Friends (2)

This is another short article I found among a box of old writings and felt it was worth sharing. There was no date associated with the pages so I have no idea when it was written. Current author’s notes are in italics.

You’ll have the opportunity to cultivate many friendships during your life on earth. Some of these friendships last a lifetime, while others will last only for a season. Friends are among the most treasured possessions a person can have. I’ve found two reliable tests of friendship. One is time, the other is difficulty. Neither test is one you can administer or orchestrate. They just happen.
The best way to have good friends is to be a good friend. You can’t win somebody’s friendship by trying to win their friendship, but you will find that certain people respond when you are a friend to them.

How do you become a good friend? I have always held transparency in high esteem. A person who is transparent hides nothing from those with whom he feels comfortable. It’s not that you bare your life to someone without cause. It’s just that when a person shows signs of honorably wanting to get to know you, you let them. The real you, not who you wish you were, or who you want them to think you are. Think about how you want to be accepted and accept your potential friends the same way. When they tell you something that’s a deep, dark, secret, you’re not shocked and you don’t start judging them. If they ask you how you feel about it, tell them simply and honestly without condemning them.

As a friend, you need to be willing to help someone, even when it’s not convenient You need to support them in the things they are trying to accomplish to better themselves. Simply withhold approval on those things you feel are not right.

Friendship takes on many forms and degrees. For example, you may have friends because of a common interest. When I was young and spent a lot of time hunting, fishing, and camping, there was a group of friends with whom I frequently did these things. We trusted each other not to be careless with guns and to help you get unstuck if you drove off into mud that was too deep. We became close by sharing adventures and telling stories around campfires. If we were deep in the woods and somebody forgot something, we shared what we had. There was friendly competition about who would shoot the most dove or quail, or catch the most fish, or who could drive through muddy forest trails without getting stuck.

Then there was the group of guys with whom I started a band. We practiced together many nights, working on songs that were difficult and which we wanted to perform well. We learned to be patient with one another. We learned to anticipate each other’s actions in the music. We traveled together, playing at dances, some hundreds of miles from home. On the late night/early morning drives home we discussed what we had done wrong and what we had done right and how we would do it differently the next time. We shared successes and failures together.

Over time these types of relationships have developed around the show horse business, my involvement in aviation, and in the computer business. One thing that stands out in all of these situations is the amount of trust that true friends develop in each other. You had to. Sometimes, like on a hunting trip or when flying in combat or in bad weather, your life depends on the other fellow doing what he is supposed to do. Even in the other situations, like in the band or in business, it’s not necessarily your life that is on the line, but your success or failure in the endeavor. In these situations where trust is involved, it is not unusual for a deep, lasting friendship is to form that goes far beyond the common interest.

Because we all have limited time and energy, we have to make decisions about the friendships we cultivate. Often, we don’t do this consciously. Many friendships develop without any effort on our part They grow because two people, or a group of people, enjoy being together. Time together is like the glue that seals a friendship, especially in the early stages.

You don’t have to walk on eggshells with a friend. If you find that you are always doing the listening and the other person’s burdens are being “dumped” on you, and there is no reciprocation, it’s probably not friendship. It’s just a person who needs help and they are coming to you for it. If you help them, or if you don’t, when the crisis is over, there will be no lasting relationship. With a friend you share both the good and the bad and it’s a two-way street, each sharing with the other.

I learned back during my single days women sometimes need a man friend with whom they can be themselves. They need a friend they don’t have to put on makeup or do their hair up for, because they’re not trying to impress you or win your love. Sometimes, if you have a friend like this she will share the secrets of her heart with you, but she’s more likely to do that with her girlfriends. If she does share some of her innermost secrets with you, you really need to guard that friendship by not betraying her. Avoid too much affection with girls that are your friends. It can ruin a friendship. She doesn’t want that from you. The fact that she has opened up to you means she thinks she has a friend that can give her a man’s perspective on life, but who isn’t trying to “get in her pants”. You may have trouble with this, especially if you begin to get affectionate. She may want, or even need a hug, or even to be held. It won’t mean the same thing to her as it will to you, so you’ve just got to be careful. Sometimes one of these relationships will turn into a romance. If it does, it will probably be a good one. (My marriage, which at this point has lasted 46 years, began as just a friendship.)

Even though it takes time together to seal the initial stages of a friendship, lasting friendships will survive long periods of time apart. When you do get back together it will be interesting to discover the changes in each of your lives. When you can freely share these changes and find they have no effect on the depth of your friendship, then you know you have a valuable relationship


This is a story I wrote in 1992. I found it recently in an unfinished writing box stuffed away in my closet. I figured it was worth sharing.

I tested the waters of a relationship today. Found them cold. Might warm up, might freeze over. That’s something over which I have no control, but I hope they warm up. My mind compared it to a small lake. It’s a great place to swim, drift, enjoy the changes in current and often the quiet pools, still and peaceful. I like it especially when the sun is shining, warming the waters. Stepping back, I looked at the surface, now beginning to glaze over with ice. I thought of the reflections I’ve seen in the water’s surface and shuddered, thinking the chill might remain. My thoughts drifted to other friendships I hold dear.

My grandfather had many friends. He was “Pop” to me. I often rode with him through the backroads of the county we lived in. We’d stop and talk, visiting people on their front porches—people who rarely made it to town. Sometimes we walked or drove through a pasture looking at a herd of cows. My grandfather bought and sold cows, so his interest was always appreciated by a proud owner.

At times we would stop and pick muscadines or plums we found growing wild beside the road. At other times we talked beneath a pecan tree, cracking one pecan against another and picking out the meat of the pecan. I always made an effort to pick the meat out whole.

My grandfather taught me a lot about enjoying life. I have so many memories of my times with him. One stands out in particular because I don’t know how he knew what we would find. Behind the church is a cemetery. Behind that, in the woods, is an old slave cemetery with simple stone monuments, cracked and scarred from age and neglect. You have to pull away honeysuckle vines and Johnson grass to find many of them. You have to cross a fence to get there. There’s no gate. My grandfather took me one day, behind the main cemetery, through the slave cemetery, into the woods. He led me through the trees where we eased up quietly to the edge of a clearing. There, in the side of a clay bank, was the opening of a small cave. Sitting in its doorway was a mother fox. Five or six fox kittens played in the sand in front of the cave under their mother’s watchful eyes.

He bought me a horse when I was six. Said a boy shouldn’t be without a horse. My older cousins already had their horses. Pop died the year I graduated from high school. Just a year earlier we had ridden horses together, a day long ride with my cousins. We carved our initials on the branch of a sweet gum tree on the bank of Burney Branch, just beyond the cotton field in the branch bottom. The date was October 19, 1965. Many times since I’ve looked for that tree, but I’ve not been able to find it.

We rambled a lot, driving all over the county in Pop’s Plymouth. In the early days my grandmother was invited to go with us. A few times she did. She was a wonderful lady, but when she went with us the roads were always too rough. I’d never noticed before. She was certain the car was going to break down leaving us stranded on the back side of nowhere. Her eyes were always on the sky. If it was cloudy, we were going to get rain, which she declared we surely didn’t need. If the sky was clear and blue, we were in for a long dry spell that was sure to ruin the crops. She never wanted to stop and visit. A waste of time. She needed to be home getting dinner. If we drove the car in a pasture, as we often did, she was sure we would run over a stump in the grass and bust an oil pan or something. I now understand why Pop stopped inviting her.

We were buddies, Pop and me. He’s been gone many years and I still miss him. I decided when he died, I would know the back roads as he did. I got a county map at the courthouse and started marking off roads as I explored them. First, I rode my motorcycle, then, later, the Ford pickup I had rebuilt from the ground up. By the time I left home to join the Army only half the roads were marked.

Pop took me to visit a widow woman who had two grown sons, twins in their fifties. They took us out back of the house to an old chicken barn. Inside were maybe a dozen of the most beautiful automobiles I have ever seen, all built in the 20s or 30s, all immaculately restored. It took me twenty years to find that place again and when I did the barn was gone. Some of the cars had burned, others had been given to a museum.

Pop instilled in me a dream. A quiet, well-maintained homestead in the country. A tree-lined driveway. A porch. Shade trees. An anvil on a stump under a shade tree. A barn. A shed for a truck and tractor. Enough animals that no matter how rough times got, you could always eat. A garden with enough vegetables to share. His pastures were always mowed and the brush trimmed away from the fences. The ponds were always stocked so the children could fish. The woods were full of game, the land posted against trespassers. Family had free access for hunting and fishing.

Saturdays were always special. During the week we worked hard, often from dawn to dusk. When it rained, we rested. Come Saturday, all work stopped around noon. The afternoon was spent cleaning up and resting. If you needed something from town, you got it on Saturday afternoon. The town square was the place to meet friends from other parts of the county and catch up on news. Saturday nights we had a cookout, usually two or more families together. Sometimes it was fish caught from the pond, other times it was hot dogs and hamburgers. The kids played, while the adults sat and visited, often over cards or scrabble. It seems we only watched TV on rainy days, Sunday nights and the rest of the week while waiting for supper to be served.

Sunday mornings we all went to church. We wore our Sunday best, watched our language and did our best to make our parents proud of us. Sunday afternoons were filled with horseback rides, baseball games, a swim in the creek or a ramble in the woods.

Without friends none of this stuff makes much difference. With friends, you take the time to enjoy the quiet moments of life. Those same friends stand by you when life is not so quiet.

I have heard it said much of life is making memories. I once caught a seven-and-a-half-pound bass. I was by myself. It doesn’t mean nearly as much as the six-pounder I caught when I was with a friend. I have few solitary memories. Whenever I see or experience something that causes me pleasure, supports my dream or causes me to grow, my first thought is to share it with a friend. Stay tuned for more on friends.