He’s been gone for two years now but fresh proof materialized just this morning that the pull of his personality lives on. As we approached Bob Nagel’s old place on MacKenzie iHillHill, after akjsfsakdjbfhaskjldbfdskljbfadskjlfsldKfnhsd\LGKahf\asjferw;l\gjS;L\DGNJw\r;les\gnj\rpG\NADS;fkJ\agr;egLJHill after our Dalem Lake constitutional, Jan and I heard the familiar strains of a New Holland tractor mowing hay—well, hay may be a bit too grandiose a term to describe the weedy, motley mix now growing in Bob’s field. The man operating the tractor is the same one who performed the service lo these many years, a guy with plenty of other options for spending his precious summer time—local, long-time Member of Parliament, Mark Eyking.
The thing is, Mark is among the myriad throng who loved Bob Nagel and cherished the times he shared with him. Mark is just one of the folks around Boularderie Island who seek avenues for communing with their dearly departed friend. On a beautiful mid-July summer morning cutting Bob’s hay struck Mark as the best available means for connecting with his late, lamented pal. This communion is the only reward Mark will reap for his labours: Bob’s MP pal has no need of the hay—or whatever it is we should call the crop—and won’t get any material reward for cutting it. His reward will be a strictly immaterial one—the good feeling of seeing a job well done, the same job that Bob cherished over the many haying seasons that preceded the present one.
Mark is not alone. Others do their bit for their old friend even though the friend is absent. Jim Troke cuts the grass of the laneway and an apron around the old house. Bob’s nephew Dennis, the new laird of the manor at Wuthering Heights, will arrive in ten days time to find the grounds of the old place as well groomed as they ever were. Mark, Jim and others carry out their acts of remembrance—small and not so small—perhaps imagining the friend they cherished would be delighted at the ongoing proof that Robert Carl Nagel mattered in these here parts.
Wherever we wander on Boularderie we run into people who want to remember Robert—and share favourite anecdotes about the man from Boston who spent only the summer here but who seemed as much an integral part of the local community as anyone who lived here all the year round. Always a pleasure, Bob would say after hanging out with friends on his porch for an afternoon or an evening, always a joy. The friends knew he meant it.
Contention was a rare ingredient in Bob’s friendships but, possessed of a high-strung, volatile personality and being overly fond of political argument, I was someone who sometimes crossed metaphorical swords with him. We had unaligned views about politicians, views I was keen to debate, but like everyone else, I too relished the merriment and great fun that flourished whenever people gathered on Bob’s porch to savour what he irreverently liked to call “good Christian fellowship”.
On our way to and from Dalem Lake Jan and I walk past Bob’s place almost every day. I am like all the others: I too remember the fun and frivolity, the mayhem and mischief that unfolded behind the yellow door at the last house on MacKenzie ridge. I too miss facets of friendship: the laughter, the show tunes, the Jussi Bjoerling arias, the 2002 construction of the porch that became the venue for so much hospitality, horseplay and hilarity.
Neither Mark nor Jim need or want to be commended for their acts of friendship but I commend them anyway. Mark’s efforts this morning were aimed at Bobby Nagel but they warmed another heart this morning—in spades.