Where have all my old friends and mentors gone? Immortality came home to me recently on hearing the death of Lucille Weber. Lucille has to have been the last survivor of my preceding generation. She was a friend and neighbor in the rural community where I grew up south of McCook. Lucille's youngest daughter Jean was a grade school classmate and we graduated from high school in the Class of 1955 before going our separate ways.
In my youth the neighboring farms consisted of a quarter section or two if they were irrigated and maybe as much as a whole section if it were a dryland operation.
Fewer acres per farm equated to many more farm families living and working the soil than is the practice today. I can still drive through the old community and recite the names of the farmers whose homes and out buildings have vanished without a trace.
Farmsteads occupied by Toole Vontz, Albert Coburn, Charlie Evans, Jake Huff, Hinnie Kisker, Walt Weber, brothers Blaine, Cassie and Ernie Dutton, bachelors Joe and John Crocker, and their married brother Lew, who had a large family, homesteads all vanished without a trace. Many more of the homes occupied by other long gone neighbors still exist today but are now occupied by families who live there but work in town and have no real farm connection.
Our neighborhood was loosely tied together with associations formed around kids in District 8 School. Actually it was named Fitch School but seldom called by that appellation and is now closed. Other ties came through church affiliations, ladies extension clubs, couples that played cards together in the winter months and just plain friendships. Those friends and neighbors kept casual track of each other and lent a helping hand when the need arose.
I remember at least two occasions when a farmer died and we neighbors all gathered to harvest the standing crops for the widow. Those "harvest bees" were all gratis; each brought their own equipment and furnished their own fuel. Their wives came together, brought food from home, and prepared a noon meal. Everybody stopped work to eat together, visit and then back to the field to work until the task was done. That is just what neighbors did.
The days of the connected caring neighborhood of my youth are perhaps long gone. I'm sure that today's neighborhoods have a different dynamic but perhaps not nearly so close and personal as before. Such is life and too late we realize that our own days are numbered. I'm ready. I've made my pact with the Lord and am ready to go but I'm in no hurry!
Fellow columnist Mike Hendricks hit the nail on the head. I quote from his latest piece: "I promised myself early in my life that when I laid down to take my last breath, I wanted to face death with the knowledge that I had done everything I could do to enjoy and experience life and all it has to offer. I wanted to take chances, live on the edge, and do things that others were afraid to do. I've done that to some extent but there's still a lot of things I need to do to fulfill the promise I made to myself a long time ago."
I'm wondering if all those departed neighborhood friends had fulfilled their one life's goals before they heard the welcome words from our Lord, "Well done good and faithful servant. Enter thou into the gates of heaven." Is it even possible or are we always left wanting more?
Ann and I too have a few remaining items to add to our own "buckets." In all honesty our lives have been truly blessed for which we will be eternally grateful! Hopefully I will be able to continue to write this column and share with you dear reader our quest to fill our "buckets" of life's precious experiences.
That is how I saw it.