By ice rivers
I was playing the ninth hole at the Canandaigua Veteran's Hospital golf course, when my brother Deke approached. I got a bad feeling as Deke got closer and closer. When Deke got to the green, he told me that our great friend John McCormick had been killed in a car crash the night before.
We always kinda knew that something like this might happen because John always lived on the edge. He loved taking risks in whatever he was doing. John regularly terrified his wife Nancy on trips to Roseland where he and Bruce would change rocko planes in mid-air while they twirled at high speed. The risk was not only mortal but also immortal. If either of their timing was slightly off, they would soar off to their death and land, broken, probably somewhere near the Skyliner. It would make headlines that would go something like this "two morons kill themselves trying to change planes at Roseland." Their stupidity would last forever.
They did this stunt three summers in a row. Each time, they were kicked out of the Park for life.
I witnessed the third switch. I was standing next to Nancy when Bruce and John boarded the planes. Before boarding both John and Bruce promised Nancy that they wouldn't attempt the switch. I think the promise was sincere but it changed when the two of em got into the air. They did it again. Not only was Nancy furious when they landed and when we were all kicked out but also she was pregnant. She informed John of that fact on the spot. John said he would never do anything as stupid as the switch again. He was gonna be a Dad and he wanted to be a good one.
John calmed down quite a bit after that. He remained a stalwart at the Bagman Ball. He loved him some beer and some Waylon Jennings. John was a guy you could count on when things got tricky. He'd always lend a hand or cover a back. John was known as a guy who could do anything. He could weld for God sake. More than anything else, John loved his son Matt.
So as Deke and I came to grips with the news of his death we were more saddened than stunned. What else could we do but shrug our shoulders and turn our palms to the sky. John had been Deke's great friend first. Deke introduced John to both me and Bruce. Deke was rhe hub of this wheel.
Funny thing is John had been sober the night he died. He had cut down on his drinking nearly to the point of zero. He was riding shotgun when his brother in law skidded into a telephone pole. The pole put an end to John.
What had God wrought?
Five years later, I was down at the lake visiting Deke. Deke told me to "get in the car we're going for a ride." He stopped at the corner store and picked up a 40 ounce Budweiser. The purchase surprised me because Deke rarely drank beer.
"Where we headed, Deke?"
" You'll see. I do this every year. It's amazing."
Deke has seen a lot of amazing things in his time so he isn't easily amazed.
After a twenty minute drive through the countryside. Deke pulled into a graveyard
I followed until we reached John's grave.
"There he is. Now watch this."
Deke poured the Budweiser on the dry dirt over John's grave. A few seconds later the dirt was Sahara dry again, the beer completely absorbed.
"That happens every time. I figure John's a little thirsty."
We walked back through the graveyard into the car. We drove back to the lake trading legendary stories about John. How much we missed him. How much we loved him.
We played some Waylon Jennings on the ride home.