John Newman

My hero just rode off without me.

Today, on the last Saturday of March, one of those rare sunny and cool Oklahoma mornings, my hero quietly disappeared into the great beyond. Think of it as his ultimate flight … his greatest road trip.

John “Pappy” Newman was a man’s man. By “man’s man,” I mean he was as bold, and strong and adventurous as he was gentle and kind. It was easy to overlook his faults. Even easier to be his friend.

Pappy packed two lifetimes into one. I think that’s what happens when someone gets shot down—let alone twice—trying to evacuate and save comrades under fire in the hell that was the Vietnam War.

In a few days time, many beautiful words will pour out and cascade over his final resting place. This steady stream of memories will surely turn into a torrent … just like the flash floods up in Black Mesa.

Adventurous boy. Brave sailor and pilot. Loving husband and father. Hard worker. Ingenious mechanic. Hunting partner. Tireless farmer. Animal lover. Respectful caretaker. Selfless volunteer. Favorite friend.

And like a pinch of salt added to a perfect meal, these sweet and true words will be flavored with the most colorful (albeit, highly inappropriate) comments and quips only Pappy could get away with.

Never one to mince words or vacillate on what to do next, Pappy had one speed: living on the edge. He held that speed until 9 o’clock this morning when he glided peacefully up, up, and away.

Pappy was—and is—my hero for many reasons. To keep it “short, sweet, and full of meat,” as he was known to do, I can best chalk up the uniqueness of his character and qualities this way: Pappy lived.

Deliberately. Simply. Unapologetically.

Do you ever remember him not smiling? Not making you laugh? Not making you feel right at home?

Always quick to act and slow to bitch, Pappy got things done and left everything around him better.

He could take a city slicker like me and teach me how to do something without making me feel like a worthless idiot. He made me appreciate the little things … free things … things that don’t last forever.

Like riding a motorcycle without killing yourself or someone else. Like using a tool so you can teach someone else how to use it, too. Like making a feast for others with whatever’s still left in the icebox.

Most of all, I look at the sky more. I stop what I’m doing when I see a wild animal. I thank a farmer when I meet one. I enjoy getting my hands and boots dirty. I laugh at the absurdity that is modern life.

I am 50 now. I’ll say it again: I want to be John Newman when I grow up. I want to stop wasting time on things that don’t matter and those people who don’t give a damn about the world around them.

I love you Pappy. I always will. Have fun and ride safe. Until I see you again out on the edge.

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