The guy was a force of nature. Cliff called him "the Wild Man". I once wrote a song about him entitled "The Black Sheep of the Family".
"He's the black sheep of the family, don't try to understand him,
Cause nothin' he has ever done makes any sense at all.
He's living for the moment, taking anything life hands him,
But the black sheep of the family will have himself a ball."
He disappeared from the face of the earth for a couple of years around 1980. Nobody, not even his parents or kids, knew where he was. Don followed his impulses and made no plans for the future, for most of his life.
I'm not sure how many times he was married, but only two of his marriages stand out in my mind. There's Beverly, who presented us with three wonderful nephews back in the '60's and '70's. Their children were about the same age as ours, so you can imagine the memories I have of the kids playing together at different ages.
And then there is Mary, the one who has stayed at his side faithfully for the past weeks in the hospital.
Don was a "loose cannon", and throughout our lives, we never saw him concerned with taking care of his responsibilities until he met Mary. With her help, he built a successful business where he was mechanic for most of the local farmers in his part of Kansas, doing all the repairs on their tractors and trucks. He usually had a backlog of projects waiting on him.
One time we moved up to Coffey, Missouri, thinking we could be farmers. You can imagine how that turned out. We never even got started farming, but after nine months, we tucked our tails and headed back "home", and that's when we landed in Wellington. When we sold our twenty acres at Oak Grove and moved to Coffey, Don had a job driving a Bunny Bread truck. He came out with the company truck and we loaded everything we owned on that truck. Don filled out some kind of fake log, just in case someone stopped him. So the move up there was done in one trip, except for the cows... I don't remember how we moved the cows. Anyhow, nine months later Don was out of work (it had nothing to do with his using that truck to move us), and when he found out we were moving again, he showed up in the driveway to help us... in an old, junkie car that was barely running. But by george, he was there to help. Cliff says that's one thing of which he was always certain: He could be anywhere in the country and give Don a call, and Don would show up.
Mechanic Don came to our rescue with a temporary repair, but told Cliff to be sure and get that problem fixed after we got back home.
I know this is getting too long, but I have to mention this: Don was impulsive, restless, always on the move and in a hurry. So if he was doing a family member the favor of working on their car, he might have trouble with something connecting or fitting and he would just do a shortcut. These improvisations sometimes came back to haunt the owner of said car. So while we loved his eagerness to help us out for no charge, we also crossed our fingers and said a little prayer. I coined a phrase, "the Donald factor", which will remain forever in the family lore.
Just before Don took sick, he came for a visit and, while he was here, replaced a rear axle bearing on our Mercury. Cliff paid him $60 for the part, and the problem was solved. A couple of weeks ago the axle bearing on the other side needed replacement. Cliff paid a local mechanic to fix it, at a cost of $500.
Rest in peace, Don.
|He was trying to build a hot-rod. It didn't pan out.|