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more light #292

A Summer Visit to the Old Tyler

by Ed Halpaus
Grand Lodge Education Officer
Grand Lodge of A. F. & A. M. of Minnesota

Dear Masonic Student,

We have another fine “Old Tyler Talk” by M.W. Brother Tomas C. Jackson. Brother Tom has a great way of writing and I’m certain you will enjoy his paper. When I asked him about publishing the issue of his “Old Tyler Talk” he said sure, and to mention that other Brethren have permission too, to use it in Lodge newsletters: he only asks that he be credited as the author and that he is from the Grand Lodge of Minnesota. Enjoy the Old Tyler Talk from M.W. Brother Jackson. – Ed

A Summer Visit to the Old Tyler
By Thomas C. Jackson, PGM

“Old fellow, tell me about Masonry in the Great Depression,” I said, eliciting a narrowing gaze from my friend, the Old Tyler.

“Hrumph.  Old!?  Age is a state of mind, young feller, and I can still whoop ya good in checkers.  Chess, too, or pinochle, if’n I wanted ter make a point.” He was right, punctuating his words by taking another black checker AND gaining a king.  Sigh.  I should have been watching the board more closely, but it was a fine Summer day at the Masonic Home, and I was relishing just setting a spell with my friend, off on the side veranda.

I smiled.  “Wouldn’t a figured you to bruise so easily!  You sure you aren’t getting more cantankerous, these days?”

Looking back under his furrowed brows, “Tommy, I was born cantankerous. It’s made my life more interesting.”

He paused, then continued, “You know, we built this place well before the Crash.  Old man Johnson moved in in 1920 – he was the first, and older than me,” he said with the briefest of winks, “But in good times and bad, Masons have supported it, continued building even when times were tough, and caring for folks that has need.  It’s Masonry in action, it is.”

“That’s for sure,” I said, even more mindful of that sublime fact, now that a dear friend’s wife has entered hospice care.  “Tender hearts and hands sure help to lighten the burden, for the patients and families alike.”

–Masons are never far from gentle reminders of mortality.  I think it is this grounding, this acute awareness of potential and eventual loss that makes us reach out all the more diligently to care for one another.  We visit the convalescing, the suffering, those on the mend, and those in the twilight. And we attend more than our share of funerals.  I think this gives Masons a better sense of mindfulness of life, and helps us know better what to say, and when to hug our friends tightly.  When to look them in the eye and say we care.

He drew on his cheroot, wafting a single O-ring of smoke into the breeze, long having forgotten about the game he had won.  “You know, during the Depression, we knew that if our little town and folks as lived there were to make it, we simply had to help each other along.  Sure, the gov-ment wanted to step in here and there, and they helped a few.  But it was always a day late and a dollar short.  See, a hungry child needs food that night, not content to wait ’til after the paperwork had cleared and three officials had signed off on the program.”

“I recall one night, getting a call from the Master about an emergency meeting.  I asked him if he wanted me to tyle the door.  ‘No,’ he told me. ‘But I want your advice.  Can you join us at the Lodge tomorrow night?’  Well, like you’ve done, he showed me he knew the way to my heart.  He’d asked the Grand Master for permission to hold a special stated meeting, to discuss Billings’ young wife, who had an awful time with a breech birth, and some were asking for the Lodge’s help while Billings took care of her and the little one.”

“Everyone cared.  But no one agreed what to do.  Seems some were clamoring to write a check.  Others wanted to hold fast, with the Almanac telling us it was going to be a dry summer, and it looked bad for crops.  The Master knew what he wanted to do, but he was smart enough to realize he had to get the consent of the lodge and pull on the reins a bit to guide her. We had a good meeting that night, Tommy, and didn’t even burn through a full set of candles.  See, the lodge got organized.  We set up a list of folks who would take turns bringing over meals, not all at once, tripping over each other.  We wrote a check, but didn’t let passion overrun us.  Billings was told that if he needed more, to come and ask, but that a couple of volunteers were going to help him get his planting in and a few of the ladies would take a turn watching his wife at the house.  Heh.  I don’t think he was alone for a month, until she was up and around.”

“So, to answer your question, I think Masonry was more personal in those days.  We were closer to the earth, if you get my meaning, which is a good perspective for a feller to have.  Most Masons knew when to lend a hand, and a lodge would flourish in the same degree they rallied together to help their fellows.”

“Mind if I tell others that story?,” I asked, thinking about how uncharacteristically clear he was this time. Had he been planning to pass this advice along to the Craft?  “It’s a good reminder for us, in an age when our reliance on insurance, or bureaucrats, or distant programs seem to insulate us from reaching out to the folks right in front of us.”

“Why do you think I tell my tales, lad?” he said, glancing at the board.  “A good Old Tyler always considers a few moves ahead.”  A slow smile grew on his face.  “Another game?”

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Last modified: March 22, 2014