Saturday, June 23, 2012

Remembering Bill

The morning was brutally cold, well below zero. And it was windy too. When the sun finally rose, the sky was crystal clear.

Bill Knox, John and I had made plans to go deer hunting while enjoying a few end-of-the-work-week ales at the Garden Lounge one Friday night. And something as trivial as lethally cold temperatures was not going to deter us. We were young and foolish and loathe to confess weakness.

I picked Bill up first in my old Ford 4X4 pickup and then we collected John. We were on our way, even though all three of us were probably thinking that we’d rather be in a nice warm bed with our wives.

Nevertheless, a deal is a deal.

Somewhere northeast of Laird Park, we stopped to slap on the tire chains. Beyond that point, the roads steepened and were not maintained. When we finally reached our chosen location for that day’s hunt, we tramped off in three different directions, without making plans about when we would get back together.

We were somewhere between 4000 and 5000 feet in elevation and I quickly realized that the deer were a lot smarter than we were and had left for lower elevations and warmer weather. No water was to be had, except for what we carried on our persons. And we all went through that quickly.

Somewhere around noon, I decided to head back to the truck and wait for my friends out of the wind.

Bill had come to the same conclusions that I had, almost simultaneously, because as I approached the truck, he arrived from the opposite direction.

We then set off to track down John. We didn’t think that he would need much convincing to see things our way.

It took us about half an hour to track him through the snow. We spotted him across a small clearing, leaning against a tree, asleep. He was ready to go home too.

Another thing we all agreed on was that we were thirsty. On a Sunday afternoon, way out in the middle of nowhere, finding a cold beer is problematic. And so as we lumbered our way down off the mountain, the conversation was dominated by speculations upon where we might be able to slake our thirsts.

The problem was solved when we stopped to remove the chains. While I was loosening the chains, we heard the clinking and clanking of other tire chains approaching. And low and behold, what we had heard was a Rainier Beer truck driving down a logging road. We must have looked as thirsty as we felt, because the driver stopped, reached behind his seat and pulled out a 12 pack, which he gave to us, refusing any money.

There is much to being a human. There is our anatomy and physiology, but that barely distinguishes us from three toed sloths. We have souls as well. But then, so do dogs, I believe.

We also have memories. Our memories are so essential to our humanity that ironically misnamed “bioethicists” argue that we are not fully human until we have accumulated enough unique memories to make us distinct individuals.

I just shared one of my most treasured memories with you because the Bill Knox referenced in the above story passed away unexpectedly last month. And it got me thinking about the importance of memories in our lives.

We all have both good memories and bad. But they all contribute to defining our time on this Earth.

At Bill’s memorial, several old friends whom I had not seen in many years came together to remember Bill and to comfort his wife, Dianne. And we were there to comfort ourselves.

When a friend dies, eternity seems to draw much closer.

Because John and I still live in the area, we see each other frequently. But the rest of the old crew drifted apart as our careers and family lives tugged us away.

As we old friends caught up on each other’s lives and shared our favorite memories of Bill, I started thinking about how much I had missed all these old friends and about all the good times we had and all the great memories we made together. And I thought about all the great memories that we could have made had we stayed in touch.

We all have good memories and bad. But the worst memories are the ones we never make out of neglect.


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