“It was just an old plywood boat, ’75 Johnson with an electric choke.” Drive, by Alan Jackson.
Alan Jackson’s album Drive was released in 2002. The instant I heard the actual song “Drive”, I had a flashback to – as Alan sings – “a piece of my childhood that will never be forgotten.” My mind was flooded with memories with Alan’s simple sentence, “Just an old plywood boat, ’75 Johnson with an electric choke.” I was suddenly on the lake at Lake Jackson; and though the boat was fiberglass not plywood, I am certain the motor was a Johnson. To this day, when I hear Alan Jackson sing the song “Drive”, I am reminded of our friend, Tom, his family and the times our families spent together.
Shortly after the song was released, I found a card I wanted to send Tom. I wanted to write him and let him know how much I appreciated his involvement in our life, when we were kids. Mr Eason, as I called him when I was kid, taught me how to ride a bike. He tried to teach me how to water ski. He tried to teach me how to water ski, again. And, again, he tried to teach me how to water ski. Once, while he was teaching me, I actually got up! According to those riding in the boat, my facial expression was one of shock, my hands let go as if unsure what would happen next and I fell. And with that – Mr. Eason was done. (I don’t blame him, either. I finally learned how to ski when I was 28 yrs old. I married that ski (and wake board) teacher.)
Our families met each other through church. The neatest part about the beginning of the friendship was the fact that it started through our Dads. I don’t know what brought my Dad and Mr. Eason together, but they became the best of friends. Because I was just a kid, around 7 yrs old, I don’t have a clear picture of the kinds of things my Dad did with Mr. Eason; however, I know my Dad and Tom were partners in some sort of renovation or fix-it-up business. The name of the business was WEAVA, which stood for Whitmer – Eason – Vaux.
Apparently, having done work for many families within our church, the reputation of WEAVA preceded the partners. One weekend, during a church retreat, our families (minus the Dads) volunteered to put on a skit. I remember my role in the skit, along side Mr. Eason’s youngest daughter, was to perform the following cheer:
WEAVA! WEAVA! Rah! Rah! Rah!
Fix your problems? HA! HA! HA!
Suffice it to say, though my Dad and Tom were serious about the renovations, they were also serious about having fun. Did I mention my Dad drank? No. I didn’t, but he did. I don’t mean my Dad mentioned it, I mean my Dad drank. He doesn’t drink anymore, because he died in 1994, but that’s not important right now.
My Dad loved canned beer. I am embarrassed to say, my Dad was a fan of Old Milwaukee and Milwaukee’s Best. (Say it with me now, “Bless his heart.”) I haven’t a clue how the tradition started, perhaps ‘an empty’ was merely left behind by mistake – whatever it was that started it, my Dad and Tom always hid a smashed beer can within any and every renovation project. It was their trademark (perhaps unbeknownst to those that hired the men).
Before I started high school, Tom’s family relocated to Mississippi. We didn’t see the family as often, though trips were taken on occasion. We visited Tom when he opened a fish fry place, and we got together for weddings, etc. When my Dad died in 1994, Tom and his family came to Atlanta, and Tom gave the eulogy for my Dad. Shortly after my Dad died (I think), Tom built a new home for himself and his family in Mississippi. In honor of my Dad (and their business together), Tom included a smashed beer can hidden in the frame of the front door at the threshold.
As I mentioned earlier, our friendship with the Easons started through church. What I didn’t mention was the fact that my Dad didn’t attend church on a regular basis, and he sat in the congregation on a less regular basis. If my Dad was at church on a Sunday, you’d typically find him in the kitchen cleaning. One Sunday, when the Easons were visiting us from Mississippi, we were all sitting in the congregation during the church service. (My Dad was there, too. You know, we had company n’ all.) When our minister asked the congregation if there were any visitors joining us today, Tom stood up and introduced my Dad. The entire congregation broke out in laughter. Yep. Tom and Joe. Best buds.
My Dad meant a great deal to Tom, and Tom meant a great deal to my Dad. Tom also meant a great deal to us. Well, Tom still means a great deal to us. Tom was our second Dad. He’s not our second Dad now, because our Dad died. But, I already told you that part. I guess you could say Tom is our Dad now. (Are you keeping up with me?) Sadly, we don’t see Tom or his family much these days. The last time I saw Tom was in September 2001, on my way back from picking up Rob in New Orleans. (Rob was stranded in Houston on 9/11/01. He rented a car and drove from Houston to New Orleans, and I drove from outside Atlanta to New Orleans to bring him home.)
During our visit with Tom, he showed me where he hid the beer can within the threshold. And, he took me (and Rob) for a ride on his boat. “Just an old plywood boat with a ’75 Johnson and an electric choke.”
Thank you for the memories, Tom. We love you!
5 thoughts on “Dear Tom”
I know your dad shaped you as did Tom, and their relationship together. What a saint in a boat to teach you to water ski.
I can relate with feelings for “Doc” a neighbor of my parents I wrote about last summer.
Tom taught me how to ride a bike and how to ski. Fine, I never learned to ski – but I did learn to ride the bike. (smile)
He’s a great man, and he and my Dad were the best of friends.
Thank you, Patti. I appreciate you going back and reading this piece.