|That's me and my dog Scooter and various other family|
members. That's Gary directly behind me.
The groundwork for our admiration of Gary was laid at an early age, when Gary would tell us bedtime stories. Gary has a brilliant and creative mind, so his bedtime stories were crafted with thoughtful moments of realism that seemed to bring them to life. There we would all be, in Gary's story, hiking through the woods on some generic pursuit, pausing by a little stream to sit down and eat, almost always bringing forth a snack of cheddar cheese and crackers. In Gary's story, you could actually taste the food.
One cold morning, Gary and I were in his Dodge Dart, for some reason heading out East 80 to get Aunt Addie and Uncle Joe and bring them to church. I noticed a fly on the dashboard, and pointed it out to Gary. "Watch this," he said. Gary reached out, and to my amazement picked up the fly with his fingers. Rolling down the window, he tossed the fly out. "How did you do that???," I exclaimed. Gary explained that the fly's metabolism slowed down due to the cold, so it could not react in time to fly away.
Some of Gary's scientific explanations were a little too complex for me, which sometimes resulted in confusion. For instance, there was at some point a discussion about the Earth's atmosphere freezing. I don't know what the actual context of that was, but for about four years after that I imagined a horrific scenario in which we were all attempting to make our way through layers and layers of thin ice.
Gary also indicated that sound waves continued on forever as they moved through the atmosphere. In my memory, he seemed to have suggested that perhaps the voice of George Washington was still out there somewhere, possibly trapped under a rock.
I lifted many rocks in the days and weeks following that, looking for old George.
Elsewhere on this blog, I've mentioned Gary's incredible ability to hypnotize chickens, and his life-changing discovery that I needed glasses. Those two stories are wonderful examples of Gary's contributions to my quality of life.
But perhaps the greatest lesson I learned from Gary was in the frequently overlooked realm of bathroom etiquette. It was Gary who took the time to point out to me that a gentleman, after visiting the facilities for the purpose of Number 1, always takes a little piece of tissue paper and goes around the rim of the toilet.
And it was even Gary who took on the herculean task of The Talk. Or perhaps, I should say, The Read. One Saturday, when I was about 10, Gary and his wife brought down a couple of little thin books designed to explain the birds and bees to children. I, after reading one of the books, was so amazed that I exclaimed, a little bit too exuberantly, "SO THAT'S HOW IT'S DONE!"
One of those moments in time that is still recalled by many family members.
I would not have gone to college if not for Gary. My sister and I lived with Gary and his wife for two years while we went to Westark Junior College in Fort Smith. We honestly could not have gone if not for this tremendous act of generosity.
And so, today, Gary is still my source of knowledge. He has fulfilled the Big Brother job description extremely well, and there is no one else on earth I'd rather be mistaken for.