(Part 5B of 5A/5B)
As the continued efforts of craziness transpired through the balance of summer and fall in 1980, which also happened to include my ambulance ride for what was thought to possibly be a heart attack but turned out to be an ulcer, some normalcy began happening. I had the station staffed with quality air-talent and we were the #1 Station in Borger, Texas as of the most recent Arbitron Ratings. We had created the cast of The Magic Stars! (I listed our names in writing IV but did not talk about this part. Maybe another writing for this topic.) So, at this point all seemed fairly right with the world.
It was about two weeks before Christmas when the call came into my little office desk area: “Paul, Line 1 is for you. He says he is Scooter McDonald.”
Scooter McDonald? Now there is a blast-from-the-past name for me. Mike Dry, Scooter McDonald and I had become good friends back at Elkins in Dallas. However, Mike and Scooter (the only first-name I ever knew him by) proceeded with a different life course than myself. They both still had to go through Licensing Class and that meant more months together for them in Dallas. That happened in 1978 while I was off working at KMUL in Muleshoe.
Mike and Scooter’s idea of a good time included a good dose of that weed stuff folks talk about even still today. (Lollipop anyone??)
By the time Mike got to work at Muleshoe the ties between Scooter and myself had been dissolved. Nothing contentious or anything, just time and space thing. Well, also lifestyle. So, Scooter McDonald is on the phone for me and I have not spoken to him in almost 3-years. Hmmm…
We hem-hawed around for a few minutes and I learned that he was working at a top station in Fort Smith, Arkansas. (I must say here that of all the guys at my Elkins Studio Training Class, Scooter was the only one of us that had a natural radio voice already built-into his system. I immediately remembered that when he began speaking.) As I mentioned, I had not spoken to him in years and he and Mike had also drifted apart so, I had not a clue how he found me or why he was calling. And then it came out: “How would you like to move to Fort Smith? We have a morning slot open and I thought of you.”
Yes, pride can runneth amuck. But in this particular situation, being stunned trumps pride and I said “Are you serious?!?”.
Honestly, the only Arkansas city I had really ever heard of was that one where the Pigs play football, Fay sumthin’ or other. (No Glenn, You May Not Digress!! But I Loved Me Some 1969!!! Hook ’em! Right Dan?)
I asked Scooter if his station needed an air-check (an abbreviated recording that is taken from your shift on the radio). It was not needed and he asked how long it would take for me to think it over and get back. It took just over 3-days.
I immediately went into the studio there at KQTY and since Mike (Jim Wilson) was on shift we began talking about the call. Mike seemed stunned that Scooter knew where we were. I eventually figured that Scooter had probably called Mike’s parents in Winters and just asked. After all, he had been to Mike’s house during their time together. (I had been there too and it was one more impressive place. More like a really nice hotel.)
Okay, it’s time for a bit of reflection on my life at this moment in time.
I am 23-years old. I am Program Director at a #1 radio station. I am respected within the Zia Broadcasting Company. And… It is the dream of every aspiring air-personality to “Get The Call” for movement to a larger market.
Before that call from Scooter, I was enjoying life in Borger, even though there is the reality of someone else on the distance back in Clovis. And, after a few hours of my emotional high from the Big-time! possibilities? SHE became my 1st consideration. So, the next morning, a Friday when I was already planning to go to Clovis to see HER for the weekend as I did fairly often, I made the call.
“Jim, are you going to be around tomorrow? If so, I would like to come down to visit with you about some things.” Jim Davis still ran the Zia Broadcasting stations for Mr. Allsup and I knew anything I did would reflect not only on me but also on Jim. After all, he was the one who promoted me a year earlier. Jim and I met early the next morning in Clovis, a Saturday when the KCLV station was vacant except for the d-j on the air upstairs.
I explained things to Jim. By now he and I were pretty good friends I felt. And when we got ready to leave he told me he would call me at KQTY (Borger) on Monday morning. I arrived early that day.
I remember explaining to Karen that weekend the ‘what was happening’ and was happily surprised that, while she was not for me leaving, she did not want me to pass up the opportunity I had hoped for. As many of you know, it’s the same response she has given me our whole married life. I mentioned that Jim would be calling and I would let her know what I thought was going to happen sometime Monday night.
Back at the station on Monday in Borger, things were business-as-normal. The only person at the station that I had mentioned the details of that Scooter call had been Mike and he had agreed to keep it between me and him. That talk happened, of course, before I left Borger that previous weekend.
When the call came in from Jim I was very apprehensive. I had no clue how he would direct this conversation. Remember his “Now , what the hell do you want?” story I told? So, I was deeply hoping he remained friendly.
“Steelee, How about you come back to Clovis and take the afternoon drive shift and I will get you started in the money-making end of this business. I think you might do good in Sales.” A that was that. I didn’t even really think about it, I just said “Okay.”
To this day I have no idea what Scooter McDonald thought about my declining that opportunity. I have never talked to him again. Two weeks later I was back in Clovis, New Mexico and my newer life was reset to begin again. Mike stayed in Borger and worked and partied, probably should have put partied first there, and he met girls and…
Karen and I got married in July 1981, about 7-months after I had returned to Clovis. And before too long, we made a trip together to Borger. Mike Dry was getting married. (Say what??)
There is always a twist in the story when Mike is being discussed by me. Remember, I know him better than anyone at this point which means he will tell me anything and for the most part I reciprocated. Yeah, mostly I think.
I liked Mike’s parents. I had met them several times. They were the modern-day version of helicopter parents. They just flew in and out of Mike’s life at really random times. For example, they would come to Muleshoe and stay at one of the few and only hotels. None of them were really much to stay at. But, they did it to see Mike. And while they were there I would usually go visit them. Clovis to Muleshoe is a pretty quick drive and Mike liked me being around his parents. I think maybe it was because I was one of his more, dare I say normal, friends. Mr. Dry and I would visit like we were both real businessmen. Well, one of us really was. (By the way, Muleshoe has some nice hotels now.)
Mike’s Dad gave me a $100 bill when Karen and I met them in Borger for that pre-game thing that we folks do the night before the actual wedding. And, later that evening after the pre-game was over, Mike and I went back to the hotel and started talking, Privately. I realized that Mike did not really have a best-man for the wedding. Just the cast of groomsman which included me. But, everything kinda fell in line as needed at the pre-game effort only and hour earlier.
“Why don’t you have a best man?” I asked thinking he probably just forgot to ask me. (Never a missed opportunity for the stroking of my own ego.) His answer still bothers me.
“I had one. His name is **. He was here yesterday and while I was working at the station he and ** (Mike’s tomorrow to be wife) had sex. Then he left and went back to Winters.” His expression was devoid of any emotion except disappointment. And I sat there stunned while trying to figure out how best to respond.
“Mike, you don’t have to go through with this wedding you know. All these folks here won’t know what happened but you do and that’s enough.” I said it as seriously as I knew how. I never imagined myself telling someone to walk away from their wedding the night before it happens. Who does that?
After a bit we parted and I made my way to back to our hotel room. Then, I could not stand it anymore. I went to see Mr. Dry. Without revealing what I had been told, I expressed to Mr Dry that I really felt Mike was making a mistake and I asked him how disappointed they (Mr. & Mrs. Dry) would be if the wedding was called off. And then he stunned me again! A very short pause before he spoke which was usually the case. It was nothing like my usual rapid fire responses.
“I know he should not marry that girl. (Pause) If you can get him to call it off I am behind you. But, (Pause) if Mike decides to go through with it then tomorrow I will stand by my Son.”
That’s a conversation Mike never knew occurred. The next day the two were married and Mike’s troubled life began all over again. Within just over a year Mike and wife were living in Abilene, Texas in a place his parents bought for them. They were raising a little boy who had been born right at one year after they were married. (I am still really glad the child was born a full-year after that conversation we had that pre-wedding night.)
Karen and I would see Mike and his wife off and on. Then, when Mr. Dry got really ill in the mid-1980s, Karen and I went to their home, now in Abilene on the golf course, to see him. Well, to see them both.
At one point while Karen was visiting with Mike’s mom, I stayed in the private care area of the home with Mr. Dry. Just he and I. And the conversation came up.
“How do you think my son is doing, Glenn?”
That was a question I did not anticipate but, as always when visiting with him, I was honest. I explained that I knew Mike and his wife were having issues but that I always hoped for the best. I told him I realized that raising a little child had to be a hard thing for them to be doing. And then he said the most quote-worthy thing I have heard. Even to this date in my life I recall it as vividly as though I were right there sitting by his bed. The words came from a man who had worked hard to get what he had in life. So, while laying there in a hospital bed at his own home Mr. Dry says:
“You know, that baby was born to a silver spoon. I hate to think it will turn into a shovel.”
That, my friends, is experience and wisdom and… lots more of both. I hope and pray to never have to say that, even if only just to myself, about my grandchildren. That is a very, very hard statement. And, as expected, before too much longer Mike and his wife were divorced and the hell that is child-custody followed. These consequences haunted Mike for the next 16-plus years of his life. Neither he nor his wife got actual custody of that little boy. That went to the grandparents on the mother’s side. That court decision was just another set-up for ,continued disaster.
Mike stayed pretty close to me and we visited each other’s homes from time to time. In 1988, while living in California with my wife Karen and 5-year old daughter Kristal, I got a call one evening. It was Mike. His Father had passed away of a stomach aneurysm while in the ambulance on the way to the hospital there in Abilene. Mike was very distraught. Then, before too many years passed I got another call from him letting me know his Mom had passed as well. Both Mike’s parents were interesting stories of money and parties and trips to Cuba before Castro halted that action and a daughter that had been kidnapped and held for ransom. After learning that last story fairly early on in my relationship with Mr. and Mrs. Dry, I better understood the helicopter nature of their attentions with Mike.
Yes, they lived a life of opulence and of… sadness. Mr. Dry was a pretty serious alcohol drinker.
Life has a way of separating even the best of friends. Family too, I am afraid. But, through the years, the efforts to reach out are made and the memories and individual stories, stories that only the two of you know about, are reflected upon. Sometimes while laughing and sometimes in more somber tones. The relationship formed by two young men, who had met on a very chance occasion way back in 1977, somehow managed to create the very best of friends. Lifetime friends.
I got a call in early May of 2016. It was Mike. I had left a couple of messages on his home phone and, although he NEVER answered the phone, he was pretty good about calling me back quickly. It was three or four days before he returned this call. That was unusually lengthy which seemed odd to me.
“Hey, I just got home from the hospital. The doctor says I have to quit drinking or my liver is going to quit working.” Mike was as chipper as always and I started giving him a hard time.
“You know you can’t keep taking all those pain pills (long story of illicit meds he was getting) and drinking. That will kill you for sure Mike.”
“Well, YOU know I am never going to quit drinking.”
Mike had several DUI charges during his life. Never a wreck that I am aware of. But, there were plenty of times when we traveled somewhere in his car where I insisted that I would be driving. He never argued.
In fewer than 3 weeks following the conversation over the phone that day, my friend Mike Dry died. May 22, 2016.
Because of the relationship we both had with only each other, no one in his family knew me. The exception being, of course, Mike’s parents who by now were both long deceased. As result, I had not been made aware in any way of Mike’s passing. His ex-wife and child probably never even knew or remembered my real name. She only ever knew of Paul Steele.
In late June this year, 2018, I decided to make a serious effort to contact Mike. I had tried last year but got a “no longer a working number” and figured he had just changed the number as he was prone to do. He became very paranoid over the years and in the last decade he would only make contact with me by phone. The last time I went to Abilene to visit/check on him, we just stood on the front porch and visited for a while. But I could tell he did not want me coming inside the house and I never made an issue of it. After all, it’s Mike Dry.
Lots of alcohol. Lots more drugs of every kind you can think of. Lots and lots of money. And perhaps impactive most of all these? His not having to work outside the home.
Some might say he had all the trappings of “A Great Life.” However, I would beg to differ.
When I first began writing these stories I asked: Why?
Of course the best and most simple response is: Why not. (A statement of resolved fact.)
Mike walked into class at Elkins way back in 1977. I too limped into the very same class. I was on a mission and really did not expect or want to make any close friends. But, that’s not how The Plan is ever set. It’s not by our wants that the events of life cascade from reality to reality like some never-ending waterfall. A waterfall that never splashes the same way twice, no matter how perfectly similar the effort may be to reproduce it. As I mentioned in the third writing: If you set into motion a single day, and then again tomorrow set into motion another single day with the precise same details as the previous day, the results will be: Different!
We are not living inside sterile test tubes of replication where the same things happen over and over. But, life does have its set of laws and we all must abide by them. If you do really bad things to your body for long enough there is no escaping the consequences. Even if those consequences don’t result in ultimate termination until you are in your fifties.
The title of these writings has been: Will It be A Third Time?
I now write the following only as an expression of my heart with a hope that anyone who reads it understands the unique nature we each possess. Some things are unique qualities while some are unique weaknesses. Many are common to all of us. Of what follows, you can accept and/or dispel whatever best fits you. I am not making judgement statements.
I have now conducted the Eulogy Services for more people than I can possibly remember. As a matter of fact, although I had told myself that I was done with doing eulogies, I very recently received a call asking me to perform one for a very special lady that I greatly admired here in Slaton. I did the Eulogy. And, that is the primary reason that so much time elapsed between these last two writings.
I have a folder in a mostly private closet that has almost all the written notes I have used to perform each eulogy service. I look at them from time to time and sometimes see a name and think…
“I really don’t remember doing that one.”
But then, I read some of the notes and my mind recalls a specific word spoken to me or an incident that was unique to that person’s funeral. Then, only one of two things occurs. I will either smile and continue on or, I will stand there in my closet-of-personal-notes and reflect. I have discovered that it’s in the reflection where I discern some of the hard truths that fill my own personal life. Not bad things. Not good things. Just things.
I believe the most relevant element of personal reflection is wrapped deeply within the blanket of emotional separation. Then, while firmly yet privately wrapped in that emotional separation blanket, the unexpected consequences are primed to result. And that leads me to a revelation from deep within my emotional separation blanket…
The reasoning behind the title of these writings: Will There Be A Third Time?
As of this date I have cried only twice in my life at the passing of another person. The first time was when my Grandad Maxcey passed away in December 1984. I was 26-years old at the time. His passing ripped my heart out and I literally cried for days. I still remember telling myself things like “I will never allow myself to become so close to another person ever again.” And I meant it! And for the most part I think I have done exactly that.
The second time I cried was so random. I have written about this before. It was at the funeral of a school classmate. Her funeral service was concluded and the congregation filed outside to wait. The only remaining folks inside that small church were the family and we who were singing. And then I saw a Mother and Father, both who were so very close to my heart, have their hearts wrought with agony as they walked hand in hand to that casket holding their daughter while still resting at the front of the church auditorium. I was totally overcome with sadness and I cried uncontrollably for a bit. I had to sit down to compose myself but the crying had overwhelmed me suddenly. I performed the Eulogy for her Father only a few years ago.
So, that’s it.
However, that cannot be said to be the whole of the story.
For quite some time, as I mentioned, I have performed Eulogy Services as requested. And while most are not specifically tied to me in any way except through commonness of things like church, there can be times when the rules of my own personally initiated protocol of emotional expression must be placed under lock and key. It simply must. But, I have well learned that there is a serious consequence for doing this.
If ever I was going to cry again over the passing of someone I expect that it would have been when my Father died. But, knowing ahead in my heart and mind that I would probably be doing the Eulogy, the lock and the key and the chains of emotional bondage were pulled from whatever corners in which they resided and they were firmly applied to the emotional chambers of my entire being. Otherwise, I never make it through the Eulogy.
We humans are funny creatures. We most all handle emotional distress in a few limited ways. But, we handle it.
The lessons of binding my emotional expression carry within me a deep frustration. I would say guilt but, I will hold-off that indictment for a while longer I think.
The critical lesson learned is this: If you do not weep in the time allotted, the alloted time to weep passes with the deceased.
So very recently and within the first week or so after discovering, quite by accident, that Mike Dry was no longer living, I became aware that I had created a void inside myself. Something unlike I have known before.
While I have lost many of life’s friends to death, the impact here was totally different. And for days I kinda was just… whatever.
Then I asked myself: “How are you going to get over this constant feeling of sadness?”
The resulting answer has been presented from my thoughts through these writings.
No, it’s not been a eulogy. But rather, an opportunity for reflecting on the laughing and anger and frustrations and excitements that Mike and I shared together as the Best of Friends.
His life has been finished for a couple of years now. But the life ahead of me is still filled with wonder.
No more thoughts of tears and crying. It’s no longer an issue for me.
I suppose I will continue holding the Title of these writings within myself for a while longer. Though, I do hope it will be a lot longer.
So long my Friend.