Pilgrim Cafe

Continuing Conversations on the Human Spirit



I Should Cut Down this Old Crabapple Tree

American Crabapple

I should cut down this old crabapple tree.

Lightning seared it years ago,

Then heavy snow broke it almost in two.

I trimmed and culled to no avail.

Now it sits hunched in the yard

An ugly, stunted gnome of a tree,

Dead twigs and stumps of old wounds

Poking strange and ragged from the green.

I should cut down this old crabapple tree.

But last time I grunted into work boots

And limped on aching knees to fetch the saw,

I stood squinting up into its branches,

My one good eye shaded by this hand

Suddenly more old than middle aged,

Breathing hard through the gap in my teeth

Where the dentist had recently culled,

Then stumped back and put away the saw.

I should cut down this old crabapple tree.

~ Robert Jeager

Bob is a longtime friend residing in Englewood, Colorado and devotee of Mehr Baba. Earthy and deeply spiritual, Bob is a prized mentor and brother in the world of words.



She was a large woman, of some apparent Slavic extraction. She mounted the stairs with authority toting a large infant under one arm like a ten pound sack of potatoes and a bag of food in the other attempting to keep it upright not to loose control of its contents. She was apparently with a man, still at the foot of the steps, fumbling with folding a large stroller to comply with bus regulations. “He got the passes,” she grumbled pointing with a nod toward the fumbler who appeared clueless regarding the schematics of the modern stroller. She passed to her seat, leaving him to his quandary. “Mornin” he mumbled as he finally boarded dragging the stroller that was defying instruction and trying to reopen like some giant grasshopper before he could get seated. He fumbled for their two passes with one hand, a feat given the employment of the other hand, then awkwardly navigated to a seat beside her.

The baby boy, quietly mesmerized by the scene, eyes wide, was dutifully playing the role of a sack of spuds by not bending or squirming as his mom toted him unceremoniously through the busy bus. It was a treatment he had learned to expect in the rough and tumble life of accompanying her on her daily street adventures. His was not a silver spoon coddling. He rubbed elbows with some fearful characters as he peered from the husky grip of a mother who was putting the pieces together for daily assistance and a father most likely on disability (no I didn’t ask, but the signs were all there).


COLUMN SIZEPail, mop and squeegee, Luke boards route three heading for the tennis courts where he leaves the bus to begin the remaining leg of his homeward journey, a ritual he performs with all his professional equipment in hand, regardless of the conditions, every evening of every workweek year round. Challenged in some ways, Luke is not short on ingenuity and customer service. There are many things he cannot aspire to but Luke knows what he can do and does it well at a price his customers appreciate.

“Got a new account today,” Luke announces as he carefully counts out his dollar and a half fare as though he wants me to know he is not shorting me. “Got two large Windows. Want me every other week.” Short in stature, but of course who am I to tell, everyone appears short to my 6’6″ frame, Luke appears to be in his early 60s. He has a plodding vigor that enables him to pound the pavement daily serving the merchants from Palisade to Fruita and in between.

I entered my chiropractor’s office over five miles from downtown only to meet Luke coming out of a door in back. “This is my bus driver,” he proudly announced to all in earshot.

“Luke, I am surprised to see you way out here,” I responded.
“Yep, they are good customers,” came the reply, “had the account several years.”
“Yeah, he has been doing our windows from the week we opened,” shared the office manager, “we know Luke.”

Luke’s contribution to our community invites me to muse over the excuses I make for not doing things, the attitudes I have that seem to limit me and what I can still contribute as I approach my 72nd birthday. It is not always easy for Luke to keep up the pace. He is sometimes dragging as he pulls himself aboard after a particularly long day. The winter months with their sub zero temperatures freeze his wet rags and stiffen his old joints. Sometimes a gifted coat, or a pair of gloves keep him going, but underneath it all is an indomitable spirit worthy of the most successful entrepreneur.


COLUMN SIZEApproaching the 28 Road stop on North Avenue, my sixth round of the afternoon, I caught notice in the dusk of two feet silhouetted beneath the shelter. Sensing a potential passenger I pulled in to pickup the person waiting. Slowing  as I was approaching the shelter, I caught sight of a young female sitting motionless in the shadows. Sight of the bus did not seem to interest her. Then came a slight wave of her hand motioning me on. I turned back to my route merging carefully with the slow moving traffic.

That was odd, I thought. A young woman alone on North at this hour of the evening. Most young persons travel in pairs or groups of friends when traveling late.” Wonder what’s her story?” I thought as I continued toward the downtown terminal. “Maybe she was waiting for someone to pick her up at that stop,” I thought, as I redirected my attention to the stops ahead.

Leaving downtown, I headed back up seventh street and turned east on North Avenue. Route nine was a bit busier ferrying early evening shift changers home to Clifton, and Palisade. All the shelter folk had been delivered two hours before, dinner served and its doors closed for the night.
The Walmart stop was vacant except for two stragglers just off work. No one at the Work Force Center, its last classes complete and staff parking lot vacant. I continued down North to the I-70 Business Loop. “Route 9 at the Business Loop needing Routes 3, 4, and 10 in Clifton,” I broadcast over the company channel.
“Copy Route 9,” came the expected reply.
Leaving Clifton, returning west to North Avenue, the traffic was beginning to dwindle. The rush (or so we call it) was now over. The street lights were beginning to replace the glow on the horizon and very few stops had anyone waiting. Coming once again to 28 Road, I detected the same two feet beneath the shelter. I pulled in to the stop. This time I pulled slowly in front of the enclosed bench and opened my doors. “Ride Miss?” I said, looking directly into her hollow eyes.
“No,” was the response as she motioned me onward.
Once again, I pulled away and continued on route. “Lost eyes,” I thought continuing more quickly down the avenue. “Maybe the party for whom she was waiting didn’t come.” I wondered. “Maybe she is stranded, or even lost.” There was definitely a vacant expression that caught my eye as I had peered through the open doors. I see so many hopeless faces when I open for passengers along North, so many shuffled from pillar to post by the very systems that were designed to help them. It is, therefore, not unusual to see vacant faces, persons lost to a future they once held bright, struggling from day to day simply to shelter and feed their families. This woman’s face was somehow different.
My last round through Clifton left me with two passengers going all the way to the downtown terminal. I watched for any sign of life at each stop as we passed by: Habitat, Maco, Big O Tires, Texas Road House. It was then I saw her. A quarter of a mile east of 28 Road our first encounter. She was walking toward me as though she had given up waiting and set out on foot. There was no place open along North that she could be staying were she homeless. I feared there would be few shelters for those eyes tonight. Only the open sidewalk and flashing neon signs.
I drove on by to complete my round and head home, her hollow gaze haunting me.

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