Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Pepaw in the Coke Bottle Game

My Pepaw was one of my heroes. He was, in my opinion, the most brilliant, intriguing, consistent and joyful man I've ever had the pleasure of knowing. Let me tell you a bit about him because he's long gone + it's cathartic for me.

Born an only child to Cranton and Ruth Dye he was orphaned at the age of 12 when his mother passed due to complications from diabetes + his father sent him off to live with his aunt Lottie Maupin in Ohio. He grew up happy and well adjusted average build thin frame red curly hair and freckle faced. Pepaw received an engineering degree from Texas A+M in record time and later served time in the Navy during WWII (or was it the other way around?). No one know really knows too much about his NAVY stint, he didn't really share that part of his story to anyone who would carry it on. He had a passion for music which lead him to play the saxophone, clarinet and other instruments. Interestingly enough I played the clarinet for 6 years because Pepaw did and the only thing that made me last that long was my mother forbidding me to quit. As a pubescent teen I loathed it as an adult I'm glad she pushed me to do it, it built character in me and now i tap my right foot to find the tempo to most music.

The basement of his house was a playground for us kids growing up. Drinking ice cold Cokes and Vernors from the wet bar shot glasses as we pretended to be singing waitresses doubling as the talent. Performing for our patrons was a our duty. He had all sorts of music equipment and old polka, big band with a little Dolly Parton thrown in for good measure. I recall pleading with him to set up the microphones like everyday and he always complied. We learned how to sing  holler and perform for an audience shouting out 'Jolene' + 'Traveling Man' while he indulged us by documenting with his video recorder. Those times were good and dancing to the polka while standing on Pepaw's feet are some of my fondest childhood memories. 

Television was his profession, during the early years he engineering and oversaw the building of radio satellite towers. He worked with celebrities like Rosemary Clooney, Sheri Lewis and others. Pepaw brewed his own beer and wine for gracious sake storing it in the cellar and gifting it to family in friends. Apparently the man lived for his fermentation as I understand it although he had long given it up by the time I was on the scene. Ever the interesting type being a HAM radio operator  f o r e v e r  and insanely social worked for him. The guy never met a stranger and I can recall envying the confidence he carried when interacting with people. His smile + laughter + easy going 'life is good' approach to living were contagious to me. It's my goal in life to be  just like him. He didn't like for anyone to be in a sour mood. If you should be in such a place in his presence well, he'd gently help you shake it off with goof and laughter.

Incredibly crafty he was skilled in carpentry, could engineer, build and fix a n y t h i n g and did branding it with his signature 'R.K.DYE'. Which brings me to my point in writing.

Should it be going on during our stay, the Ohio State Fair was the place to go whenever we were visiting Pepaw and Memaw. There was a particular game that we'd practice at home in preparation for the Fair. The Coke bottle lift. Pepaw built a prototype and he'd mastered it. I enjoyed attempting it but never could get it right. Once we hit the fair it was game over. Pepaw would kill it e v e r y t i m e winning us the coveted BIG prize.

Ever since he passed I've held onto my memories of him close to my heart. the Coke bottle being one of them. It seems silly but every State Fair I've ever attended since I look for the Coke Bottle game never finding it. That was until Friday at the Texas State Fair. Making our way towards the exit at the Texas State Fair my eyes fell upon a tent housing a game no one seemed interested in. I couldn't figure out what it was at first glance but upon closer inspection my heart leaped within my chest. The Coke Bottle game!! 'Heyyy Becky Jo come on let's play' I could hear him say. I did. I felt all kinds of nostalgia and homesick. I still played terribly, didn't win anything, something's never change, but in my heart walking away I felt I'd won. Such sweet satisfaction in finding a lost old friend who reminded me of favored years gone by.

I miss you Pepaw. Thank you for your influence in my life. I can still hear the sound of your voice in my mind 'Becky Jo!' and feel your love in my heart. I speak of you often and remember you always. Whenever I make a new friend and strike up a conversation with a stranger or eat a Wendy's Jr. bacon cheeseburger and dip my fries in the frosty, you are with me. thanks for meeting me at the Fair.

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