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Thoughts from the Lower 40: Last Call
In May 15 Issue
Russell County News
By Wade Daffron, Columnist

I had one of those moments the other day when I felt every possible emotion all at once.

I knew something was wrong when my wife cautiously approached me, and seemed hesitant to tell me something.

"What is it?" I asked.

"Well...," she said, "Did you know M.R died?"

My ears popped, whistled, and I went blank for a few second.

I felt sick at my stomach, and my temples and chest were pounding.

"You mean M.R. Holt?" I asked.

She shook her head.

I immediately fled to another room, slammed the door, and collapsed in a heap on the bed-sobbing to no one in particular.

I emerged a few minutes later, not wanting to talk about it.

And then I thought...

"What Would M.R. Do?"

Well, pardner, "pop a top," and let's get this party started.

I am proud to say M.R. Holt was my friend.

I had heard of him pretty much all my life, but didn't meet him until the 1980s

Actually, I used to think he was Hank Williams, Jr., because he looked just like him

Never could figure out why I was always seeing Bocephus running around Russell County, though.

At one time, we were pretty tight. (Me and M.R., not me and Bocephus.)

We were always inseparable at fair time.

It was not uncommon to see us buzzing around (read into that what you will) on his golf cart responding to fair-related emergencies, both real and perceived.

Lights out in the grove?

"10-4, I'm on my way."

Electrical problem in the Jaycee Meeting Room?

"Be right there."

Child with a broken leg needs a ride from the front gate?

"Let me clear away some of this junk and we'll pick them up."

Somebody stuck in the mud in the back lot?

Wait...that was us.

Anyway, some of my best memories (and legendary tales), involve M.R. Holt.

Many times while covering the fair for the newspaper, I would manage to lose my camera, camera bag, car keys, car, shoes, pants, dignity, etc.

M.R. would always show up at my door with the missing items.

"You need this?" he would cackle.

Oh, that cackle.

Actually, there was cackle, then the "tap"-where he would tap you on your arm with the back of his hand-trying to emphasize a point.

He had lots of endearing mannerisms.

When in disbelief, he would shuffle his cap around on his head.

When in deep thought, he would hoist his hands on his hips.

I think he was the originator of "Talk to the Hand," because I saw him do that years ago-especially if someone was trying to give him a load of bull.

"No, no, now wait, wait, wait," he would say-extending his hand outward toward the source of foolishness.

Man, you know, it was just always FUN around M.R.

My older kids grew up hearing me tell stories that I heard from M.R.

There was always some "Me and (insert name here) were out one time..." tales which ended in hilarity, misfortune, or mischief.

(The "Bad Chili Dog" is one of my personal favorites.)

I heard M.R. Holt once dispense the most logical, practical, and truthful advise ever about women, but I apologize for not relating it here because it can only be passed from man-to-man, mouth to ear.

It's probably no secret I thought of M.R. as a "father"-especially after mine passed away.

I spend countless hours sitting on his couch, on his porch, or just riding around with him-talking, crying, griping, complaining, but invariably feeling better after spending time with him.

If he didn't hear from me for a while, he would call and say something like, "Well, pardner, it's good to see you haven't dropped off the face of the earth."

I always had to watch what I said around him.

I remember one time I said something about a tree at the house I needed cut down.

The next morning I awoke to find him walking around the tree, looking, measuring, cussing.

"We've got to get this tree down before it falls on your house," he said, dialing his cell phone to get someone there to do the job.

M.R. would do anything for anybody, and there is no way I can recall of the acts of generosity I've seen him perform-with nothing expected I return.

He certainly thought of others more than himself.

One of the people he admired the most was his son, Tommy.

I so longed for a father/son relationship like M.R. and Tommy had.

M.R. was talking one day about how proud he was of Tommy, (he pretty gosh-darned fond of his grandson, J.T., too.), and I said,  "I don't think my dad's ever been proud of me."

"Whoa, wait, negative (M.R. often talked in police radio lingo)" he said, with a "Talk to the Hand" gesture. "Just because you didn't hear him say it doesn't mean that's not how he felt."


But there was no doubt how M.R. felt about his friends and loved ones.

I think he had that "---- eating grin" on his face as he looked down at the funeral home the other night.

There was Tommy out front, greeting people and thanking them as they arrived, there was friends and family, sharing laughs and tears inside.

I kept hearing the phrase "Remember when..." over and over.

And that night, I had a dream.

I know this is going to sound like something made up, but it really happened.

I dreamed I was standing in his living room, looked over, and saw him sitting there in typical, M.R. regalia-shorts, and some kind of flowing, button-up shirt.

"What are you doing here?" I asked.

"What are YOU doing here," he asked. "This is my house!"

And he cackled.

I started to say, "But you're...

"Well, DUH!" he said. (He said that a lot.)

"Hey pardner, I'm always going to be around," he said.

And you know what?

He always will be.

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