Monday, February 9, 2009

Goodbye To A Good Man

Note: The regular chronicle of the Lonesome Dove Xpress will return shortly. I had planned a detour for this Sunday, Feburary 15th which you can read after that date. And today, an unexpected detour, prompted by the unfortunate death of one of my favorite relatives, my cousin Jimmy Wilson.

As I thought about him yesterday and today, various memories and impressions came as I drove across the roads out west. And so I write.

A good man leaves us. Jimmy Wilson was, by any measure, a man's man. He was married for over 40 years to a good woman, Linda. He was blessed with four kids (Marty, Mike, Kelly, and Jennifer) who do both their parents proud, and grandchildren as well.

I was very fortunate to be able to grow up spending time around Jimmy and his family. Back in those days, our extended family was very close, and we used to have "git-togethers" and "shin-digs" on a whim that resembled reunions for most families.

I have many memories of Jimmy, and have been told some great stories about him over the years.. I share a few with you.

My favorite story. My favorite story about Jimmy as a young man also involves my Daddy, and our cousin Smoky (who has been gone now over 20 years – and that thought makes time seem like sand passing from my grasp faster and faster).

These three men were all cousins who grew up with each other, and were more like brothers than cousins. They all grew up barefoot on cornbread and milk in a place and time where electricity and indoor plumbing were still just rumors heard about in town. They had to be tough just to get grown.. Those who earned their enmity had reason to fear. And those whom they loved knew they would move the earth for them if need be.

One night when they were young, they had all gone out to play pool.

Hours later, when they came back out to the car, they noticed that the stereo was missing. They went back into the pool hall, which was still crowded. They lined up across the door, and told the crowd that nobody was leaving until he got his stereo back.

The stereo never appeared. But nobody left either.

After a time, they decided to leave and forget the whole thing.

Later, they discovered the stereo still in the trunk, where it had been all along. They had taken it out and put it in the trunk before going in so it wouldn't get stolen, and then forgotten about it when they came back out and it was gone.

Even now, I laugh at those three guys walking back into that pool hall demanding that stereo be turned over. It's amazing no one got hurt – and I don't mean those three.

"Who was that man?" My favorite personal memory about Jimmy is from a time we had one of our family "shin-digs" down at his house. I was 17 years old, and had just gotten my first car, a 1962 Volkswagon Beetle. It was a Saturday in April or May, 1982.

I had invited two of my friends from church, Brenda and Tina, to come along, and we all drove over to Jimmy's house in Alabama. There were probably 50 people there, and there was lots of food, games, kids playing outside, adults inside and out laughing, telling stories, and that night, we all sat around in the house singing gospel songs and "clogging" to country and bluegrass music ("clogging" is also called "buck dancing", and reminds me a little of both square dancing and tap dancing).

We had a great time, as usual, and Bren and Tina were amazed at what they saw. Their extended families weren't close and rarely got together for anything but funerals.

When we left that night to go back to Rome, before we had pulled out of the driveway, they both asked me: "Who was that man?"

I didn't know what they were talking about at first, but when they told me what they meant, I knew they were talking about my cousin Jimmy. They had never met anyone like him. He just had a way about him that seemed to charm everyone, and, as my Nanny told me today on the phone, "Everybody loved Jimmy. Everybody."

Fishing, Bulldogs, and Clocks . Other things that come to my mind about Jimmy: he loved to fish as much as anyone I've ever met (except maybe my cousin Jesse). The Georgia Bulldogs never had a more devoted fan than Jimmy. And, even though he lived in Alabama for decades, the clock in his house was always on Georgia time.

The last family reunion I was at, back in 2006, for a joke, I had gotten Jimmy a banner for the Auburn Tigers college football team, just to mess with him.

I made a show of bringing it into the place we were having the reunion when Jimmy got there, and tried to give it to him.

He looked at me like I had just escaped from some institution when I told him it was for him.

"You're wrong, son. It's ain't for me. It ain't goin' in my car."

I ended up giving it to his son Kelly.

"Squeegee" and "Oot" and a man called "Horse". Another thing I remember and loved about Jimmy was that he had nicknames for many of the people in our family. The two I remember most are "Squeegee" (my cousin Jesse) and "Oot" (one of his boys – I think Kelly). He had names for some of the grandkids, too, but memory fails me now to think of them.

Many people in our family call my Daddy "Hoss". Jimmy called him "Horse". I can hear him say it in my mind as I write these words.

Until then. A good man has gone. But we shall see him again. Until then, we'll miss you, Jimmy.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Allen, thanks for what you have said that really means alot .I have heard those stories and many more. Sometimes we laugh and sometimes we cry , but remember this is not mourning for a death This is a celibration of a life.I will leave you with this."THE EAGLE HAS LEFT THE NEST BUT HE WILL RETURN"