Life is like a carousel. You choose who you want to ride along with, be it spouse or friends, and once and a while, they get off the ride.
I've known many characters in my life, some for only one day, some for several years, and still others for a lifetime. There was something about each of them that made a lasting impression.
Allen O., a brilliant man and talented musician, taught music at a small school. He was an outdoor enthusiast and survivalist. On one occasion, he was canoeing. His canoe sprang a leak. After paddling to shore, he bailed water, used the sap of a tree, and sealed the leak. He returned to the creek, continuing his journey.
Ann M. and son Mark moved through my life briefly. She was 6 feet tall, blonde, and beautiful enough to model. She taught at the high school level and coached. Her dedication to her family and job made her an outstanding role model for students. Her son Mark wanted to become a great basketball player. From an early age, he shot 1,000 free throws almost daily. He achieved his goal during high school.
Mark owned and operated a successful logging company later in his life.
We met Kavanaugh B. and friends at a cross country ATV race. He was southern to the core. Southern honey oozed from his drawl. The Confederate flag was displayed on everything, their truck, trailer, and motorcycles. He called us Yankees every chance he got. We hung out with them for the day, laughing, joking, and talking. Haven't seen them since. But, my what a great time!
Jeffrey led an unconventional life. He really didn't care what others thought either. Once after a misunderstanding with his wife, he spent a few days camped in the back of his pickup under a camper shell. His only companion was a stinking, rank smelly goat.
Jeffrey offered to come along with us to a race to help as a mechanic.
As my husband made lap after lap during a cross country race, the sun got warmer and Jeff sleepier. Eventually, he nodded off and didn't wake up until the race was over. Not much help from our self-appointed mechanic.
Karen S. was my very best friend throughout high school. We cheered at games, hung out together, and were inseparable. She came from a large, friendly farm family. It was wonderful to stay over at their house. They never minded adding another plate to the table. Homemade pizza was the house specialty. Haven't tasted a better pizza since those times. She's been gone for over 40 years.
Cindy B. taught P.E. at school. She was the golf pros' wife. They lived in the house provided for them at the golf course. It was an older cottage in need of some updating. One day she was alone with her baby daughter. She had told her husband that she'd seen a rat in the house. I don't remember that he did anything about it. The day arrived when she saw the rat crawling across her floor. She got a pistol, aimed, shot, and killed the unwanted rodent.
On a trip down south, my husband wanted to add another turkey call to his collection. He had the phone number for Winkie Hicks, a well known call maker. He met us at a mom and pop gas station. We spent a good hour visiting with this talented, good ole southern gentleman. He explained where he got the wood for the calls and how he made them.
The last thing he did for Andy before we left was to autograph my husband's new call. I still have that one in a box at home.
George G. was called the volks man. He was an intelligent, think-outside-the-box kind of guy, and well versed in many areas. We went on a skiing trip to Michigan with him and his two daughters. We discovered he was an accomplished skier and had spent some time as a ski patrol member. George's family didn't have a lot of money. That did not deter him from seeking out numerous adventures in life.
During this trip, the three of them slept in a truck camper in sleeping bags. I imagined it to be like sleeping in a freezer. The temperature was near 20 degrees. It did not seem to bother any of them. Last I heard, he lived in South America.
Joe and Jan C. were two of my favorite high school teachers. Jan taught art. As I remember she wore slide on shoes (mules) or those with comfortable soles. She shuffled around the room giving a suggestion here, a comment there. Any art done in her class was not to be criticized. Her accepting manner encouraged creativity. Joe's classes were lively and full of discussions. I learned to debate in his class. After tests, you could change your score by proving that your answer was acceptable too.
Joe wandered off on tangents occasionally. These were great opportunities to listen and learn about life. My favorite story went something like this. Joe was rowing a pregnant Jan across a lake. The oars became compromised and so did Joe. According to him, Jan jumped in the water and towed him and the boat to shore. I can still picture myself sitting in class laughing with everyone as he told this story.
During her career as an educator, Mrs. K was a teacher, assistant principal, and principal. She appeared to view the world through rose-colored glasses. Her personality reminded me of a glass of bubbly, fizzy champagne. In the 1980's, a group of teachers accompanied students to Michigan to ski. She was one of the oldest adults to take part in the trip. Bundled up and looking much like a Michelin tire lady, she approached learning to ski as a personal challenge. During the couple of days we were there, she conquered the bunny slopes and moved on to the intermediate. As a group of us sat in the lodge, we saw Mrs. K start down the slope, snow plowing side to side. She quickly lost control and fell into a heap. Two ski patrol members came to her assistance. After many, many attempts, they finally got her upright on her skis. After returning to the lodge area, she told us that each time they tried to help her, she began laughing so hard that she fell back in the snow. She just laid there and wallowed around unable to help them help her. What a gal.
I've always been a close observer of people. It has proved to be a most interesting past time.
Tawni is a former teacher who lives in Linton and she can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org .