Tom Eckhardt. Laid to rest many years too soon. At 44 he only had two years seniority on me. A hard working guy who would give you the shirt off his back if you needed it. He wasn't one to turn down a cup of coffee either. Morning, noon or night, if you offered, he would drink one. He could barbecue like nobody's business. Give that man the golden spatula! He was my newborn daughters' surrogate father while I was overseas in the Navy. He was a tremendous help to my wife while I was gone. He learned some of his first Daddy skills from helping with my daughter. Consequently the two of them had a special relationship. She was his other daughter, and he was her other Dad.
A funny story to share -
One evening he and I went to Jack-in-the-Box to pick up some dinner for both our families. He was still driving Grandpa B's fliver (the old white 3-on-the-tree El Camino). He had the back loaded up with juniper branches for a run to the dumps the next day. We left J-i-t-B and drove behind the gas station next door. He slowed down a bit and handed me a little bag to toss in the dumpster behind the gas station as we drove by.
Continuing on home, about a mile and a half down the road, we get pulled over. We didn't know why. He wasn't speeding, hadn't ran any red lights or anything of the sort. The officers ask us to step out of the vehicle. We're both fairly confused at this point. He implies that we were looking to dump the juniper bushes somewhere. That's what we were doing behind the gas station. Scoping out the dumpster, looking to illegally dump our trash. (Maybe the little lunch bag I tossed out could be considered "illegal dumping" since it was not my dumpster.) Tom explained that was not what we were doing and that he had plans to go to the dump the next day. The officer informed him that he only had a driver side external rear-view mirror. This was inadequate for "hauling" but since the bushes were not blocking the field of vision of the interior rear-view mirror he would allow the hauling to proceed (gee, thanks).
At some point at the beginning of that discussion the second officer asked for and was given Tom's permission to search the vehicle. While Tom was being grilled about his nefarious Jack-in-the-Box activity the officer doing the search shouts, "We've got a gun!"
I believe it was at this point that I became acutely aware of the contents of my bladder. I'm envisioning an overnight stay with Bubba and the boys in the holding tank. I'm not sure I have ever been so angry (at Tom for having a gun in his car), frustrated (at the police for the ridiculousness of the dumping allegation), and scared at the same time. The officer was digging behind the bench seat to retrieve the weapon. He held it up gently between his thumb and forefinger just like they do on TV when they find evidence.....and began laughing.
It was a silver, ivory handled revolver. I couldn't imagine why he thought it was so funny or why Tom had it in his car. I'm going to jail on weapons charges and he's getting a a good laugh out of it! I also noticed that Tom was laughing.
"Great, the cops and Tom are having a good ol' time at my expense."
Tom looked at me while laughing. He could probably tell that the blood was draining from my head as I was nearing vertical unconsciousness.
"It's Bobby's squirt gun!" he says with a big grin. Fortunately, I had enough instantaneous relief as the bloodflow returned to my head, that I could laugh at the situation as well.
We'll miss you Uncle Tom.