Days gone by: I Think It Was My Friends

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, October 12, 2005

As is usually the case, I sat down here tonight to write a column with no idea atall what might come out. My eyes fell on an audio tape entitled, “A conversation with Pete Barkley…2001.” I recorded that talking with my old friend, and story teller, Pete, not long before he passed away from here. Remember, he was the fellow who reminded me that Mr. McClinton’s barber board was green back yonder in the 40s and 50s.

First thing I heard when I stuck it in the old combination radio, record player and tape player went like this:

“Well now, Pete, of all the things you recollect about coming up in Linden, what are your favorite memories?”

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“Well, Tom,” Pete muse, “that’s a hard on.” (pause) “I think it was my friends. Everybody I knew back then.”

No doubt in my mind. Being a friend is what folks who knew Alton (Pete) Barkley remember about him.

I figure you figured I’d run a photograph of my main buddy, Moose, with this column, but I’ll let my pictures of Melvin (Moose) cool a while from being shown so many times. Y’all know what I feel for Moose.

Naw, I came up with a picture of Joe Watts and my daddy, after they’d had a pretty fair afternoon of bass fishing. Not many better ways to cultivate a friendship than going fishing together.

Now, the other picture is oldie taken down at our Presbyterian Church in Linden Town. There stands Joe Camp Jr. and Drenna Owensby sitting down in front of Joe. Those chullun were always favorites of mine, but even more, their families and the Boggs bunch gee hawed mighty well.

Ol’ Jack Crocker came in to see me the other day, along with his daughter, Rita, who came along on account of Jack can’t see anymore. He still looks like a tough ol’ Thomaston Tiger to me, and he had me to understand he still had his cows. I remember how fond Daddy was of Jack when Jack was a deputy there at the courthouse, and I ain’t never met a Crocker I didn’t like.

Got to thinking just them ’bout generations of buddies, and I conjured up in my mind the friendship of T.M. Culpepper Sr. and Bill Traeger Sr. many a day ago, which was followed up by Little T.M. and Billy Jr. being raised together in Demopolis, and still being those same sidekicks after all the years. Shucks, there’s even a Tom Culpepper III and a Billy Traeger III, both being born and bred ’round the two rivers.

Got to pondering on the telephone ringing at our house on Christmas morning way back in those days. Ma would answer ’cause on the other end she knew it would be her childhood best buddy, Elizabeth Bradford Mashburn, calling to say, “Merry Christmas, Lifelong.” My grandma and Ms. Betty Bradford were lifelongs, and Melanie Mashburn Hale is the lifelong of my brother, Billy, and me.

I reckon if you reach out to hold onto anything in this world, ‘sides the Lord Himself, it just natural born ought to be a friend, and you know what, that best buddy don’t necessarily have to be living close to you, or be calling you up all the time. You just know. Like when I called my cousin and buddy, Fab Little Wallace, the other day when the big wind hit out there in Houston, Texas where she is. Just like we were taking up from a conversation we could have been conducting in 1956 standing there in the road between our two houses.

Yep, Pete. I think it would have to be our friends.