Big Men Do Cry
By William Bateman
I thought to myself, "He sure is a big guy!" as we dropped our backpacks alongside one of the several dirt roads that criss-crossed the famed interior of the "100 Mile Wilderness" portion of the Appalachian Trail. Slumping down on our packs, we took deep breaths and just sat there for a moment.
Everyone needs a trail name if they're going to hike the Appalachian Trail. I chose "Spanky" for several reasons; my dad said that I reminded him of that mischievous rugrat from the kid's show "way back in the day." I thought it was better than being called by my nickname, "Willy Wump Wump."
I met "Win" at the foot of Mt. Kitahdin in Baxter State Park, Maine. That is where the northern terminus of the A.T. is. For Win and I, as south bounders, the beginning of sorrows. For north bounders, the completion of their personal "hike of a lifetime."
As we sat there on our backpacks, totally exhausted after a long 20-mile hike through the first portion of the "100 Mile Wilderness", Win and I must have began seeing mirages. As we came around a slight bend in the trail; they were just standing there... 14 French-Canadian girls with smiles on their faces.
"Naw! This ain't real!" I said to myself as one of them handed each of us a submarine sandwich and a piece of home-cooked pecan pie.
Until then, I did not realize just how hungry hiking makes you. It took us but seconds to gobble down the food offerings given.
Sitting there in silence now; Win gently began speaking – not to me in particular I suppose, but more to himself out loud. "I have a wife that lives along the coast..."
Seeing the kindness of those young ladies and their bright shining smiles provoked my remembering my own wife and daughters back home in Miami, Florida. I lost track of everything else Win was saying specifically but I caught the gist of it.
Win was having problems on the home front... the wife of his youth was living on the coast all right; but, not in the same house as he. Suddenly, as if a switch turned on, the tears began rolling down his steeled and leathery face.
There is something unique observing a man crying. Something special. Here is this guy, sitting on a backpack – an often times decorated Viet Vet; successful businessman and as strong and as big as an ox – weeping over the possible demise of his status as husband and father. That is powerful stuff.
Win and I hiked all the way to the New Hampshire border... the last thing he told me was that he was seriously thinking about heading home and trying to patch things up with his wife and family.
I hope he did... I really hope he did.
"In the same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself." (Ephesians 5:28 NIV)
William "Spanky" Bateman is a father of eleven; veteran long distance hiker, author, speaker and mentor to youth in south Florida. He is preparing to hike more than 4,400 miles from Cape Gaspe', Canada to Key West, Florida, on behalf of fathers and the children who need them! His Hike4Fathers website can be found at: www.abovetheclouds.cc
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