Someone I love very much lost his battle with cancer last week. His name was Rod McLeod and I don’t have the right words to truly honor him. I will simply share my memories.
Rod, along with his wonderful wife Trish, and their children Anna and Michael are part of my “Farm” family. It’s hard describe this group but I’ll do my best. In the early 1970’s four couples who lived in different states decided to find a way to keep their important friendships alive by purchasing a small farm in the middle of nowhere in Bland County (Ceres), Virginia. They would meet there five or six times a year to eat, laugh, play cards, and catch up with each other. At some point my parents became part of this farm crew and I grew up spending many holidays with the McLeod, Weinberg, Sabean, and Nicholson families. It would be a stretch to call the place we stayed a house. There was no running water, mice lived in the stove, and whoever got there first on Friday night had to “snake” the house. Yes, that’s right, being the first to arrive meant making sure no extra guests were still there.
This group to this day calls themselves the Bland County White Trash or BCWT for short. There is an actual checking account with this label. I grew up thinking we were a totally normal group of people and that everyone had a “farm” family. I had no idea how lucky I was. As years have passed the “kids” have gotten married and had their own kids. The BCWT never misses a wedding, graduation, or other important event for one of its own. Rod was a cherished member of this crew of friends and family.
Rod had a fabulous name, Rodman Austin McLeod. It suited him well because he was a fabulous person. My earliest memories (he knew my parents before I was even born) are of his laugh. It was very deep, loud, and amazing. If he laughed at something I said, it felt like a prize. Rod was brilliant. He had degrees from MIT and Harvard and he ran a successful lumber business on Hilton Head. Rod was a Republican. This may not seem like a big deal but my dad was a Democrat so he and Rod were politically opposed to one another. This never damaged their friendship. (It led to some really loud discussions though!). Rod always found a way to shower and shave during those weekends of no water in Ceres. The rest of us looked like a bunch of ruffians but Rod would emerge from his bedroom just as handsome as ever. His grooming habits earned him the nickname “Slick” among the BCWT. Rod had a great sense of humor. When the farm crew decided to finally build a new house (because the old one literally fell apart) Rod was adamant it have a large deck on the front overlooking the mountains. When the deck was finished my dad had a plaque made that said, “Rod’s Big Deck.” That plaque hangs with pride on the side of the house.
We often played marathon games of Trivial Pursuit. I wanted to be on Rod’s team. If not, I knew I would endure having to read the question at least five times at his request and then there would be a 10-15 minute analysis BEFORE an answer was attempted.
In the summer my family would go see the McLeod’s at their house on the river in Savannah. Rod would take us out on his boat and he and Trish would spoil us land locked kids from Kentucky with sailing, shrimp boils, and swimming.
On Monday afternoon I, along with my mom, siblings, and all of the farm crew, sat on the bluff in front of the McLeod’s house overlooking the Vernon River and said goodbye to our dear friend. The memorial service was beautiful and fitting. Rod’s wife and children honored him in a way I know he would have loved. His two beautiful granddaughters were there, one sitting on her father’s lap, and the other playing in the grass. There were tears, laughter, and wonderful memories. Cancer took our dear Rod but there is nothing that will erase how much we all loved him. As I drove home I listened to some Bluegrass music, another one of his interests, and felt grateful to have known Rodman McLeod.