When I started thinking about this issue of my blog, it didn’t occur to me that I’m talking about Cousin Eddie during the Holiday season. I actually have a Cousin Eddie and he is nothing like the Cousin Eddie in the Christmas Vacation movie. Clark Griswald’s Cousin Eddie is a bit of redneck stereotype. My cousin is a red-head but not really a redneck; that would be my cousin who won’t be named’s paramour. I don’t know if she and this dude are married but he is a Cousin Eddie of the National Lampoon nature. Maybe stories about that at a later date. In this installment, there will be no talking about “the crapper’s full” (quote edited for family consumption).
Last weekend, we laid to rest my cousin Eddie. He and I had just reconnected had shared a few laughs and some fun times in the past we had gotten away with. He was only 66 and had been at one time been in the throes of addiction but had gotten clean and was living the life he had envisioned for himself: reconnected with family, watching sports, going to NASCAR races and even getting out to hunt a little bit. He still had a few things on his plate that we wanted clear up but then don’t we all? Then, cancer. He was a good guy and I’ll miss him.
He was going by his first name, Melvin, when he passed. Most of his life he went by his middle name. I, too, go by my middle name. So, we kind of shared that. Eddie had been a really good athlete in high school and kept himself in pretty good shape over the years and was known for his bright red hair. He started using the name Melvin because he wanted a change in life.
In small towns, like where Eddie and I grew up, living down your past is difficult. You’re known by your transgressions and indiscretions unless you are one the lucky few that come from some privilege that no matter how bad your behavior, you get a pass on vile actions. Our family didn’t get a pass. Eddie wasn’t bad. Not at all. He had some demons that he had overcome and was doing well but still people remember more of your mistakes than victories. Eddie over came addiction. That’s huge and I celebrate that with and for him. He lost it all and gained most of it back; mostly, he gained back his peace of mind and his dignity. He found God or maybe God finally got through to him. Eddie was a red head so could be stubborn.
Here's one of my favorite stories involving Eddie other than a few times at concerts where we may have over indulged. The names are the same and I hope the statute of limitations are over. We had fun. This story involves hunting. There is your trigger warning.
As I said, Eddie had been a good athlete and stayed pretty muscled up. That’s the basis for this tale. We were hunting in West Virginia (my home state) at our camp on the West Virginia border. It was getting late and darkness was descending. My uncle had shot a deer and we were trying to track it in the dimming light. We found it. It was not dead and it was pissed off. When we crested the rise, the deer was there and stood up. This wasn’t a huge deer but not a fawn. It was staring us down and in an attack pose; head down, legs spread, ears back. It was ready to fight. Did I mention that Eddie was linebacker in high school? He was. And was good at it. He could hit and hit hard. That’s when I decided it might be time to mess with my cousin knowing full well that my idea would end in injury and me probably getting my ass kicked by Eddie once it was said and done.
Eddie had an ego, we all do. While this deer is giving us the evil eye and snorting, I said to Eddie, “that isn’t a very big deer, I think you can take it down”. We didn’t have gun. We had two flashlights and one Buck folding knife that really needed a good sharpening. Eddie wasn’t sure about my idea. I was sure. This deer was going to tear him up. I have no idea why this prank came to my mind but it did and I laid in on the convincing.
“Come on…you were a hell of a football player. Wasn’t that long ago”. It had been a long time ago. “Ok, take my light and give me your knife”. I really didn’t think he’d do it. Eddie was a good dude but maybe not that bright on that particular day.
I could here the rest of hunting crew catching up with us; my dad, Uncle Bob; who had shot the deer (he rarely didn’t take a deer with more than one shot), and Eddie’s brother-in-law Gary. They topped the knoll and saw the deer, Eddie, and I in a stand off with this injured and angry buck. They saw Eddie take my Buck knife and get into position; hunkered down and ready to strike. Then, all of sudden…..BLAM…a shot rings out that deer drops. Bob took the open shot before Eddie could show the deer what he was made of. That was the end of my big prank. Eddie was saved from injury and humiliation. Bob got himself a decent buck, and we had a good story to tell.
I think Eddie was disappointed that he didn’t get to go Tarzan on the deer. He was actually getting ready to put the knife in his own teeth. It would have been glorious. And possibly gory. Eddie…I think you could have done it. You were my big cousin and I thought you were awesome and I will truly miss you. God Speed, my friend. I’m glad you were part of my life and that we had a few good visits before you were taken away from us.
Not a picture of this encounter but pretty close