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High on the mountain curves of The Blue Ridge Parkway
both of our left rear dual wheel tires blew out
with a shotgun blast.
Our big motor home lurched and swayed,
and our equipment trailer tried to pull us over the cliff.
A Seven-Up bottle had ripped the tires apart,
and I fought the heaving monster
to the shoulder of the two-lane road,
where it shivered and died.
Misty and I were in shock.
Our traveling companion, Pat Patrick, showed no emotion.
We couldn’t raise any help on our CB radio,
and nobody had cell phones then.
It was early gray winter
and the bare trees were black lace against the sky.
We were stranded in a Currier and Ives Christmas card.
Pat said calmly:
“I can fix it.”
I thought I deserved a good panic first
but he left the bus and got the tools from the trunk.
We followed, still in a daze.
He assessed the situation,
examined the guilty pop bottle as evidence,
and then he slid under the crippled dinosaur.
Misty said, “You really shouldn’t be under there.”
Pat said, “Hand me the jack, please.”
The jack looked small and wobbly,
as Pat pumped it up.
There was a little glaze of ice on the asphalt.
The jack slipped and the big rig dropped
to within a half inch of his face.
He didn’t blink or utter a sound.
He scraped off a patch of ice
and tried again.
When we were moving down the road a few minutes later,
I looked over at him and said, “Thanks, Pat!”
From the co-pilot seat
he looked ahead through the windshield and said,
Pat Patrick and I were friends for a while,
but, being me, I wanted to be friends for life.
Being Pat, he was basically a loner.
He was a former Green Beret
and an intellectual with strong opinions.
I made him laugh a lot with my smart alec comments,
and I liked that he got the jokes,
but we also got into philosophical debates,
followed by quiet spells,
while each of us thought the other just didn’t get it.
I’m never nervous on stage,
but I’m always a mess just before going on.
Pat and I would play chess right up to the minute they called me.
He always won,
but it stopped my pre-stage fright.
We were sort of a three-piece family...Misty, Pat, and me,
and like a family we occasionally did something
that hurt or annoyed another.
Misty lets you know loud and clear when you’re out of line,
my style is to sting back with quiet words,
but Pat never reacted at all.
All these years later
I realize he was letting it build up inside.
When the negativity reached a certain level
he just faded out of our life.
He was the guy who carried our heavy sound equipment,
scared reluctant show promoters into handing over our money,
and shared adventures with us all over America,
but we never knew where he lived.
He didn’t believe in having a telephone
because they were “an invasion of privacy”.
He used pay phones.
I missed having Pat around
and tried to find him for a long time.
I finally heard that he owned a little antique store
called “The Rusty Duck”.
I went to see him
and at first we didn’t recognize each other.
I looked pretty much the same,
but Pat had had a stroke,
and was shaky and white haired.
We traded cordial small talk for a few minutes,
and held back decades of words.
Recently I heard that Pat Patrick had died.
I keep thinking about the years of friendship we lost
and wondering why.
Copyright © May 28, 2004 Jack Blanchard. All rights reserved.
Reprinted by permission.