Just enough to get by
By BROOKS TAYLOR
Mt. Pleasant News
I don’t talk about death frequently in my column. Let’s face it, death is not an optimistic or upbeat topic.
However, I am making an exception.
Don Hughes of Mt. Pleasant died recently. You probably don’t know Don, many people didn’t. But you probably saw that orange 1967 Mustang convertible sans a back window and followed by blue smoke touring around town.
Although I can’t say I knew Don well, I had numerous conversations with him. Don is what people would term a character.
His home on West Broad Street was on my summer walking route and I would usually find him refinishing some trunks in his front yard or tending to the flowers in front of the Chadwick Library on the campus of Iowa Wesleyan College during nice weather months.
Our paths also crossed many times at Walmart where he was generally engaged in conversation with one of the associates.
Don didn’t work, at least he hadn’t during the time I knew him. That was probably by choice because it was obvious through conversation that he was well-educated.
The little I know about him is that he originally was from Keosauqua and had gone to college and lived in California for quite a while before returning to the area, largely due to his mother and other family members living in southeast Iowa.
One of Don’s stories I’ll never forget is him telling me when he first came back to the area, he aspired to serve on a board or commission in Mt. Pleasant. It was not an elected position, and he approached one of the officers telling him of his desire to serve with the group. The officer looked at him and said, “How much money are you going to donate to the group?”
Don didn’t serve and that soured him on any other community service.
As said earlier, Don’s house was on my summer walking route and last summer, he took on a new project he was proud of. He told me that he had transplanted many of his mother’s flowers and plants to the area in front of Chadwick Library. Most of last summer, he could be found beaming as he tended to the flowers just as others tend to their children.
He never married, but I think again that was by choice. He told me Howard Hughes was a distant relative — “too distant,” he added with a chuckle, suggesting none of the billionaire’s fortune found its way into his pocket.
Outward appearances signaled he was not a man of wealth. His home was overgrown by shrubbery and his Mustang looked like it was headed to the last round-up.
Wealth, though, is a poor measuring stick of happiness and contentment.
I doubt that Don really cared much about material possessions. He appeared to be happy living on very little which says multitudes about his character.
A friend told me that several years ago Don brought his resume to her to type. He was thinking about applying for a part-time job “for a little money to get by,” he added.
That was typical Don. He didn’t need much to get by. Most of the time he traveled by foot rather than the 1967 Pony. Traveling by foot afforded him the opportunity to chat with people along the way.
One of the final times I saw him, he was returning to his home from downtown. He had been to the county Democratic Party headquarters and was carrying a sack containing four frosted cookies — “just enough for supper and breakfast,” he said with a smile.
Or just enough to get by. How refreshing to see someone much less concerned with impressing someone else than personal contentment.
It is almost walking season and those walks won’t be the same this year because I will miss seeing the guy refinishing trunks in his front yard or tending to the flowers in front of the library. Or see that orange Mustang trailed by blue smoke traveling along city streets.
That being said, I am thankful for the opportunity of sharing a couple of life’s moments with him.