If Lane Lumber Company had an origin story, Zeke DeMuth would have been part of it. And if there had been a Lane’s Lumber Company mythology, Zeke would have been one of the God’s, but not the God of something dramatic like war but rather the God of quiet afternoons or the god of long naps because his life was remarkably uneventful.
But for me he made Darlington as interesting as 19th century Massachusetts because Zeke DeMuth was who I envisioned when my junior-year English teacher introduced the class to Henry David Thoreau; and although Thoreau lived on a pond and Zeke lived in an apartment above the Uptown Bar, they shared a passion for simplicity, simplicity, simplicity.
And while my father and friends’ fathers were juggling in the air the responsibilities of job, family, friends, duties at the volunteer fire departmen, Zeke kept his challenges limited to whatever occurred between when he walked to the lumber yard in the morning to when he walked to Style’s restaurant at five in the afternoon. He was free, in other words, to think his thoughts and dwell on his observations.
In hindsight, perhaps his life would seem too mid-afternoon to me today, but at that time, under a spell cast by the reading of Walden Pond, Zeke Demuth seemed to me to be living the most interesting life imaginable.