The conveyor dryer at work is called Ms. Hirple because she’s purple.
Orange light leads to symme-
try again when silver
brooks begin to burble
yellow then can mimi-
cry as graying filters
pink through growing herbal

Pricking of a green thumb
black now has been pilfered
and away brown hirples
so blue and red become

I wrote this poem, which is in some form that I can’t recall the name of, for a poetry class taught by one of my many friends named Mark at Western Then State. I liked the notion of the weight of the entire poem coming to rest on two small syllables in the last line, which you will notice is “purple.”

What might have escaped your notice, even if you go back and read it again after I tell you this, is that it’s a rhyming poem, and its genesis began long before I ever thought about sitting in on Mark’s class. Long, long ago my friend Bob reported to me that three colors come without rhyme: orange, silver and purple.

He appears to have been right about orange, but I did manage to come up with inexact rhymes of silver, such as pilfer and filter, both put to work in my poem. Right as he said it, though, I immediately informed him that purple has a rhyme, and it is hirple.

I read it in a book, one of the many books I glommed onto by Alistair MacLean in my high school and college years. This particular book was The Secret Ways, set in Cold-War Hungary, and there was one section of the book with so many big words that I went through and underlined them, to then look them up. But one of the words– “He hirpled to the window and looked out” — I couldn’t find in my dictionary.

The context was pretty clear and eventually I found the word in a British dictionary, and these days you can just use your friend Google (or my friend Duck Duck Go) to discover that it’s chiefly a Scottish word meaning “to walk with a limp.”

Hirple. Clearly rhymes with purple. It means “to hobble.”

Well, now I am living my old Alistair MacLean book and hirpling everywhere I go, including right on into my seventh decade on the planet. Welcome, old age.

Last week my sacrum went out, no real big deal, my chiropractor can fix that, even if my next appointment was a ways away. But every day I was just that much less kind to my off-kilter (sort of rhymes with silver) back and on Friday morning while walking with Bear I had to cut the walk short because the pain was now headed down my left leg.

For those of you who share your life with pets, have you ever noticed that the only time they get sick or injured is after hours so that you get to pay full emergency rates? It turns out that no matter how much that vet trip costs, you can still go — but your chiropractor does not offer emergency hours, and his work week ends on Thursday.

This was about the busiest weekend my back could have picked, too: everything in the universe converged. First I hirpled my way to an event that really wasn’t, an electric vehicle test drive for college students in the middle of Friday. I thought it was tied into some national “day” but my Ducks tell me “National Drive Electric Week” starts Sept. 23. I guess the college, I mean university, just jump-started the week, in conjunction with my electric co-op.

My co-op, fearing there wouldn’t be enough cars for students to drive, asked for volunteers. They needn’t have feared, since only a handful of students arrived, and I needn’t have hirpled, because no one was much interested in a 2015 Leaf (the chemistry professor was quite scornful of my perceived driving range, which he thought was 40 even though he was wrong) parked right next to the co-op’s Tesla and another volunteer’s shiny black Rivian pick-up ($$$).

Then I drove my unbeloved car (the one student who drove it was rather disdainful of its apparently out-of-date appearance) over to Legion Park, where I met both of my sisters and all two of Western’s history faculty. There’s a scholarship in my dad’s name for a history student, and Terri and Tia had never met Heather, head of the department. We all met second-year and now tenure-track professor Thanasis, who showed us all up by using proper Greek pronunciation for the history honor society Phi Alpha Theta (he said “fee” rather than “fie”).

Family dinner, including Lynn and nephew Justin, meant hirpling up a flight of stairs to the Ol’ Miner balcony, where we had a commanding view of Main Street and were a pleasant distance away from the live tejano band playing in the downtown park for reasons I missed. But it was fun music.

Saturday morning I was quite relieved to hirple into a new storefront in a familiar location: The Body Shop, located where my chair masseuse used to be, offers services such as acupuncture and massage, both of which I took advantage of.

Straight from there it was onto a memorial service, and if you couldn’t find a memorial service around town this weekend, you weren’t even trying. Some of the deaths happened a few months back, but it feels like a big chunk of Old Gunnison got commemorated: Ann Guerrieri, C.J. Miller, Nancy Tredway, maybe Tom Prather in an out-of-town location, and Bonnie Baril, which is the memorial I went to.

Many of the people at the service had already been to Mr. Miller’s that morning, maybe Mrs. Guerrieri’s a day earlier, and they left shortly after the Baril service to make it to Mrs. Tredway’s. Mrs. Baril’s daughter Kristi had a quote her father carried around that went something like, “It’s not the seeds you gather but the ones you scatter” and all these folks were scatterers of the highest magnitude, helping grow Gunnison into what it is today.

I should have joined the exodus heading to Mrs. Tredway’s, but by now my hirpling was growing pronounced, and there was still dinner ahead with the Baril family, so I went home to rest and feel my muscles all draw tighter and tighter.

Sunday, on the momentous occasion of my mom’s 40th anniversary with stepdad John, I celebrated by having Lynn take me to the emergency room, where they gave me industrial-strength IV non-opioid painkillers that seemed to work right up until we left the hospital, and a muscle relaxer that now, midday Monday, might be kicking in.

But my hirpling has become more and more purple; one physical therapy clinic couldn’t fit me until tomorrow and another didn’t have a single opening this week, and the chiropractor’s best offer was for 2:30 tomorrow.

So for my birthday I am celebrating with frozen green beans on my back and thigh, popping some pills and rocking in the recliner. If that doesn’t scream “60,” I have no idea what does. But at least I know what rhymes with purple.

2 thoughts on “Hirpling

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