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Old John {A Tribute}
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New-Gen    Posted 12-06-2004 at 15:40:00       [Reply]  [No Email]
This weekend I went to a 90th birthday party for a man I've known for over 30 years.The party was nothing out of the ordinary, just an open house at the local church. There was a good turnout, good cake, punch, coffee, everyone seemed to have a good time. What was out of the ordinary was the guest of honor.

I've had the privlege of knowing this man for over 30 years. Most of my association with him was from his work as a mechanic, so that is the part of his life I'm most qualified to elaborate on, but he was much more than just a mechanic. He was very involved in the Boy Scouts. I was told that he had achieved the highest honor possible for a leader, which, in my opinion is commendable. I just can't imagain how many boys lives he helped lay the foundation for through his common sense ways. He had a subtle way about him that could endear kids and adults of all ages.

As is the case with a lot of highly intellegent people, John was a little on the eccentric side. He didn't have a mean bone in his body, but he definatly marched to a different drummer than most people. Sometimes he would just burst into song unexpectedly. He managed to keep us entertained with a small repertoire of songs sung in a barbershop quartet style. For no apparent reason, at any given time the shop would echo with "The kitten couldn't cat and the dog couldn't pup and the old man couldn't get his rhubarb up", or, "Went down to the river but I couldn't get across so I paid five dollars for an old plug hoss". The 30 second solo a cappello concert would always end with "Shave and a haircut: 2 bits"

His daily noon meal menu of lunchmeat sandwiches,carrot sticks, chips and cookies washed down with several cups of coffee was typical, his methods of consuming it was not. He always had a 9/16th wrench in his pocket to stir his coffee, and he never bothered to wash his hands. The bread would start out white and before he was finished it looked like Russian rye. I'm sure many mothers cringed when they saw him eat, knowing how much their children looked up to him. Those kids probably got an extra strong "wash your hands before meals" lecture after that sight! In spite of his superior mechanical ability, his 3 piece lunchbox was a constant source of frustration to him. He just never quite mastered the fine art of getting it closed. Finally one day in what passed as a fit of rage {he really wasn't violent, just a little vocal at times}, he threw all 3 pieces in the trash can. Since his nonviolent ways prevented any damage, one of the other guys retrieved it. It served it's second owner well for a long time thereafter. As for John, he went back to his well used conventional tin lunchpail and everybody was happy.

Sometimes his outspoken ways were better recieved than others. One day a farmer unknown to him came in the shop and asked him if he worked on all makes of tractors. When he said yes, he did, the man told him that he had a Ford 6000. John happened to be holding a 36" pipe wrench in his hand at the time. He looked the man in the eye calmly as he let the big wrench drop to the floor with a clatter and informed him that "I may not have much time left on this earth and I don't intend to waste any of it working on a Ford 6000" The man said "Well then I might as well trade the @@#% off". He left in a huff when he was told that it sounded like a good idea. Years later when John related the story to me, reflecting that he might have made him mad, I couldn't detect any remorse in his voice. His remark was in no way intended to hurt the farmers feelings, he was just stating his opinion on what he considered one of the worst tractors made. He was part owner of a John Deere dealership, and he pulled no punches when stating his opinions on their line of equipment either. He considered the John Deere model 2010 better that the Ford 6000, but not much. One day when his partner asked him, in the presence of the Deere territory manager, how many new 2010's he thought they should order, he replied "As many as YOU want to work on!" {At least he wasn't prejudiced!}

Among other things, he was an accomplished amature photograper. One of his close friends was the editor of the small local newspaper, and together they pulled some practical jokes that are still being talked about. One day he did some darkroom majic and came up with a picture of the familiar main street in town with the sunrise in the west. I don't think very many people actually believed the front page story they came up with but they did get their attention. {Of course the credibility of the story was further shaken by the fact that it came out in the April 1st edition}. On another occasion, he set up a tripod and took a picture of himself standing next to the pipe running water into the old town horse watering trough. This pipe was at precisely the right height to make it appear for all the world that he was relieving himself in the town park. In collaboratoin with his friend at the paper, they made up a fake copy of the paper with that picture on the front page. Needless to say the very prim and proper Mrs. Hanford was definatly not impressed!

What I have related here is the tip of the iceberg of stories I can tell about this man based on my association with him. There are many others whos lives he touched who could tell an equal number of stories about him. I know I personally have many more I can, and, as time permits and occasion dictates, will. For now I'll just say I feel honored to have had him as a mentor and friend for the past 30 years, and hope to go to another party in 10 years to celebrate his 100th!

Rickstir    Posted 12-07-2004 at 06:42:22       [Reply]  [No Email]
I would be an absolute treasure for you or someone to sit him down with a tape recorder running and just let him talk about the old times.

DD    Posted 12-06-2004 at 19:21:51       [Reply]  [No Email]
Yep, he definitely sounds like a Sugar to me : ) Good story too New-Gen, Thanks for sharing it with us.

KellyGa    Posted 12-06-2004 at 18:16:21       [Reply]  [No Email]
I sure did enjoy that story, thanks NewGen. :)

Fern(Mi)    Posted 12-06-2004 at 16:19:59       [Reply]  [No Email]
Well written story about your old friend. A couple times I thought I might was seeing him.

Spent a many an evening around a Scout Camp fire.
It takes a remarkable man to spend two/three times the real behind the scenes time anybody realizes to lead a Scout Troup.
Not only a mechanic, he was a builder of men! God Bless him!

ford 6000 !    Posted 12-06-2004 at 16:10:20       [Reply]  [No Email]
that was funny to me

thanks newgen. i enjoyed reading about your friend. wonder how many lives he has made for the better?


Steve from TN    Posted 12-06-2004 at 16:00:37       [Reply]  [No Email]
There are people that we are not much better off for knowing them and there are some like your fried. You are fortunate to know him, but you know that. Good story.

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