Thursday, November 24, 2016

Friends for life

Hayter’s Article – October 27, 2016

The Wendy Effect

            ROOFTOP -- A well-known New York Tribune editor once urged Americans to seek a new life out west. About 150 years later, a little-known, local columnist urged himself to climb up, young man. From there, I thought to rise above the fog for a clearer view of what the Sam Hill life was all about.

            That upward summons led me to write my first article from the rooftop. The few dozen previous articles almost made sense. But, my grab for that ladder, is pretty much responsible for our 30+ year journey into the region known as The Nutzoid.

            During my first rooftop experience, my view into life’s meaning was hazy as all get out. However, I did manage to get a good look into my childhood. One of the characteristics of youth is a belief that friends never change. We imagine ourselves one day growing up, but never our friends. They are forever.

The friends of my youth were never all that much accustomed to having money. We were forced to use our wit and whimsy to figure out fun stuff to do. When you are one of a group of friends who daily share one another’s whimsy… well, you form a bond. Nothing we said was viewed as too stupid to consider. Occasionally, we came up with stuff too dangerous to seriously contemplate. But, that was, as Abe Lincoln wrote, because of the better angels of our nature. Something like that.

            While sitting on the roof remembering my childhood friendships, I saw the gradual waning of our friendship as the Wendy Effect crept into each of our lives. – Beg pardon? Oh, Wendy? Peter Pan? Becoming too old to maintain the vision of youth? Right.

So, the bonds of friendship became frayed, and before I knew it, I had lost nearly all my childhood friends.  I remember their names and what was special about each person, but I doubt the truth in my memories of what all we did. That’s what psychiatrists call “an indication of sanity.”

            Over the past couple of years, one of my childhood friends kept appearing in my dreams. I had known Johnny from the time I was in the 2nd grade. We remained buddies through high school and college.  The first bicycle I ever rode belonged to Johnny Sutton.  The first and only firecracker that blew up in my hand was while playing around with Johnny and his kid brother Craig.

Johnny, Craig, Dennis (my big brother) and I shared more than good times. We each shared an ongoing feud with the infamous Smith brothers. Some people are born leaders. Some are born followers. A very few are born to beat you up. You could not talk yourself out of a fight with the Smiths. Speech just seemed to irritate them. 

            After the third grade, my family moved away from Pinewood Lane. For awhile Dennis and I would ride our bikes across town to visit Johnny and Craig. In time we, too, succumbed to the Wendy Effect.

            Johnny and I befriended one another again in High School. We were on the football team, played baseball together, and shared a few classes together. We both saw a UFO while camping on the beach at Freeport.

            In the fall of ’67, Johnny, Dennis and I went to Stephen F. Austin University. Because of something I wrote while in a Sociology class at Pasadena High, Johnny and I decided to major in Forestry. It’s a story that I’ve shared before, and will likely do again.

            After graduation, I miraculously ended up with a job in District 6 of the Texas Forest Service. The district office is located in the Jones State Forest on 1488. Johnny got a forestry job managing a forested estate headquartered in Livingston, Texas. We managed to stay in touch for a few years. The occasional visit turned into the annual Christmas card. Eventually, the cards even stopped.

            But, out of the blue, the dreams kept coming. Both Johnny and I had changed residence and phone numbers. I don’t think Johnny ever had an e-mail address or a site on Facebook. Recently, my friend, Joe Harper, managed to get Johnny’s phone number from one of his acquaintances in the forestry business.

            I called Johnny last week and we talked on and on about old times. The bond is still there. Frayed just a bit, but it’s holding. I could tell from his voice and from our laughs. Telling signs.  

            Johnny and his lovely wife, Marilyn, are going to visit Kay and me sometime between now and the holidays. We’re each counting on it.

            By the way. Horace Greeley, the newspaper editor who wrote, “Go West, young man!” is also known for writing -- “Fame is a vapor, popularity an accident, and riches take wings. Only one thing endures and that is character.” – Perhaps not THE answer to life itself. But, it is AN answer. – Next time.

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