“You must be Sheen,” said the old man, extending his hand. “You here for the lawnmower?”
We were somewhere outside Andalusia. I was young. I was there to buy a used lawnmower from the Thrifty Nickel ads. I was in kind of a hurry, so the quicker we cut bait the better.
The old man had a firm handshake. “Was it a long drive, Sheen?”
We stood in a rural Alabamian field, 40-some miles from the Florida line. The man wore jeans and scuffed Double-H boots. He was mid-70s. Lean. His summerwear cowboy hat was hard, like plastic. He reminded me a little of my late father. Only older.
I released his hand and clarified. “My name isn’t Sheen, it’s Sean.”
“But the way it’s spelled...”
“You’ll have to take that up with my mother.”
My Irish name has long been a source of confusion for the elderly, who find the name too modern for their sensibilities. The truth is my name is the ancient Gaelic version of “John,” which was my father’s name. And it is all
I have left of him.
Also, not to be picky, but my name dates back to 1066, predating most of today’s modern names, such as, for example, Larry.
“Name’s Larry,” said the old man.
I told Larry I was in a hurry, and I needed to buy the lawnmower and skedaddle.
He beamed. “Okay then, let’s go get your mower, Shantell.”
We started walking to his barn, when he gestured to a green pasture and said, “My granddaughters are out riding today.”
As if on cue I could hear horses before I saw them. The bass notes of heavy hoofs fell hard upon the earth. I felt the vibrations beneath my boot heels.
Next, I saw two young women on horseback, in the faroff, moving at full gallop. One rode a buckskin; the other rode a chestnut. The girls…