Stephanie Pearce: Happy trails to an old friend
July 26, 2015
An old cowboy friend of mine went to live in that pasture in the sky recently. I wasn't a close family friend, but I did consider the man my friend. I taught some of his grandkids in elementary school, although I didn't even know that when we first struck up a friendship. I didn't know much about the man at all at first, I just saw his kind heart.
When Ray would walk in the store where I worked, his crooked smile would light up the store and his eyes would shine. He looked a little worn and ragged, but you didn't notice that for long because he would strike up a conversation and I was drawn by his caring nature. He came in at least weekly and would buy the cashiers sodas. He just wanted a friend and to bend their ear for a while.
The first time he was waiting for me outside my place of employment and asked me to go to lunch, I wasn't sure what to say. He saw the look on my face and said "Oh, little girl, don't take this the wrong way, I just want some good company for lunch. I'll meet you wherever you want to go." So, I did meet him. He actually invited another of his old friends and the three of us had a wonderful time while we ate.
I learned a lot about him. I saw more of his sense of humor and more of his caring nature. He went on and on about his kids and grandkids. That's when I realized I had taught a couple of them. He filled me in on where they were now and how proud he was of them. He also spoke of how much he missed his late wife. He said he hadn't been the best father or husband, but he knew how important family was.
One time, my fellow cashiers and I noticed we hadn't seen Ray in a while. Upon investigation, we found out he was in the hospital. We got together and bought him a card and a gift card, since he came in so often. When we gave it to him, he actually cried. He said he was so appreciative of our friendship.
Another time, we had a huge sale at the store and Ray came in to check it out. A child had found a toy that was in the wrong area and thought the toy should be much less. The child was going to pay for the toy himself. When we rang up the sale, it was much more than the child had. The mother was upset but told the child she couldn't afford to help him pay for it and he had to put it back. The child didn't argue or throw a fit, but you could see the disappointment all over him. Ray walked up and told the boy that anyone who minds his mother so well without complaining deserves to get what he wanted. Ray paid for the toy. He did things like that probably more than he should have, but it's what makes me so proud to call him my friend.
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I didn't make it to Ray's service; I didn't see his obituary in time. I don't know how he lived his life outside of what I knew. It doesn't matter because he was special to me. I just thought that the world should enjoy and know the Ray Earle that I knew. We'll miss your smile and giving heart, Ray.