Asheville – This week’s commentary is very personal, as I lost my best friend this week. He was my cousin, of which I have many. Another best friend of mine used to joke that every sixth or seventh person in Asheville was my cousin. So what made this cousin different?
Well, I’ll tell you, as I need a cathartic release right now. Understand, I have grieved to a greater extent over his loss than that of my father, and I didn’t know that was possible.
My cousin was a real renaissance man, and we had much in common. He was ten years my senior, and with no siblings myself, I thought of him as the older brother I never had.
My earliest recollection of him stems back to my preteen years when he showed me a model airplane he built, a British Spitfire, and while he outgrew model airplane building for the most part, I never did.
We shared a love of good books, music, old movies, and more. As he was a long haul truck driver, I looked forward to the days he would come off the road, and we could get caught up. Our favorite time back in the 1980s was spent around eating and watching our favorite shows, Magnum P.I. and Simon and Simon, while consuming hot dogs from Hot Dog World on Biltmore Ave and topping it off with a half gallon of Breyer’s ice cream.
His great love was reading true frontier tales from men like Jim Bridger, hunting and fishing magazines, and learning all he could about guns and cartridges—Who developed a specific caliber gun and why, and details about the sport of shooting.
He also loved to hunt, which gives me some comfort, as he was killed in an auto accident returning from a hunting trip in Wyoming. This trip was the first time in several years he had been able to join his hunting buddies.
He was much more a wordsmith than myself, but it was hard to get him to show off that talent he had. Several years back, I was able to get him to write a column on shooting, guns, and hunting for the newspaper. He also wrote a hilarious story about the time he got lost and ended up on a dead-end road at a high school in his 18-wheeler. He eventually had to take a lap in his tractor and trailer on the track field to get the rig out of there.
We could talk about anything: theology, relationships, money, movies, life. He was my confidant, and I was his. In the last ten years or more we had lunch at least monthly, usually more often, and spoke almost every week. He was a big part of my life for forty years.
Oh, we had some great arguments that nearly came to blows, and he could make you mad when he didn’t keep his word about meeting you because he had gotten tied up with something else or fell asleep as he was apt to do. I realized I was mad because I craved the enjoyment of spending time with him.
He called me the week before he died to say he hadn’t bagged a buck, but he was having fun. He died doing what he loved and was eager to get back and share that love of hunting with his grand niece.
I and others will greatly miss him!