Good Old Boys

I placed one hand over another. I looked like a moron. I should not have been climbing that wall. Boys like me didn’t rock climb things. Boys like me liked Moonpies and had kankles.

I had dinner with an old friend. I haven’t seen him in years. He looks different since he moved to Tennessee. He has a shaggy beard, lines around his eyes, a bigger waist, and three kids.

Here’s the kind of guy he is: Earlier today, he opened his front door to find me standing on his porch.

“Wow,” he said. “Do I look as old and ugly as you?”

“Yes.”

“Getting old sure stinks, don’t it?”

“Speak for yourself, I plan on using my AARP card to get free coffee at Waffle House.”

“Waffle House doesn’t accept AARP.”

Long ago, we were close. Back then, I needed a friend like him. I was a kid who had survived my late father’s mess, and I wasn’t exactly Mister Sunshine.

He was a good pal. And he was no stranger to the rain, either. His mother died when he was six, from similar circumstances. His kid brother was more like his son. We sort of leaned on each other.

I remember when he got a job at a sporting goods store. The store sold shotguns, ATV’s, crossbows, and for a few bucks you could get a fishing license. He loved this job because my friend is your all-American deer hunter.

This store also had a tall rock-climbing wall. He invited me to try it once, but I didn’t want to because I was fourteen, chubby, and I was no athlete.

I have always been the sort who spectates. Especially when it comes to sports. As a boy, I was a professional spectator. I spectated four or five times per day sometimes.

One time my friend brought me to the sporting goods store and brought me to the rock wall. He issued a dare.

Before I knew it, he had fitted me with a rappelling harness.

It is impossible for chubby boys to look dignified when wearing a harness secured to their pelvic regions.

“I don’t wanna do this,” I told him.

“I promise, you’ll enjoy it.”

“What if I fall and break my neck?”

“You won’t.”

“You don’t know that.”

“You’ll be fine.”

“How do you know?”

“Because you’re wearing a helmet.”

“You’d make a terrible trial attorney.”

At age fourteen, I was in a bad way. I both hated my late father, and I missed him. And worse, I felt guilty for having the two emotions at once. My friend was someone who understood this.

He secured the harness, cinched the rope, and told me to start climbing.

I placed one hand over another. I should not have been climbing that wall. Boys like me didn’t climb things. Boys like me ate Moonpies and had kankles.

When I ascended six feet, I slipped. I lost my grip, but I didn’t fall. The rope caught me.

“You’re doing good!” shouted my friend who was miles below, tugging the rope from which my life dangled. “Keep climbing!”

I used my scrawny muscles to take me higher. I ascended, little by little. I’m certain I looked ridiculous to people watching. And there were several watching.

The onlookers were local high-schoolers, most of them worked at the store and already knew how to climb rock walls.

There was Matthew—a young man built like Arnold Schwarzenegger, who lettered in three sports and knew how to talk to girls.

There was Rachel—a blonde Matthew often talked to.

There was Dillon—a fisherman, basketball player, Boy Scout, humanitarian, alpha male, and international supermodel.

And me. A little fat boy on a string.

“I can’t do it!” I shouted.

“Yes you can!”

“No I can’t!”

“You’re doing great!”

My arms and legs were Jello, and I hated myself for getting stuck on this medieval amusement device. My entire adolescent reputation hinged on whether I could make it to the top, and it wasn’t looking good.

I slipped again. I wanted to disappear.

“Don’t worry!” said my friend, “I’ve got you!”

Don’t worry? I looked like Baby Huey on the flying trapeze. Everyone would remember this embarrassing stunt forever. I would probably make the newspaper.

I finally reached the last rung. At the top was a brass bell. I rang the bell as hard as I could. I let go of the wall. I hung suspended in the air.

My friend lowered me to the bottom. When I arrived on the floor, my friend started applauding. Then, the whole store applauded me. Every single person clapped.

Me. The round child who’d hung from a string and rang a bell because someone told me I could.

“You did it,” my pal said, slapping me on the back. “I told you so.”

“I didn’t do anything,” I said. “I fell a bunch of times, it was only because of you that I made it.”

Well. Maybe I ought to finish the story right here.

24 comments

  1. Denise DeVries - March 30, 2019 11:12 am

    WOW. I don’t know anyone that hasn’t been there sometime. Self confidence isn’t’something we are born with. Self confidence sometimes needs a push to get going. God sends us a friend when the time is right to give us that nudge.

    Reply
  2. Leslie in NC - March 30, 2019 11:26 am

    This one will be of my favorites, Sean. You finished your story in just the right place.

    Reply
  3. Leslie in NC - March 30, 2019 11:29 am

    Meant to say “this will be one of my favorites…” Haven’t had my coffee yet.

    Reply
  4. Elizabeth - March 30, 2019 12:15 pm

    Wow! One of my favorites too! Fantastic !

    Reply
  5. chatfield84 - March 30, 2019 12:30 pm

    🙂 Yes sir. Yes sir…

    Reply
  6. Ger in Fl. - March 30, 2019 12:37 pm

    You kept losing the wall because you were being repelled. By that harness. Try the other kind next time. But no matter. You do good work.

    Reply
  7. Connie Havard Ryland - March 30, 2019 12:58 pm

    Love it. Sometimes our friends are what gets us through. Love and hugs.

    Reply
  8. Karen - March 30, 2019 1:11 pm

    I love that you had dinner with him so many years later. What a good friend he is to you, and you to him.

    Reply
  9. Pecos Kate - March 30, 2019 1:27 pm

    Great story.
    Great friend!!
    Thanks for sharing.

    Reply
  10. Phillip Saunders. - March 30, 2019 1:46 pm

    Thank the Lord for friends like yours. Most of us have them if we just realize that blessing. I know I do. My friends will stick by me no matter what, and vice versa. Our wives and one’s fiance sometimes don’t get it when we publicly insult one another in a good-natured way like you and your buddy on his front porch, but they are slowly coming around to the realization that if we didn’t love one another we wouldn’t poke so much fun. As Jackie Gleason used to say, “How sweet it is!”

    Reply
  11. Patricia Pope - March 30, 2019 2:22 pm

    A true psychologist you are, dear Sean! Thanks for embracing your apprentice years so well and now using it to help so many❤️

    Reply
  12. Carol Heidbreder - March 30, 2019 3:25 pm

    Beautiful! Isnt it great how God will give us who we need,,WHEN we need them? These are what we call blessings and we have so many of them along the way. Have people in my life too that literally saved me along my way. We pay this forward, and you do such an awesome job doing it!

    Reply
  13. Linda Moon - March 30, 2019 4:10 pm

    BABY HUEY!! Visualizing you as him on that wall was a good enough story for me. But then you finished that good-enough-story and wall-climbing …..simply because your friend “told you so”. Cartoons and Friends Who Wont’ Let You Give Up…what else do we really need?

    Reply
  14. Cathy Moss - March 30, 2019 4:28 pm

    Powerful message today. At almost 71yrs of age I am so aware of the importance of good friends. This last yr my family went through a herd time. I had a sick grand baby. He was born with Down’s syndrome. That was not a problem for us. He had a heart condition and that could be fixed with the help of great Drs. However, we were not prepared for the fluid condition that developed in and around his lungs. He fought hard. Two separate hospitizations . Six weeks each time. I love food but I lost my appetite. My husband is a strong man but he stood over that baby and cried on nearly every visit. There were two things that got us through that ordeal. God wrapped his arms around us and and we knew he was in charge. The second things was family and friends. They prayed and loved us all the way. We were climbing that rock wall and they were right there with us saying, you can do this. Then one fine day he began to get better. Even better the next day, then the next. Then they told us we were going to take him home . Our friends and family cheered and God smiled. As we speak, he is at the beach with his older brother and sister and his parents. His precious Mom sent me a picture of him sitting on the beach watching the gulf and the sky. Friends are important . Just as important as family. Thank you to each and everyone of mine. You know who you are💕🙏🏻😎

    Reply
  15. Jack Darnell - March 30, 2019 5:55 pm

    Well shake hands with a spectator. But I didn’t have someone saying you can make it. BUT my circumstances were much different. GOOD ON YOU!
    Shucks, one of these days you will even write something…………. (maybe) LOL!!!
    Good one!
    Sherry & jack!

    Reply
  16. Carol - March 30, 2019 7:31 pm

    YOU !! Did it. No doubt about it!!
    YOU!!
    Love Ya!!

    Reply
  17. Steve - March 30, 2019 11:34 pm

    Excellent

    Reply
  18. Judy Cobern - March 31, 2019 12:42 am

    Nooooo! There is a “rest of the story “!!!!

    Reply
  19. Courtney Roberts - March 31, 2019 3:21 am

    well said, my friend. well said!

    Reply
  20. Charaleen Wright - March 31, 2019 4:10 am

    Reply
  21. Steve Winfield - March 31, 2019 7:56 am

    We may never know..
    “The rest of the story”

    Reply
  22. Jon Dragonfly - March 31, 2019 3:13 pm

    ” it was only because of you that I made it.”
    For so many of us that is so true… and on so many levels.

    Reply
  23. Shelton A. - April 1, 2019 3:04 pm

    Sean…you’ve climbed up and over many walls in your lifetime. Hug Jamie today to prove it. Look at your list of books written and sold as well as your new novel. I could keep going (all the people who read these words and those words to follow, for instance) but I don’t need to do so.

    Reply
  24. Kay Keel - April 4, 2019 3:41 pm

    Everyone needs that ‘encourager’ friend. And how great is it, that even all those years later he was able to open his door and say that to you and you weren’t offended?! Friendships that weather time and distance, sometimes lots of both are very rare.

    Reply

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