Saturday, November 15, 2008

They Are All Going Away

I'm nearly fifty years old. So, intellectually I'm painfully aware that my childhood icons are going to pass away before I take the long dirt nap. Knowing that and having it demonstrated are two different things.

One of my family's best friends passed away in his sleep the other night. His name was Roy Timken. He and Dad were very close, and his wife Lavon and my mother were as well. Sis and I grew up with their four daughters. Sis's best friend was the youngest girl. Roy was a farmer, but more importantly, he was a family man.

When Roy and Lavon were married, she already had two daughters. Roy adopted them, and he and Lavon went on to have two more together. There was no distinguishing between the love Roy bestowed on his adopted and biological children. None. There was no question they were all his children. He found it amusing that daughters were going to be his lot in life. Roy always had a gentle sense of humor, and the idea of four daughters pleased his funny bone immensely.

My father was something of a pessimist. I can remember many conversations he and Roy had when Dad would gripe about this or that issue, and Roy would be in agreement. However, at the end, Roy always had a positive twist - a gentle poke or a funny quip - to lighten the mood. I can hear him chuckling even now. Low grain prices, or some goofy government antics, the bad weather, or whatever else depresses farmers, would have him upset just like everyone else, but he still managed to put a positive spin on the situation, usually with humor.

He and Lavon had a strong marriage. I always thought one of the little things Lavon always did was pretty cool. She packed his lunches - they "lived in town" and Roy drove to the farm every day. In those lunches, or in some paperwork somewhere, or someplace only Roy would find - she left little slips of paper with personal notes. Roy would stumble upon one of these little love notes, smile, read it and chuckle, and put it in his overall pocket. He did not share these little missives. That was between he and the love of his life.

I witnessed this little tableau while working for him. Dad always liked to help Roy during fall harvest, and I would join in at times. Roy may not have had the newest or the latest equipment, but everything always worked and it looked good. I mean all the gauges, lights, brakes and other things that could go wrong always functioned as they were supposed to. This is more rare than you might think. Roy's farm was my introduction to irrigation. I learned to hate the older, smaller aluminum flood irrigation pipes - they were so much heavier than the lighter, larger diameter ones.

He also had a John Deere 5010, which at one time was about the stoutest two wheel drive tractor made. He had me rip some of his ground with a thirteen shank ripper, and set it deep. Rippers are needed to break up the "hard pan" that develops over time as heavy equipment compresses the soil. He warned me I'd be popping wheelies all day, and that it would be better if we made two passes - one shallow and then one deeper. He didn't have the time for that, though. So, I ran the tractor on the duals and steered it with the brakes for a major portion of the day. That was quite impressive.

Back at the house, he had his own corner in their basement. It was "his" area. The rest of the place belonged to Lavon. Roy was also an avid gun enthusiast and hunter. For a long time, he collected rare lever action Winchesters. Expensive guns, to be sure. At one point, Lavon wanted to remodel the house, and the only way they could afford it was for Roy to sell off the majority of his collection. He did, without regret. He told Dad and I that he felt he was putting far too much money in that collection. He felt he couldn't afford to do much else with the hunting and sporting side of his gun hobby if he had so much money tied up in guns that were wall hangers. Besides, he did keep a few.

Now it may sound like he was some sort of pushover - but Roy was far from that. He was a great supporter of the local Coop, and served on the board of directors for many years. He also served on the local school board. He was quite capable of ruffling feathers and making hard nosed decisions, and he did so. If you've ever been around a small town and seen how messy either of those boards can be, knowing Roy successfully navigated those shoals should give you an idea how strong he really was. He retired from both boards when he was ready, and he was missed when he did.

Roy had heart bypass surgery a long time ago. His travails were an inspiration for me in the same situation. When he was in recovery after surgery, he decided the tracheal tube hooked to the breathing machine had to go, so he simply pulled it out. If my arms were functional when I woke up, I can assure you I'd have done the same, knowing he did it and got away with it. I even thought the nurses had my arms tied down just so I couldn't pull it loose, but they weren't.

Roy always had some pretty neat guns, too. He, the retired coop manager, and our mayor always had a table at the Evil Loophole Gun Show (ELGS), where they'd have a few guns that needed to go to fund a new project. Roy had a target Garand at the last show. It was loaded with National Match goodies and a beautiful stock. It was a magnificent gun - with a gorgeous finish as well. It looked like a wall hanger, but it was made to shoot. Roy was done with it, and needed funds to start on some new "toy". If I could have afforded it, it would reside here at The Poor Farm for sure.

After both our parents passed on, Roy and Lavon were there for Sis and I. They were more her "extra parents" than mine, but I knew they were there for me. The last time I saw Roy, I was driving by his farm after stopping at my "extra" mom's (mother of my childhood best friend) place. Roy's shop was just down the road, and as I went by, he was shooting a rifle off a table at a target. He was either zeroing it in, or testing a load. I didn't want to bother him, so I drove on. Now, I wish I had.

I've learned over the years to thank the people who make a difference in my life. I don't think I ever did that with Roy - to explain how much he was and still is an inspiration to me. Roy was a pillar of his church, community, family and friends. Telling y'all about him is the least I can do.


Kathy B. said...

Jeff, I was moved to tears by your poignant memories and portrayal of Roy. My sister Kristin and Becky were good friends. Thank you for writing and sharing this. Kathy

Jeffro said...

Thanks, Kathy. Things have been kinda glum around here for the past couple days.

Earl said...

I would say I would have liked to have met Roy, but you have introduced him well. Thanks.

Jerry in Texas said...

There sure aren't enough Roys in the world, are there?

That was a nice memorial to your good friend.

threecollie said...

Great post...I think you thanked him just fine.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like Roy and I had a lot in common with our love of the country, fixin' things, and target practice! Jeff, you did a wonderful job writing a portrait of Roy. Very heart-warming, and what a way to be remembered. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

What a wonderful writer you are. The Timken family should be honored that you remember this man in such an extraordinary manner. I am so thankful that sister Kathy shared this blog with me. Bless you for sharing such wonderful memories. Kara (Ford) Phillips

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Anonymous said...

I'm very sorry for your loss. It is hard to see those who mean so much to us become frail and ill, much less pass away.

Take care.