Bob Mabry was found dead on the roadside Friday, Nov. 30, 2012.
Some of us may simply recall having seen him at any time of the day, in the heat of a scorching summer afternoon or on a numbing winter night, passing him on his bicycle ladden with plastic bags, poorly clothed, a long grey beard pointing into the wind.
I first met Bob Mabry many years ago while visiting with my parents at their home.
Early one morning I found a parcel of fresh wild asparagus against the front door.
My dad said, "Oh, those were left by Bob Mabry, he's a wonderful man, you'll meet him sooner or later but he generally goes quietly on his way into the night."
As I grew to know him I discovered indeed a remarkable man, but I also became aware of a peculiar sensation. The better I knew him the more of an enigma he became.
It's obvious that a man in his 80s who rides a bicycle 30 to 60 miles almost every day of the year is an exception. Bob would often spend his time collecting litter along the road, empty cans, bottles, newspapers, plastic bags, cartons and take it all to his home, several acres of wooded wilderness a dozen miles south of Nevada.
From his land he would bring wild strawberries, persimmons, paw-paws, asparagus, mushrooms, hazelnuts, pecans and every type of wildflower, which he would give to those blessed by his friendship.
Bob Mabry was the very rare incarnation of true freedom. He was a kind, fearless gentleman, and a wise friend to all. He could spend nights alone in the forest, without light or heat, armed simply with his wisdom. By choice he lived in solitude without hot water, heating, television, or any of the comforts that we find indispensable. He had no pets. Through his open windows, doors and gaping holes in the roof entered his wild friends, cats, racoons, possums, bats, owls, birds and squirrels. The more furtive deer, bobcats, otters, beavers and mink found his land to be a haven.
I could arrive at any hour of the day or night, unanounced, without the worry of being shot as I entered the door, simply because Bob was a man who lived without fear. There was only one other home like that in Nevada, that of my parents, and there I needed a key. He did own a shotgun, but the only man who ever saw it was a poacher, and I believe that he only felt the muzzle against the back of his head before being invited to leave. Bob knew every tree and shrub, every flower and stone on his land, but he was not a hermit, not a recluse.
He was finely tuned to civilization, constantly reading and consulting the Internet at the public library. He knew the lives, the loves, the destinies of his fellow citizens better than anyone, and I have never heard a harsh word from him concerning others.
With time, I invited myself into his universe. I discovered that the decades of rubbish collected along the roads formed carefully calculated pathways that led into his woods.
Along the way an artful transition from plastic to metal, became alleyways of native rock which led to what I can only describe as monumental sculptural stone creations.
Cairns composed of beautiful moss and lichen-covered rocks, some of them over 10 feet high, others 50 feet in length, all in harmony with the lay of the land, each holding its own mystery, had been created by Bob during his lifetime. Here was a monumental sculpture garden, of "land-art," composed by a single individual during his long life; and unknown to others. A garden in which to meditate, fruit of a life of contemplation and peace, and subject for meditation to us all.
In a troubling way I became conscious that my friend would remain an enigma to me.
Instead of wondering, "How can he live like this, why and what for?" I found myself more often thinking, "How can we go on living the way we do?"
Bob Mabry took from others only what they had discarded, and he gave generously what was dearest to him. A carefully chosen bouquet of native flowers, a kind word and a smile of pure friendship at the right moment often changed someone's day. And perhaps wise thought shared at the right moment could have changed someone's life in a way unseen to them.
Bob Mabry has left us, he will be dearly missed, there will be none other like him, and that in so many ways makes him unforgetable.