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Friday, May 18, 2012


         jr maxwell, photo by dean richardson

A song by Tom T Hall is in my mind, sung by Scott Freeman, Jeanette Williams and Johnny Williams, You can't see where you're going if you're always looking back. It's one of those many songs that carry meaning worth paying attention to. The train that you're waiting for is way on down the track. When this song is singing inside my head, I always think of Jr Maxwell who said the past is done and gone, thinking about it changes nothing, it's over. The present and future was where he focused his attention. He'd been beat down so many times in the past his strength came from getting up and starting again. His past had immense sorrows in it, several, too many for one man. Late in his life when he had little future left, he began to notice things like the spider living in the window, watching it live its life, watching the raincrow pluck feathers out of the backs of crows in flight, watching the rabbits graze outside the window. His present didn't impress him much, because he had no money, had been stripped of self-esteem and money by a woman who left him because she'd run through all his assets and he hadn't died soon enough to suit her. He went on living alone in such deep depression I call it despair. In the divorce she took him for half of what he had left, which he borrowed from the bank rather than sell his house, shop and few acres of land.

Yesterday I found an email from Milly Richardson in the messages section of Facebook that I never look at. Every once in awhile I think to look there and find a few messages from a month or two ago. Milly's message was at the top telling me her dad, Dean Richardson, "had gone to be with Jr." A week ago. I'd wondered why nobody had told me. She already had and probably wondered why I didn't respond. Dean, like Jr, waited until there was not another day left in his ability to function as an organism. Dean was eight years younger than Jr. He told me when they were kids he didn't know Jr very well because of the age difference, Dean being in first grade when Jr was in 8th grade. He said Jr was never arrogant with the little kids like the other boys were. Dean respected Jr from those days when he looked up to him as one of the big guys that was good to him, treated him right. All their lives they lived in the same community. They lived very different lives. Dean worked his career as a Parkway Ranger. He loved driving fast. Jr loved driving fast, too, except Jr did it illegally. Dean would have, too, if he hadn't had the chance to do it legally.

I think it was last Friday, driving home from town, heading down 18, Ricky Royal, town cop, was holding up traffic for a funeral procession turning into 18 from the bypass. A long line of cars. I saw one of Dean's yellow Cadillac with daughter Dena driving it. I wondered if that might be Dean's funeral, but told myself it was not. Probably someone Dena knew. But it was an awfully long line of cars, which made me wonder, because Dean would have such a line at his funeral. Then I convinced myself it was Dean. I hate it he's gone; he was one of the lights in the world. Then I convinced myself it was not Dean and turned left to avoid following the slow procession all the way to wherever it was going. I had thought of following it on the chance it might be Dean, but that didn't feel right, somehow. I don't know why. I'd just left grocery store, drugstore, bank, gas station, and wanted to be at home. It seemed like somebody would have told me by then it was Dean. Well, Milly had. I just missed it. I don't go to funerals except of people I feel close to. I would like to have been Dean's. It wasn't in the stars.

Dean was the greatest support I had in the time of looking after Jr in his last year. Dean brought us Whopper Juniors from Burger King several days a week. He would come by frequently to visit with Jr. He was the only one who visited, regularly. No. Paul Reeves dropped by every other weekend. Harold Hayes dropped by several times. Harold had been bass player in Jr's band The Green Mountain Boys. It looked to me like Dean, Paul and Harold turned out to be Jr's closest friends, the ones who didn't abandon him in his slow fade unto dementia. Dean expressed a lot of gratitude toward me for helping Jr stay out of a nursing home. I was always glad to see Dean's Cadillac pull up out front. He was good company, told good stories from experiences in his role as Parkway Ranger, chasing after guys running liquor on the Parkway. He was a good driver. He took a respect for me taking care of Jr and showed it all the time I was around him. I appreciated his respect, and held quite a respect for Dean. I enjoyed every minute of conversation with him when he dropped by. I especially appreciated the interest he took in Jr in his individual end time. Jr appreciated it too. I will always appreciate Dean for taking an interest in Jr's last years, months and weeks like he did.

I'll always remember, too, the time Dean told me of being a kid in school looking up to Jr, one of the big guys. He said Jr had always liked pranks and Dean thought him especially cool for the pranks he pulled. They were at Whitehead school. I'm recalling a prank Jr told me about. Jr and another kid were hanging at the Whitehead Store. A preacher they knew came by on his horse. This preacher always talked down to the boys and warned them about the devil. Jr found a chestnut burr and without the preacher seeing him he lifted the horse's tail and placed it on the soft flesh under the tail. He slapped the horse on the tail and it took off kicking up the dust. Preacher had a wild ride home. One of the differences between Jr and Dean was that Jr had little to no respect for a preacher, and Dean did. Dean was a church goer all the way along. Jr quit church in his teens. Jr knew too much about the private lives of preachers to have any confidence in the men. Dean saw it differently. Jr was a republican and Dean was a democrat in a county where those distinctions matter. They didn't talk about religion and politics, and did ok through their entire lives. By the time Jr's spirit left the body, I'd developed a deep respect for Dean Richardson the individual, the man of these mountains. Now he's left the body and Whitehead has lost another one of it's more colorful characters.


1 comment:

  1. beautiful,touching, true, pure, on the mark, insightful, powerful, classic TJ, thanks so much, from me and daddy......