Ricky Bobby

Ricky Bobby
If you ain't first you're last

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Sixteen Years

An old friend called me today.....I hadn't talked to him in over a year. Before that it had been several years. How odd that seems now. As teens and young adults we saw each other every day. Isn't it funny how the hours sometimes seem to last forever, but the years flash by? For a couple of guys who had so much in common all of our lives, things are turning out so....so....different.

Thirty years ago saw us with wild trips to Panama City Beach, all night fishing trips on the river, hours and hours doing nothing at all but riding aimlessly, broken only by the occassional stop at Ootz's Oyster Bar.. He was....and is still, someone I consider a great friend. He's the friend that so many of us had....you know, the one who was the most handsome, always had the girls chasing him.....His parents were financially well off... He always had a nice car and money to spend... I never really knew why he wanted to be friends with me. Looking back, I guess he must have had more character than me too. He wound up marrying one of the most popular girls to ever walk the hallways of old Taylor county High....I'm sure she still "has it goin on today" biut like I said....I haven't seen either of them in a long time. Circumstances sometimes tried to wedge us apart, but time always scarred the hurts over and brought the good times back to mind. We played together, stood up for one another in marriage (that skunk even didn't have on any socks in my wedding pictures), worked together, and in a sense, at a pivotal point for us both, we failed together by working against each other(but that's a story for another day). That failure sent us each reeling in a different direction, sort of a seismic shift in pursuit. Same line of work, different places. How different things went for us both from there.

The early years of my marriage saw me struggle mightly to maintain. We were limping along near the poverty level financially and I had no idea how to be a husband or a father and for years had no inclination to learn. Often times I would go weeks without speaking to her (well I didn't want to interrupt her, but I digress)anyway, I just generally made a miserable mess of all of it. My wife hung in there when no one could have faulted her for giving up. Somewhere along the way though, I found my God and with that I became a better husband...a better person. Eventually God would even make me a very good husband. Early on I was too arrogant to recognize my faults and Tilena was too scrappy to quit. God has richly blessed us both for her courage.... And in the balance, I wound up with the girl that every man drools over at the high school reunions. It is kind of fun watching their eyebrows go up when we come into the room. I know I'm a bit prejudiced, but she is amazing...That woman has defied aging....even gotten better with time. I can't go anywhere without all the men "checking her out". For sure, she is God's second greatest blessing to me....TWe've wound up quite a contrast to my buddy and his wife though. He seemed to thrive in marrige from day one. Those two really seemed cut out for one another. Always together, sound financially and emotionally. Both handsome and well liked. Able to do and go anywhere they wanted. Established families and friends all around. Two people that everyone else wanted to be around.

Circumstances would eventually force us both from our hometown. Me north and my friend east....somewhere along there, we lost one another; speaking only at rare occassion and at multi year intervals. So sad really...there was no good reason for it.

Yes my friend called my today. His seemingly perfect marriage has unraveled. They are separated and filing for divorce. Two kids.......what do you say? It really surprised me. The guy has always been a success at everything he's ever touched, and now this. I thought the two of them would be there forever. I consider both of them friends and the idea of this just hurts me. And I know.....it's not about me. But like I said, I haven't talked to either of them much in the last 16 years. A whole lot can change in 16 years. Me and T-Bug now have a quarter century of history behind us.....An awful lot changed there too. A marriage centered on God is too strong to fail. My wife looks as good today as she did 25 years ago.....as for me..."I'm a lot smarter than I was 25 years ago".I'd rather be in jail with her, than free with anybody else in the world.

Speaking of T-Bug, I think I hear her car in the garage. I think I'll meet her at the door. She's been at choir practice preparing for the Christmas Cantata, like she's been doing many many nights lately....Keep giving to our Lord; and he will keep giving back. Hang in there my old friend. I"m praying for the both of you. That's all I know to do.......

Monday, January 17, 2011

Experience vs. Education

Lewis Grizzard once wrote...."everything I needed to know, I learned in Kinder garten". I get that. I really do. And while I don't necessarily agree with that verbatim, I did learn a lot of valuable information as a youngster. Much more I had the misfortune to learn by experience later in life. There are two ways to learn something. Experience or Education.....as my Dad said, Education is what you get when you read the fine print, experience is what you get when you don't. Over the years, I've gathered 51 rules for better living. In the safe I have left a copy of that wisdom for each of my three children to read after I'm gone. My prayer is that they will know by heart, from wisdom imparted, each one of those rules before reading them. If so, my life as a Dad was a success.

It's fun to sit back sometimes and reflect on the learning opportunities of our lives. The richness of lessons learned and insight gained mostly due to a "failure to read the fine print". But here today, I'm mindful of a few truths I learned BEFORE I was ten years old. How about I reach back into the ole Treasure Chest and see what I can find.....

A hornet is faster than a John Deere tractor
..(bad news always travels faster than good...I somehow knew Grandpa was dead before anyone told me)

Sometimes the person spanking your butt loves you more than the one kissing your feet...(your Mom is the best friend you'll ever have. And fly swatters NEVER break)

Neither kids nor dogs get mean overnight.(There's some dark reason for either one....and somebody should probably be in jail for it.)

You can't unsay anything
.(I'm just not ready to tell this one yet)

Never corner something meaner than you. (Possums, Coons or Bantam Roosters)

Just because it can't be explained, don't mean it didn't happen. (Like Mike Rister riding a 20 inch wide minibike through a 15 inch space and never touching either side....or Roy falling off a log raft onto a gator and not getting bit....or even wet for that matter)

If you don't have a dog in the hunt, don't offer an opinion on the chase.(Don't tell Uncle Clyde to quit talking bad about Aunt Ruby)

You won't know the baddest dog in the pack till the bone hits the ground. He's seldom the one you'd think.(The day Ray Miller punched my sister in front of my Dad...knees elbows and firewood....until then I didn't know my Dad had it in him)

Zip up the screen door of the tent before you fall asleep. (Snakes, spiders and coon dogs like sleeping bags too.

Truck drivers have a lousy sense of humor.(You'll have to ask Donnie about this one)

Just 'cause a coon ain't moving don't mean he's dead...(again....ask Donnie)

God blessed me to grow up where I did, when I did, with who I did. Although many of my tales don't mean much to anyone who was not there when it happened....most did lead to a lifelong mental image with a life truth attached. I've often felt bad because my kids didn't enjoy a childhood like I did. While I was so intent of giving them (more) than I had, I really only succeeded in taking away some of the treasures of being a kid on a farm. The were always "given" so much, that they never had to "make" anything. In different ways everyone does this to their kids I think. Too bad huh? Another truth learned too late.

Spanish Bayonettes and Shark's Teeth.....

Everyone has that one friend who just cant stay off the sharp end of the stick. You know the guy, if someone is going to get cut, poked, punched or slapped.....its him.

My old friend Donnie called earlier this morning and reminded me of the guy that fit that bill from our early days...."Roy". He just seemed to always wind up at the bottom of the pile, top of the rock or under the ladder. He just had the "gift" you know. Here's to Roy...scars, broken bones and bandages.

In 1971, things were good. Roy, Donnie and I were all poor, but none of us knew it. Donnie had already lost his dad, Roy's would live for another 3-4 years, and mine was home drinking. We were busy being 10 year old boys; that in itself was a full time job. We each had a bicycle, and took great joy in being creative with them. Some weeks we would extend the forks and make choppers, sometimes we would strip them down and see how fast we could get them to go. One of those weeks, we were doing "time trials". We took turns riding down to the bridge and then come roaring back down the road seeing how fast we could make the cut across the limerock culvert and into the yard without wiping out. Let it be said its never a good idea to try to turn a bicycle too fast on a gravel road. Aunt Wilma took as much pride in her Spanish Bayonettes as we did in our bicycles. She had a patch of them 'bout the size of a large walk-in closet right next to the drive way...She would cut the bottoms off of egg cartons and make "flowers" out of them. That patch of bayonettes looked like a pink and white explosion. Come to think of it, looking back on the people who raised us, we were destined to turn out to be red-necks. Styrofoam egg carton flowers...only in Perry, Florida..Anyway, now its Roy's turn to burn rubber and here he comes....screeching off the road and hits the gravel on the driveway. Over, and Over that bicycle rolled right behind Roy. Eventually that bike settled down right on top of Roy......right up in the middle of that Spanish Bayonette garden. He was screaming and squirming "Help Me" he said, "NO" I said, "Help Me" he cried, "NO" said I, "Help Me Please" he whimpered, "NO WAY" I snickered, and everytime he moved, another bayonette would puncture his butt. No way was I going to go in there....that was one fix he had to work his own way out of. We were eventually able to patch up both of those flat bicycle tires, but Roy's wounds could only heal with time. He stayed thirsty for a week, cause everytime he took a drink, he sprinkled water.

Like I said, Roy was always in the wrong spot at just the right time. He was resilient though. I know good and dadburned well he regrew teeth like a shark....cause I knocked out two sets of 'em myself. Once with a baseball bat, and once with a right cross. Boys are like that you know...punching out one another's teeth in the morning and buddy buddy by noon. They just don't teach that class to girls for some reason. I guess it was OK for me to punch Roy or Donnie, but no one else had that right. Like my sisters were with me....they loved to whip up on me, but heaven help any other poor soul to take a swing. Theose gals would swarm on him like flies on a mule's butt. It was always fun to get Angie riled up and then run....I could out run her, but she was just fast enough to catch Roy....and I knew it.

Old Roy offended a big ole red-neck boys at the school dance one night. Donnie and I should have known at the time that a fight was unavoidable, but we just weren't going to let it happen. That ole boy wanted to fight, but he didn't want all three of us. We told him he could order french fries if he wanted.....but he was gonna get everything on the menu. Anyway, that whole deal dragged out for a couple of weeks with the ole red-neck boy slinging insults from afar every time he saw Roy. One Saturday Night Roy just had enough....we pulled into the McDonalds Parking lot, and Roy walked into the brush with that old boy and they had at it. Grunt, oofff, punch, smack.....OWWWWWW! GET HIM OFF ME SOMEBODY!!!! I'd like to say Roy won that fight, but I can only say he gave as good as he got. Neither one of those boys looked like Sugar Ray. Roy came out of it with a great big ole shiner. Don't ever let anybody tell you a steak will take the swelling out of a black eye. We pooled what little money the three of us could come up with and bought one at the grocery store....big waste of a good cut of meat. There was nothing to do, but keep him out as late as possible and drop him off at home after Aunt Wilma went to bed. I would have loved to be a fly on the wall at that house for breakfast the next day.

There were many more tight spots, and more creative solutions....but those will have to wait for another day. As long as Roy's alive, I will invest my money in Band-Aids.