There came a man of fortune …

Several weeks ago, I built a lesson plan around Carole King’s “Tapestry” in which my sophomores listened to the song and then went through the lyrics, searching for examples of metaphor and alliteration as part of their study of figurative language and sound devices.

The night before I was to teach the lesson — which I’d planned a week or two in advance — we got word that an old friend had been diagnosed with a serious illness and was not expected to survive more than a few weeks.

The verse about the “man of fortune, a drifter passing by” who “wore a torn and tattered cloth around his leathered hide” took my breath away as I listened to it during second hour and thought of my friend Bob, whose Volkswagen Microbus allowed him to live the life of a drifter up and down the Mother Road for 30-odd years, and whose own hide was “leathered” by years spent exploring the desert Southwest and documenting its magic through intricate pen-and-ink drawings.

Bob Waldmire — artist, hippie, ethical vegetarian, VW owner, animal lover, diehard Route 66 supporter, and inspiration for the character Fillmore in the movie Cars — slipped away from us yesterday morning.

I used to tease Ron, telling him that if he ever got tired of me, I would simply run off with Bob.

Truth be told, I think I was only half-joking; I’ve never really trusted people who could meet Bob and say, afterward, that they didn’t love him and didn’t envy him his freewheeling, gypsy-footed lifestyle at least a little bit. Kids adored him; animals worshipped him. Scout would have followed him off a cliff. I imagine she was among the first of the roadies to greet him yesterday morning, and I sincerely hope that she did not pee all over his sandals in her excitement at seeing him again.

I will miss running into Bob at Route 66 festivals and swapping stories with him at the Rock Cafe. But I know I’ll find him in the wind that blows across the top of Tucumcari Mountain; in the songs of coyotes on the old road between Glenrio and San Jon; and in every beep of every Volkswagen that passes me somewhere on the Mother Road.

Travel well, Bob … and thank you for being a colorful, joyful part of my tapestry for the better end of 10 years.


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