May 9, 2017


At the outset, I apologize to Mary, Dean’s daughters, and Dean’s friends for being absent. One of my grandsons shot a bolt with green snot virus and hit me square. Ear infections, dizziness, sinus concrete. While you’re gathered here, I’m taking some flat time in Florida and moaning piteously, hoping for sympathy.

About this memorial gathering, let’s be clear: If Dean were here for this memorial, he wouldn’t be here.

Listening to happy horseshit about what a great guy he was, talented, kind, generous . . . He simply wouldn’t put up with it – gone. The only thing we’d hear would be a deep, derisive Greek cackle from behind yonder tree – gone.

What might hold his wandering attention – and briefly at that – would be the tale of a great love story: Odysseus, “I am become a name for wandering with a hungry heart,” and his faithful, ever-youthful, waiting, and supportive Penelope, keeping Ithaka open for the warrior king. Dean and Mary.

No one ever touched Dean’s rascal heart more deeply and completely than Mary. He spoke her name with love. Every adventure I took with him was marked as “the last,” because he “didn’t like to leave Mary with all that . . .” What followed was practical nonsense about firewood and crops and chickens (the man was obsessed with chickens), but the properly truncated message was that he “didn’t like to leave Mary.” He loved her absolutely, in the simplest peasant way. The most intelligent and widely read man of my acquaintance was in awe of sweet, soft-spoken Mary as the omphalos – the symbolic navel – of his world.

It’s a grand romance woven of noble thread, but when I first heard Dean was seriously sick I assumed that Mary was finally poisoning him, and the sonofabitch deserved it. Striding all over the map with a bent stick and a string, bringing back smelly animals and dead fish like a bad housecat with a tattered wren, he deserved it.

Dean was among the most respected woodworkers in our troubled nation. His hands knew the tools and the grains. His furniture appeared in woodworking awards annuals. He was employed by big business to grace their conference rooms and offices. Dean’s house is comfy, true, but do I see his best pieces there? Mission Style desks, carved sideboards, ingenious chairs? No, Mary was lucky to have indoor plumbing but his chickens – there are those damn chickens again – lived in a Bucky Fuller Dymaxion Hyperdrive mobile chicken mansion. Dean Deerslayer didn’t focus his creative attention on the infrastructure of his own home, coincidentally Mary’s. He couldn’t, by nature, since
… all experience is an arch wherethro'
Gleams that untravell'd world whose margin fades
For ever and forever when I move.
How dull it is to pause, to make an end,
To rust unburnish'd, not to shine in use!
As tho' to breathe were life!

Life’s trumpet was too loud to ignore, for Dean. Mary was demulcent, soothing and adoring in his brief rests between adventures, understanding his deepness intuitively, intimately, privately.

I knew Dean longer than many of you, since fourth grade. HE took an amused interest in oddball specimens, like my dear friend Henderson (Dean called him “Mo”) and me. He was amused by some restless straining at the leash in me.

Excuse me, friends, but many of us gathered here are a trifle odd. I’m in Florida, flat, but my guess is that this observance isn’t populated by a block of burghers. Many of you reside on the fringe, out there with me and other skeptics. Granted, a few wear tinfoil hats, but it’s generally a jolly company where strange ideas are welcome. Dean loved us, believed that we oddballs looked at life more closely. I’m a writer and illustrator and depressive and fulminator, never part of a parade, always “other.” But when I was with Dean, I felt that I belonged, that I was accepted as a comrade, and that if I spoke the truth as I saw it, Dean would understand. He’d needle me, absolutely. He’d needle the Pope or Helen Keller, mercilessly, but in a spirit of egalitarian recognition. “We’re all fools,” he seemed to say, and Dean displayed a wonderfully foolish, delightfully silly side, an escape always ready for a retreat from pomposity.

The important person at this observance is Mary, not Dean. Dean would have insisted. She deserves our love and support for being the most extraordinarily forbearing Penelope, ever. And for capturing his heart so completely.

One of the reasons Mary is more important, today, is my theory that Dean didn’t croak on us, but merely brought camouflage to a new height. He’s here. We can’t see him. He loves this shit.

I’m a science reporter, essentially, so woo-woo stuff should be abhorrent to me. But in my maturity I experience a diversion of belief: one side believes in Newtonian physics and is actually flirting with quantum physics; the other side of me longs for the Jesus my mother sang about, and subscribes to old pagan beliefs in minor gods of creeks and father-trees, and springs.

Dean told me he wouldn’t die. He had a 30% chance, the sawbones said. “Hell, I’ve hit targets smaller than that,” he scoffed. Ever his stooge, I believed him. I still do. And when Chef Dan told me that he’d died, I was furious. “Say it ain’t so, Dean!” But quickly the pagan in me made an accommodation: Fine, be that way, you contrary sonofabitch, you can ride along with me.

So I talk to Dean, discuss problems, and I hear him snort at my pretensions. As always, he’s a good companion, he always has sound advice. If you tell this to any of my old shrinks, I’ll deny it.

That other part of him, the old part, I consigned to Mama Torges, “Take the boyo, now, Mama, and cuddle him and tell him all the things your silences might have said.”

I will never walk a trail without Dean. I will never cast a lure nor make a stalk nor write a paragraph without him. He’s available. You can borrow him. But you gotta look hard.

– Jan Adkins, April 22, 2017


November 6, 2016

Dean Torges 1941-2016

On November 4, 2016, Dean Torges crossed the Great Divide. He was a loving husband, father, grandfather and friend and mentor to countless people around the globe. He was a gifted craftsman who would literally hand you the shirt off his back if you chanced to admire it. A number of years ago I shared a memorial written for an elderly friend of mine who had passed and Dean commented that it was the most eloquent valedictory as he had ever read. I share this with you all below, in loving memory of my friend, Dean. — Admin.

To those I leave behind when I go:
Death is nothing at all. It does not really count. I have merely slipped away into the next room. Nothing has happened. Everything remains as it was. I am me, you are you, and the life we lived together is untouched and unchanged. Whatever we were to each other we still are.

Call me by my old familiar name. Speak of me in the easy way you always did. Put no difference in your tone. Wear no forced air of sorrow. Laugh as we always laughed at the jokes we enjoyed together. Play, smile, think of me, pray for me—a little.

Let my name be the household word it always was. Let it be spoken without effort, without the ghost of a shadow upon it. Life means all that it has ever meant, the same as it ever was. There is absolute and unbroken continuity. What is death but an unavoidable incident? Why should I be out of your mind because I am out of your sight?

I am but waiting for you—very near—just around he corner.

All is well.
All my love,


A word about Dean

I’ve known him since boyhood. Dean Torges grew up feral in St. Clairsville, a small town tucked into the folds of eastern Ohio. His father died early and he became the respected companion of gray hunters and sly poachers in battered pick-up trucks, more a part of the seasons than of the town.

With the exception of a university education and teaching at Ohio State, he never abandoned that deep-woods parent or the already antiquated life that fit him like a familiar flannel shirt. But he didn't abandon society, either. He took philosophy and literature into the woods, and brought out his own reflections, and an easy, fresh voice of expression.

He stood for a time among the outstanding art woodworkers in American shows. High art and the production business didn't sit comfortably on his shoulders. To an outsider his life seemed to turn away from society, but his friends saw that he was progressing along his own long-laid lines, creating his own doctorate, lengthening his hunts, foraging farther, learning more.

Here is a pivot point: Dean met the wooden bow. He became enthralled by the discipline and beauty of the bow's plainness. It was a tool that demanded skill in its creation and dedication to its use. Once again, returning to old ways wasn't a regression but another step on his personal path. That path has taken him the length and breadth of this country, and to Alaska and Germany, Africa, and Australia, hunting and giving bow-making seminars.

I'm making Dean sound more solemn and respectable than he actually is. He’s charming, yes, but vaguely larcenous and volatile. I would trust him with my life but not my dignity. You’ll meet him yourself through these pages.

Jan Adkins