I was in fourth grade. Someone stole my blue booksack. Someone said they had seen Mike with it. I didn’t know Mike all that well. Parents were brought in and talked to. It was clear that it wasn’t Mike who had done it. It was probably the person that had blamed him. That has been so long ago now I don’t even remember who that was, but I felt so bad about blaming an innocent guy that I tried to make it up to him by being his buddy. That was a rocky start for a good friendship that lasted nearly three decades.
I remember our middle school days. In the winter Mike wore a blue quilted vest with a Rolling Stones logo sewn on the chest. I still remember him coming down the hall beside the gym wearing that vest. Funny the things you remember.
Throughout high school we hunted together. My father taught the Carpentry class at the vocational center. Mike took his class. Mike helped build the walls to my father’s shop and the house they are living in now. He got some of his students to come out to the house we were living in at the time and build the trusses for the new shop. Daddy had cut out the pattern pieces to the trusses. We would put them together, they would put plywood gussets on them, I would shoot them in place with an air hammer then we would load the trusses on a truck. I was inside shooting gussets on and some of the guys outside saw a flock of ducks and they yelled out, “ducks.” I took off to see the ducks, air hammer still in hand. The hose wasn’t long enough. When I reached the end of the hose I had gained a rather good amount of momentum. That air hammer took my feet from under me and I landed flat on my back on the concrete. That was over twenty years ago. Mike still liked to remind me of that and laugh at me.
Mike hunted Briary River with me before any of the other guys. Mike was hunting the corner of the field one morning. I was hunting by the gum trees that I still love. Mike was never any good with a shotgun. Bless his soul, he was my buddy, but that was the truth. He shot and yelled “duck.” I turned my head to try to get a shot on the duck I knew he missed. I didn’t realize he was telling me to duck. I never saw the bird as it passed within inches of my head, but I heard it hit at my feet. It was a beautiful wood duck drake, and Mike couldn’t have been prouder of a bird. He had that bird mounted.
Then there is the now famous doe day incident. He took me still hunting with him one time. I was in college, we were still young. Mike’s daddy had missed a big buck there the week before. Mike was hunting for that buck. Now Mike may not have been good with a shotgun, but he could shoot a rifle. A doe and a yearling entered the field. Mike was waiting for the buck, but it was a doe day, and eventually the trigger itch got the best of him. He shot the doe down. Then it happened, the buck got up and took off across the bean field running wide open. Mike shot until he shot him down. Then he started calling for me. The doe was trying to go again and he had shot out of cartridges. I took him my rifle and he finished her off. Then his nerves got to him. The buck was down in the bean field and he didn’t know where he was. I calmed him down and then started looking for the buck. I found him, but it wasn’t the buck, it was the yearling. In all the excitement that yearling grew horns running across that field. Then I asked the question that Mike did so love to pick on me about, I said, “Mike, it is a doe day isn’t it?”
Mike tragically died in an automobile accident this afternoon. I’m glad I knew Mike well enough to know that he knew the Lord, and though we will miss him, he wouldn’t come back now if he could. Mike was only 38. When he woke up this morning he didn’t know his time would come today. I know when my time comes I will meet up with my old friend again. If you haven’t made arrangements already, how about get right so you can meet with us. Jesus died for us all, there’s really no need for anyone to miss out on the reunion.
Mike, when the hunts are over this season, or when we are at the fox pen around the fire barrel, and the old stories are being told, you will be missed.
I can see you now in heaven, clasping your hands and grinning. Mikey likes it.