After this bit of scavenging, the firefighters practiced a few rescues with a controlled fire, then they scattered hay on Winkumpaugh Farm's old wood floors and torched it. The old place went up quick as kindling, gone before a tear could fall to the snow.
After the fire burned out, Keleshian reached into the smoldering ruin and took some ancient square-headed nails. She also took some of the farmhouse's charcoaled remains, with which she plans to sketch from memory two drawings of Winkumpaugh Farm—one for Anne and one for Sandy.
The early spring sun holds me in its warmth as it begins to sink behind the mountain beyond the valley. The quiet of North Ellsworth is profound, disturbed only by the gentle whisper of the wind through the pines and the bare branches of the oak, beech, birch and apple trees.
The farmhouse is gone, and yet I see it clearly. I see the weather vane atop the tiny cupola, the second-floor dormers, the screened-in porch and the white sign under the eaves that says WINKUMPAUGH FARM in black letters. I can hear-classical music playing through homemade speakers. I can smell dinner wafting through the cozy house. Without the recipe in front of him, Sandy is making his grandmother's stuffed cabbage. He is surrounded by friends, laughter, the glow of a wood-burning stove and the warmth of walls lined with hardbound books. He is home.
Koufax always hated it when people described him as a recluse, and I have come to understand how wrong that label is. A recluse doesn't touch so many people with lifelong lessons of generosity, humility and the Zen of the curveball.
I have rebuilt his farmhouse in my mind, and it is sturdier and more beautiful this way. Why shouldn't I do the same when taking the measure of the man who once lived there? Must every blank be filled in, leaving us no room to construct parts of him as we wish? What we don't see can help us keep him forever young, unflinchingly true to himself, forever an inspiration.
Looking at the ruins of Winkumpaugh Farm at my feet, I realize that I no longer need that Vero Beach phone number. I have found Sandy Koufax.