Speech Given by Charlie Beyer at Rich's Memorial Service

“Arthur P. Finkelstine, beloved insurance salesman for Farmers Mutual, who was this smaller than life man? Well, …who cares. We’re here to talk about Rich Beyer.

The Father
I'd like to say a few things from my perspective. Things of possibly an unknown nature to this assembly … about Rich ... the husband and father.

This husband and father had no role model. His parents were busy politicos of the time, who were always off saving the world with FDR and various administrations. This left him and his equally devilish brothers to run unchecked in the Virginia country side and the seedy side of nearby city’s. Occasionally his mother or father would appear to survey the wreckage, hire new chaperones, and scold the rebellious mob, but fishing for suckers with Pa down by the bridge never happened. Making cupcakes with Ma for the school party never happened either. Instead, he sat under the oak tree in the front yard and read volumes of poetry.

His father died when Rich was 20, leaving the process of child rearing a certified mystery. What emerged from his confusion was manifested like as a 1960s social experiment … A free-for-all. But he tried hard in the turbulence of those times, tried to be connected, present, and be involved with his children. This was both a glory and a curse. My sister was forced to bring every boyfriend home for screening, which caused them to flee screaming, I was admonished that every friend was a bad influence, even though the reverse was the reality.

He compensated for this parental myopia with Camping. He apparently knew nothing about camping, having come from the urbanized east, but the gusto was there. We would be hiked what seemed like a thousand miles on muddy trails with torture army packs full of plastic and canned beans. Once we were bivouacked on a remote beach in the rain, all our survival skills came into operation, such as constructing bonfires and making sharpened sticks. This process accidentally galvanizing my sister and I into these little infant Rambo's, each with a loin cloth and a Bowie knife clenched between our teeth. And now… now, we can be dropped into any remote jungle or desert and thrive. Thanks for that Dad.

When I was in Junior high, the world was a kayos of race issues, authoritarian teachers, new drugs, and purple bell bottom pants. His life was the harsh reality of debt, responsibility, jobs, the American way; all things of great annoyance to him. Sometimes, after an 8 o’clock hour of my estranged sulking in the junior high homeroom, this 6 foot 2 man would come bursting through the class door. “I'm here to get my son” he would say to the terrified teacher. Entreaties that he “check in with the office” were ignored as he dragged me out the classroom door to the battered truck. I had no idea what fire I'd been flung into from the frying pan, so sat petulant in silence as this intense maniac drove us out of the city into the valleys of the mountains. Would he kill me out here, leave me here, what? No, he would teach me fly fishing, an event that he knew was important dad stuff, but not part of his own history.

For The next 10 hours we tore through brush thicker than a Brillo pad, snagging the tackle constantly, finally reaching beaver ponds imbedded in rampant growth, teeming with trout. Of course catching them was a different matter. Every fly cast snagged on the trees or in my hair, and I often fell bodily into the ponds, thrashing a thousand curses to the bellowing laugh of my father. The fish fled. Why was he torturing me like this, soaked, lost, shredded by vegetation? That home room algebra class was starting to look good. With exacting skill and patience, we learned to sneak up on the remote beaver ponds, lay a single cast out over the water, and hook a huge hiding fish. As the sun set, we stumbled out of the brush, wet to the bone, clothes torn half off, with a huge string of fish, and not a care in our minds of the exterior world of worry. Thanks for that too Dad. Thanks for the lesson that bullshit is not as important as it seems, and that any mental angst can be cured with bodily torture.

A lesser know fact about this man is that he had the greatest contempt for money. He didn't mind spending the stuff, as long as it was not on bills, but he hated to make any. Some combination of his elitist upbringing and a disgust of authority gave him the illusion that he was above money. For instance, when our family was down to the last package of macaroni, again, he manages to earn 30 dollars for the day on a hard labor gang. On the way home, he spy’s a huge pile of 20 foot longboat oars. For these he flops down the 30 as proud as jack when he bought the magic beans. Great lamentations of despair filled the house on his triumphant return from work that day, and boiled oak oar is not as delicious as noodles. Eventually he made some radiating sun sculpture out of them … which he then gave away.

This paradigm about money made him foolishly generous. There was not a Bum he would not buy lunch for, then send him away with the last of the cash, as though he were a sultan entertaining the beggars at the gate. In his own business, he obeyed 4 rules, Underbid the job ridiculously, delay starting until critically near the deadline, expand the job to obsequeate to the client, and to make sure the the job operated at a deficit ... refuse payment. If my mother had not retrieved the checks, we would have starved to death long ago.

Generous he was with the few farthings available, but generous mainly with Wit, Charm, Ideas, Encouragement and Inspiration. This mannerism assembled an eager fog of near-do-wells around him, clamoring for inspiration. This consumed his day from 8 AM to 4 PM, at which time the greebs went off to drink and he frantically went to work on some sculpture. As a teenager who had already worked all day, still trapped in the shop till 9 at night, I cried injustice. But from this I learned to waste the first half of the day and not start anything until 3 in the afternoon. A lot can be accomplished in 6 hours. Has to be. The down side is that I am incapable now of holding down a regular job. In a way, thanks for that too Dad.

The Artist
The man as an artist, we all know pretty well. With only a few irrelevant youthful art classes, then an intense study of NW native art, a geyser of art blasted out of him into the world. Rich Beyer was a rare combination of talent, ideas, and unrelenting energy. His talent was … that he had perfect form. No shape could escape from his effortless rendition to our reality. How a rabbit or dog could materialize from a few slashes with the pen or the knife leaves me in awe. How these perfect forms were blended into our lives with stories of relevance was nothing short of genius.

Or was this just the ability of an idiot savant? Dyslexic, unable to write a coherent sentence, an eclectic philosopher with a wandering subject, unwilling and maybe unable to hold a job. His mind spun like a centrifuge .. but was surrounded by those whose gears turned slowly. Is this why he hated music? Is this why, with no other communication outlet, he focused, fostered and fermented in a billion images. Why he communicated his abhorrence of authority, his vision of the peaceable kingdom, his awe of women into shapes and forms of a hundred media. How could his forms, often abstracted, hold such a propriety of proportion, so much so that dogs bark frantically at the statues and the neighbor calls the police on a sculpture left casually in the yard. Savant or not, it was perfection, it flowed easily from his hand, it was Mozart in three dimensions.

The Dream
Growing up with this intelligent but untamed man saved me from a life of mediocrity. Every day a new idea, a new discussion, a new sculpture job to go after, a new invention to make. The surrounding cloud of groupies struggled to say or do something as clever as him, admirers clamored for a breath of enlightenment, the very air was a saturation of Renaissance life.... And I thought this was normal. When I was finally flung at last into the banal and barren world of corporate work, I thought I had died and gone to stupid land. How could people talk of traffic and TV shows? Basically, as an artists son, I was ruined as a member of society. Now, I proudly remain ruined, and I proudly ruin my own children as well … as well as any who cross my path. Although security and salvation have never been in our lives, a dream of community, hope, joy, creation and invention is with us every hour. A dream we live, imbedded in society, but apart in the circuitous caves of our mind.

Once a hundred years ago, in my pubescent teens, my father and I took a grueling cross country drive-a-thon. Reason not remembered. With a rattly Chevy truck beneath us, in the black of an unknown Midwest, my father taught me a poem. The poem is of a dream. This dream is the greatest dream people have ever dreamed. A dream that drove millions about the planet like chaff in a storm. But this dream has died in the micro think of the era. No longer does anyone think it is possible, no longer is it striven for, no longer is it even remembered. For Rich, it was the dream of the peaceable kingdom. The community with a heart, with mind, with empathy in peace, in happiness, in creativity. This was his El Dorado. This is his poem.

Gaily bedight, a gallant knight
in sunshine and in sorrow ...
traveled along, singing a song
in search of El Dorado

But he grew old, this knight so bold
and ore his heart a shadow ...
fell as he found, no spot of ground
that looked like El Dorado

And when his strength, had failed him at length
there came a pilgrim shadow ...
Shade said he, where may it be
this land of El Dorado

Over the mountains of the moon
Down in the valleys of shadow ...
Ride boldly ride, the shade replied
if you seek for El Dorado

You have ridden so boldly Dad. I love you.”

- Charlie Beyer
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