He was charming one moment, but coming out of a passing shadow Jeb can be dark and intense, aloof and judgmental in a single glance. His elusive charisma, and occasional lack of it, was instilled in his bloodline; passed down by Alsatian ancestors (Alsatian: an inhabitant of the German Alsace region, not the German shepherd dog). His forebears did in fact converse with descendants of rebellious Anabaptists who eventually forsook Menno Simons’ modest anti-Catholic revolution of the 16th Century and embraced an even more radical revolution of their own.
His friends knew David Elison as “balky Jeb.” Nicknames like this were common among his peers.
He was -- most of his life -- a walking, talking conflagration. A war raged within, between being a “plain people” person, as the Amish and Old Order Mennonites have been called, and sensing always that he was still very much a part of a complex and flawed, yet proud and less refined, human race.
Balky Jeb’s temperament was sometimes angry, and volatile; he was shy, but also provocative; he shunned social niceties, but longed to embrace community values. Jeb sought out solitude but still mingled with all classes of people; and he embraced the ideas of “turn the cheek” while always preparing to punch out any aggressor.
The second option (the “punch”) was theoretical, but his impulsiveness had to be kept in check; especially since Jeb was not a big person physically. He turned the scale at about 155 pounds later in life, but as a scrawny teenager the top of his head couldn’t quite touch the 5 foot, 6-inch crossbar in the school gym.
He was a runner, keeping this modest talent handy as an option in conflict.
Jeb was part of an extended family of some size, including brothers and sisters, half-brothers, a father who was 60 years old when Jeb joined the world, and a mother 40 years younger than his father.
(to be continued)