Most of us measure wealth in money and income along with possessions such as car or place we live. Do you occupy a one-bedroom efficiency or fill a split level with attached three car garage? You know the vehicle brands that say bucks well as you recognize those that announce cheap or poor judgment as was the demised Yugo. As physical beings we recognize cost and or value in material terms. The most true-Earth organic worshipers I know don’t make their own gardening tools and haven’t yet made a single number two shovel from scratch. Worthy as self-sufficiency and sustainability are need lots of outside support and propping up. The world’s best gardener can’t grow a roto tiller any more than the finest snow shovel made can turn itself into a hydraulic control snow plow. Wealth, meaning some surplus from the value of endeavor, might let you be more efficient or do more; though in a great many of the cases I see this mostly results in mistakes of higher cost and magnitude.  

Material wealth or its lack has much importance, but it is not life’s chief joy, challenge, or thrust. In any case the production of human offspring is not costly in itself and is easily enough done by total amateurs supplied only with the means of production and little else required to complete the project other than on-the-job training they too often appear loathe to consider. To me these, despite whatever earnings they may hold, are among the poorest of humankind. Real wealth or what I’d call human richness comes from inside the person who rises to an occasion and makes the effort to accomplish. This is not at all the same as the person who manufactures excuses or has skill in wriggling away to leave responsibility on other shoulders. Human richness is not cultivated through avoidance or shirking. Fear of failure is same as failure to attempt which is the guarantee of going nowhere.  

The two above paragraphs don’t, I have to say, come very near hitting the concept of The Real Deal, the person who is so much her or his own self their impact is felt as The Real Deal. I’ll not claim any special association with Dorothy Molter, but I knew she was the real deal when I met her at age fifteen. I knew she was it before she taught me a canoe technique. The Powell sisters from Sag were also the real deal; Justine not nearly so much. What makes such distinctions? What is it that sets a person out as a real true being and not a cipher, sect, or culture clone? Is it interesting my first three examples are Northwood women? I’ll add Louise from Biwabik on the Range as another. To that add Philomena Evans from Mineral Center. I hope it will be a form of sexism you’ll be able to digest, but from my experience women have a better knack at being a real deal than men. I’m not sure why that might be so any more than I can put a finger on what makes one person a real deal and the next a winner of a Participant Award.  

Through a place I worked I came to know a Real Deal male not long after the Dorothy experience. None of us used his proper Scandinavian name. We called him what everyone from miles around called him, Boots. When certain kinds of things needed doing Boots would arrive in a red pickup that on our dusty camp roads never seemed to go above 20 as if drifted just ahead of a small yellow cloud. “Get in,” he’d say. Boots was not a talker. Eventually I’d learn our mission and my part in it. Until then I was there for a ride that forced me to a slower pace where instead of speeding to my next task I had to tiptoe forward at a rate where passing a daisy took time and the bumble of each bumble bee was a distinct event. When I was sixteen and seventeen slow was not my natural speed. Boots didn’t tell me slow down and see the flowers. He showed me that existed and left it for me to figure out. But of course, and you know there has to be more, there’d be a purpose for my being along. I’d know what it was when a mass of food boxes had to be loaded in the pickup or when I was needed to look with serious expression as Boots laid down the law to someone. “I never want to hear you do anything like that again.” Less than a dozen dead stern words from Boots would put anyone in their proper place and they knew it.  

When the task was done we’d flow back at 20 to Boots’ house where coffee and some of his wife’s cookies appeared from the spotless kitchen to the side office where we sat. There was not ever much talk that I recall. If there was it was me asking lamebrain teenager questions of no great moment. Sometimes Boots showed up to say “Get in” and we’d go nowhere but sit on the porch of the old lodge that was otherwise off limits. Old style, it was a grand porch overlooking the lake where from the distance rose muted noise from happy swimmers and boats. Was there need of talk? In any case, what could be said that might add to the sense of inner reflection? More amazing to me is that this man knew I needed this and gave it without a crumb of cost.  

Retired, Boots died of a massive heart attack while bending over to put on his boots before going out to deliver flowers to community members. Lot to learn there. Community building isn’t another big project with photo opportunity. Community is people like Boots doing things from the heart. The Real Deal is giving your best and never needing a reason.