My Pal, Billy

15 02 2015

My thought was you just couldn’t help but like this guy. He had an easy smile, overly friendly approach with every individual he met, and an answer or opinion on any topic under the sun. Now if you’re an up and coming candidate for political office, Billy & Johnnythese are certainly positive attributes that one should possess, but when you’re a pint-sized, blond-haired six year old, I imagine to some he could be a little overwhelming. But that was my pal Billy, you never needed to guess what was on his mind, it was out there for the world to see; and no matter what, you might as well go ahead and like him because he was going to like you!

I believe that was the cement that bonded a friendship starting back in 1960 and kept us close the majority of our childhood. Here I was an insecure and confused youngster straight off the bus from southern West Virginia trying not to draw much attention as I started the first day of school in my new hometown of Fremont, Ohio, and there was Billy, the human illustration of where the idea for the energizer bunny came from; a boy who was about as subtle as firecracker in a can of pork n beans, standing in front of me saying, “Hey, you’re new, great, we’re friends now, let’s go play!” So I followed this blond bomber that day, and the next, and a good many days over the next ten years.

It didn’t take long to realize my pal Billy wasn’t exactly like other kids our age. Generally, on a Saturday morning back in the 60s you’d find youngsters watching cartoons, sledding in the winter, playing baseball in the summer, riding bicycles or playing games with friends. My pal Billy, he’d be putting his energy into projects like tearing into an old outboard motor his neighbor threw away to see if he could get it running, working down in the basement with a soldering gun on experiments like trying to wire the entire house into one little on/off switch without burning it down or having his mom find out. Then there was the fun stuff like making homemade parachutes and jumping out his 2nd story bedroom window and shooting model rockets off in his backyard. Some after launching were never found, but I remember one individual reporting in the paper of a UFO that went over his house. And since the statute of limitations ran out years ago, there’s also the time a neighbor reported to the police someone shot a paper mache missile through their backdoor screen which landed in the middle of the dining room table! As mentioned, when other kids were sledding and biking, my pal Billy was coming up with something more original, like snurfing. The snurfer was the forerunner to snowboarding except smaller with no bindings. Had they had an Olympic event for this suicide board as I called it, I believe Billy would have been a medal contender, he could do maneuvers on one of those boards like no one else. And of course anyone who knew Billy back in the early days knew he was a marvel on that one-wheel mechanism called the unicycle. There was a time I was convinced he was trying to end our friendship by killing me off as he attempted to teach me to ride this leftover from a bicycle demolition derby! But, that was my pal Billy; if it was something no one else was doing, he was all over it, not only learning but excelling.

One of the most amazing qualities about Bill was his instinctive ability to comprehend almost anything by simply watching, studying, and then doing. This uncanny capability was far and above any instructions learned by book or formal education; it was something instinctively ingrained in him and I confess it often left this man more than a little jealous, but still completely in awe of his special gift.

These are traits about the boy I called my pal Billy that really anybody who knew him when we were kids could attest to. But there was something that made our relationship one that no one else shared. Because of my childhood circumstances, Billy became more than my pal, in certain ways he was my ear when I needed to talk and, yes, even a teacher to me. There were no male role models who filled that void in my life; many things other boys were learning from their fathers were foreign to me. Billy went the extra mile, on many occasions, to explain and teach me skills no one else would, including how to ride a bike, then a year later that blasted unicycle! To some I imagine an admission of these shortcomings would be embarrassing, but to me it’s not an embarrassment, but rather a proclamation of not only the friendship, but the heart that was given to me by a very special person God placed in my life when I needed that person most–my pal Billy.

C.S. Lewis said it best;” Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art… It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things that give value to survival.”

As the years passed, our lives took different paths; I left Ohio and seldom saw my childhood friend again. On occasion when I returned home I would meet someone who would give me an update on my pal Billy and his many adventures as he, what I refer to as, Traveled the Rock Road of life. And with each success and triumph I heard of, my response was always the same, “I’m not surprised in the least,” there was just too much God given ability in him not to have successes. But I believe the report that brought the biggest smile to my face was hearing of his love and commitment to his wife and family; my pal Billy had grown into Bill, man of honor. Awesome!!

On the evening of Thursday, Feb. 5th, while holding my new granddaughter, I received this message; “A new angel is in Heaven.” My pal Billy was gone, too soon. Looking down at the little angel asleep in my arms my thoughts were, a new life begins on earth; a new life begins in Heaven. I know and believe this because as boys we attended St. John’s Lutheran Church and learned this eternal, valuable life-giving lesson:

John 3:16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

I look forward to the day I join my pal Billy and so many others that have gone on to Heaven, and as I pondered this thought a smile came to my face, and I imagined a conversation with a certain blond haired human replication of the energizer bunny, that a person just couldn’t help but like the moment you met him, that would go something like this; “Hey, you’re new here, great! Come on, I’ve got awesome things to show you!” My response, “Great, I’m right with you Billy, just so long as it isn’t a blasted unicycle!!!”

Blessings to each and every one of you.




2 responses

18 02 2015
LInda Shields

Wow, great words and all well deserved. Thanks for being there John. Sorry the weather had different ideas for us as I would have loved to see you and Kathy. My mom and sister were impressed with your words – now I can understand why – Thanks for the memories!! Linda Shields

18 02 2015

Blessings Hello Cowgirl!
It would have been great to see you also but I understand; what usually takes us 3 hours to drive to Fremont from our home in Indiana was every bit 4 ½ on Saturday.
Glad we made it for the memorial service, but it was much harder emotionally than I realized it was going to be. Lots of memories flooded this old brain just being there at St. John’s for the 1st time since we were kids.
I gave your little sister something for you and your partner in crime, back in the day, Margaret that I hope you enjoy. Seemed the four of us had a special connection for a while as youngsters and I just wanted you two to have something from me that says, “Thank you for being a part of a very special memory.”
Take care, dear friend,
Blessings to you and your loved ones.

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