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When you can call someone 'friend'

Apr 15, 2012 - By Randy Tucker

Thankfully, my working career has required me to wear a suit and tie only on occasion.

While I wore a tie every day I taught American History, the suit jacket was reserved only for varsity basketball coaching.

I follow a little tradition at funerals. At the conclusion of the service I always place the funeral program in the inside pocket of my suit jacket.

The programs sometimes stay in the pocket for years. The record was seven programs stuffed inside.

There are two programs currently residing in my latest sports jacket. Both of these programs are just simple reminders of two unique men that I called "friend." The first was Ricky Gaines of Saratoga, an energetic, intelligent and creative 34-year old friend of my son-in-law Adam. Ricky epitomized the love of the outdoors, and his untimely demise was tragic.

The second is the Chauncey McMillan, the father of my best friend Tad. Chauncey passed last week doing what he loved on his farm in Powell. He was found protected by his two championship border collies on the step of his home. He, too, was an amazing man who raised a family and made a difference in his community and in the lives of those he touched.

I often use the line from the movie "The Outlaw Josey Wales" to describe my respect for the recently departed. In the most poignant scene of the film, the hard-boiled Wales, played by Clint Eastwood, expresses a quiet eulogy for his fallen teenage friend: "his boy was brought up in a time of blood and dying and never questioned a bit of it. He never turned his back on his folks or his kind. I rode with him... and I got no complaints.

"I rode with him ... and I got no complaints."

My friend Steve tells me I use the line too much, and he is correct, but it expresses the sentiment better than anything else I've discovered.

We are born into families, but we get to choose our friends.

True friends are a measure of your worth in the world.

The people attending Ricky's funeral in Laramie made me feel a bit old. Vibrant, young outdoorsmen, river guides and 30-somethings abounded. They reflected the friend they just lost.

The people at the Methodist Church in Powell reflected Chauncey just as well. I didn't feel so old with the many aged, white-haired farmers that filled the sanctuary.

Chauncey's friends were people of the land, wind and sunswept, almost reflecting the earth itself.

One of the many funny things about getting older is that you value your friendships more each year.

We all make friends to a greater or lesser extent, often depending on our own personalities, but no matter how much you claim to be a hermit, you still need your friends.

Living in a small state lends itself to relying on people. Certifications, pomp and attitude quickly fade in our uniquely challenging environment.

We live in a wonderful place where our doctor, dentist, lawyer and many of the local merchants are all our friends.

I recall my mom telling me when I was a child about friends and acquaintances. She reflected on circles of friendship, how we have hundreds of acquaintances, dozens of casual friends, maybe 10 good friends but only a handful of true friends. Some of us are lucky enough to marry one of them.

It seems that friendships made in your late teens and early 20s last a lifetime. Whether they're made in military service or while away at the university, these friendships bond people together forever.

The word or opinion of a true friend holds more iron than all the legal commitments an army of attorneys could generate.

A friend's advice is more valuable than all the experts combined as well.

Ask for an opinion in a friend's area of expertise, and the answer is something you can depend on.

People desperately seeking our trust rarely achieve it. Demanding commitment from others while providing none yourself is an anathema to the soul.

Friends are the exception. They give and get your respect with such ease that neither of you are aware it is happening.

We all prefer the friend who comes in when the rest of the world runs away.

A favorite quote on friendship is a bit twisted but true on many levels: "A friend will help you move, but a good friend will help you move a body."

Fighting similar demons, watching your children grow and prosper, and just walking the same path all create bonds of friendship that only omnipotence could break.

1970s musician Andrew Gold, in his top 40 hit "Thank You For Being a Friend" stated the sentiment well:

"...And when we both get older. With walking canes and hair of gray. Have no fear, even though it's hard to hear. I will stand real close and say, Thank you for being a friend"

Take the time to say thank you to your circle of true friends.

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