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Joe and Steve

June 8, 2012

During the middle of my week in Pittsburg, I reconnected with two friends I’ve known since

the ’70’s.  Joe and Steve are like brothers to me.  There was no way I was going to be in

Pittsburg and not seek them out.


I met Joe in 1975.  My son Chris and I had just moved into the United Ministries in Higher

Education building near the Pittsburg State campus.  Joe lived in a tiny apartment across

the alley.  A bunch of the UMHE crowd went swimming at a old coal mining pit, and I was

drawn to his humour.  He did a hilarious falsetto cover of “Barbara Ann”.


A few nights later he crossed the alley to visit.  I was cleaning a room and found a pamphlet

explaining the Methodist perception of masturbation.  If it had been an educational film, it

would have been in grainy black and white, and narrated by some guy in a turtleneck shirt.

Joe and I started reading and rifting on it.  We’ve been fast friends since.


He’s the funniest person I’ve ever known.  He’s also an accomplished musician.  He was the

most versatile performer in the shows we did for fund-raisers at UMHE.  We went to count-

less movies together, so we figured that would be a good way to reunite.  Chris, his younger

son Keith and I met Joe at THE mall for a matinee of The Avengers.  Besides the film itself

being a lot of fun, it felt great to slip back into simpler times.


I spent several hours at Joe’s home the next day.  His family owns a huge corner lot in a

tiny town near Pittsburg.  Joe has turned it into a park and bird sanctuary.  He told me a

charming story about Twitch, a baby mockingbird he found after a storm.  Twitch’s nest

had been destroyed, his parents weren’t around, and he was near death.  Joe sustained

him with sugar water until he could find some mealworms.


Soon the featherless, stumbling chick was healthy and jumping all over Joe’s room.  When

it was time for Twitch to face a larger world, Joe built a station in a low limb near the house.

Twitch would fly from there to Joe’s head or arms when Joe called.  Eventually, of course,

he left the nest.


I left Joe in the golden Kansas afternoon with a promise to see him Saturday night.  (More on

that next week.)  It was time to find Steve.


Joe and I found common ground in comedy.  Steve and I bonded because of tragedy.  We met

at a softball practice shagging flies. Through subtle references, we disclosed to each other that

we were Vietnam veterans.  It wasn’t cool to openly mention it in the ’70’s.


We’d both been in the Marine Corps, though at different times.  Steve, as a grunt (rifleman), saw

a lot more action than I did.  But we had many similar experiences, especially that particular

piece of hell called boot camp.  And we’d both had a rough re-entry returning from ‘nam.


Steve is a first-rate contractor, a very tough man.  He was compromised at this time, however,

due to some serious injuries.  Six months ago he fell and severely screwed up his left arm.  He

showed me a photo of an X-ray of it.  It now has a long titanium rod with four huge bolts in it.

Then a few months after that, he fell again playing one-armed basketball, severely screwing up

several ribs.


He had a photo of that, too.  Seriously, folks, it looked like his side had been painted with deep

purple paint.  We had a few beers and I took my leave before he got injured again.  I was afraid

that, with his luck, I might get hurt, too.  And I didn’t think my Canadian Care Card would cover

me in Kansas.



MONDAY: Joplin and Sean’s graduation






  1. Judy Walters Bay permalink
    June 8, 2012 11:11 pm

    In case some of you other readers don’t know, Joe was like our very own John Belushi.

    Allen would bring a garbage bag to that pit, and we would pick up other people’s trash, along with our own.

    On another note, I was a bit surprised to learn recently that my younger son has fond memories of UMHE, He was just a kid at the time, and it’s hard to tell with kids sometimes, ya know.

    • June 9, 2012 10:56 am

      That doesn’t surprise me, Hudi. Our kids were a vital part of the community’s activities. I remember Theresa being in several shows, and I think Bob and Brian were in the “Sheriff Shelby” bit.

  2. June 9, 2012 12:29 am

    Maybe sometime soon I’ll think of something appropriate to say… but right now all I can think of is…
    I love you brother, and all of the friends I made in P’Burg in the mid 70’s!!
    Here are some links to some old pics your readers might like:

    • June 9, 2012 10:54 am

      Thanks so much for sharing these, Joe. Was that a simpler time or what? I love you, too.

  3. Hudi permalink
    June 9, 2012 10:05 pm

    That barbershop routine was one of the best! Another was the Emily Littela bit Susan did, that was on SNL a few days later (something hitting the fan?) “Neeverr mind!”

    • June 10, 2012 9:11 am

      Close. Emily/Susan was confused about endangered feces. Theresa was in the “Sheriff Shelby” and “Star Warts” bits.

  4. Hudi permalink
    June 10, 2012 9:32 pm

    It was Tree who alerted me to the obit notice about Mary Elwood, and knew whom I was talking about when I said I saw Essie in Walmart. And she told me she saw Ina in a store a couple months ago. (I expected she’d get Terry as a nickname, but “Tree”:?)

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