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Consider this quote from Abe Lincoln

"America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves."



I’ve had about all I can take of death lately. I had just started to come to terms with losing my Dad when I got the phone call that my childhood friend John had passed away. It was almost too much to comprehend let alone try to wrap my mind around.

I grew up with John, his older brothers and sisters had babysat us boys when we were younger, and John’s house was a place we often played at together. It was safe and inviting and in the days before video games gave us plenty of room to roam about and imagine we were cowboys and Indians. Plus if we were really good we got to eat his Mom’s homemade macaroni and cheese which is still the best I’ve ever had.

John’s house sat on a big hill overlooking the interstate and we found that hill and excellent place to test our daredevil mentalities. We would find anything with wheels to ride down that hill, and no Tonka truck or bicycle was immune from our adventures. Nor was any wooden out building. One time when we were looking for a couple of boards to use as a ramp John decided we would just go into the corn crib and rip a few boards down. He never worried much about thinking about trouble he would get us into as long as we had fun doing whatever we up to.

Another thing that we thought was exciting at Johns house was the fact that his brother had a bb gun. We would set up milk jugs and shoot the afternoons away knocking them over and walking back and forth to set them up. Of course John was wary of taking his turn to set them up and made his brother promise not to shoot him in the behind with the BB gun when he wasn’t looking. Needless to say the laughter that ensued as we rolled on the ground as John ran down the hill after taking a shot in the backside from his brother probably didn’t make the sting feel any less worse for him.

As we got older John became that friend who would go along on a Friday night with the guys for pizza and a movie, or to grab a six pack and drive around the gravel roads talking about all those things that young men talk about. He was a great practical joker and loved making people laugh. But, unlike most people, John could take a joke played against himself too and usually wanted to know how exactly it had been pulled off so he could pull the same prank on someone else.

We were in 4-H and FFA together, spent hours in cars together driving to Ohio to see his son, and he stood up with me at my wedding. He would make you laugh and make you mad usually at the same time, but he was always kind, and would go out of his way for a friend. He served in the military, something he and we were both extremely proud of and we enjoyed his letters from the desert and pleas for Copenhagen in paper cans. He taught us how to smoke a good cigar, and what they were and rooted for the Browns even when they were the worst team in football.

He would teach your kids how to hunt safely, making them carry the bullet in their pocket for the first year, and would talk to you for hours trying to convince you that the government was indeed tracking your every movement. He was our own John Candy, Jim Belushi and Chris Farley all rolled into one and we loved him for it. He struggled with his own demons, fought to stay sober and never let us forget a memory. He could tell a tall tale like no one else could. The simplest story about going to the store would be wound and tied and delivered with such exaggeration that in the end you couldn’t tell the fact from the fiction, but the story always made you laugh.

He loved food and would debate the merits of Steak N Shake vs. an all you can eat buffet. He was always the first one to dive into the water and any gathering that a pair of horseshoes were to be found, you knew that John, his laughter and ultimately your enjoyment weren’t far behind. Out of all the things that I remember that I can talk about in the newspaper was the fact that John was always the last one to leave any gathering, making sure everyone had a safe ride home or that they had enough cold baked beans to eat on for a couple of days. So as you can guess it came as a shock when he was the first to leave the party of life in our small group.

We may not ever be as boisterous and rowdy as we once were, and I’m sure we will all feel that every gathering going forward is missing something, but we were very fortunate to have spent our lives growing up knowing John and when we get to the pearly gates I’m sure he will be there to show us around and tell us the story of how he got there.

See you next week….Remember, we’re all in this together.