off the mark. The visit was crucial.
Ive got your ears a little too far forward on the sides
of your head. Im gonna have to slice them off and move them
a little. I took out a carving knife, the perfect weapon for
moving large chunks of clay.
Without a word, he reached up and covered his own ears. The kitchen
laughed before I had seen his gesture. In that short time, the iron
was heating up. I knew I had to strike and I worked feverishly while
the man sat in the comfortable chair with the good light, confirming
the angles. Dr. G, how you feeling this morning? I heard
the friendly voice of a man entering the back door and into the
makeshift studio. Miz Ruth, youre up early.
Maury Scobee was never far away from his employer of twenty-five
years. He knew more about what the man after Gods own heart
did day to day than the man did himself. This was one adventure,
however, that even Maury was unaware of. Did Ruth keep a good secret?
I never thought it would get this far, not really. There we all
were. The secret was out.
Wow! Maury walked over to the bust. Im Maury.
This is just incredible. I shook hands with a man anybody
would immediately like. How did all this happen? Miz Ruth,
what have you been up to? He looked over to the man in the
chair and smiled. The boss smiled back to his personal manager,
confidant, and friend.
Ruth shared the story and Maury studied the portrait. Up close.
Then he back deeper into the kitchen to get a different look, passing
by Eudora and Andy sitting side by side on the breakfast table.
Look at these. Dr. G, have you seen this?
I brought them to show what a finished bronze looks like.
The Eudora Welty work I just thought Miz Ruth might enjoy seeing.
I plan to take it to the foundry with this new piece for casting.
What do ya think, Dr. G? Maury pointed to the clay head
of the Pulitzer Prize winning author.
I thought it was Eleanor Roosevelt, he answered from
the wingback chair.
You know, I hadnt thought of that but I can sort of
see it. Ill tell you this though, as I drove up here yesterday,
I kept noticing these cars passing, even truckers, staring over
at me. Looking back sometimes. I first wondered if something was
wrong with the car. Then it hit me, they were looking at you and
Eudora riding on that back seat platform looking out the windows.
I know thereve been no scandals in this ministry, but I can
see the headlines now, Billy Graham spotted in Alabama with
I heard Ruth snicker over by the sink as she looked out the window
across the treetops. A subtle smile grew across the lips of her
seventy-nine year old partner. Amazing Grace. Somewhere along my
road, I had finally heard the words and not just the sound of them.
It was cool and it was March and God had dropped me off at Little
Piney Cove for the morning.
With a wire loop I scored a thin layer of clay from the contour
of the left ear. Then I palpated his left ear. Back and forth. Thats
how I do it. He understood. Later we walked out onto the stone steps
to use natural light for the photos. I squatted down and clicked
the shutter, looking for the angles. I felt the nudge of the big
dog and I looked up towards the man after Gods own heart.
I saw her glance out the paned window surely reflecting on their
long life together. She smiled towards him as he peered into the
distance and she knew. He was just here for a visit.