Three Musketeers will ride again

Published 5:43 pm Tuesday, October 13, 2015

The two 14 year old boys were stretched out on the dock at Compass Lake looking up at the stars and the moon. The moon phase was “Waxing Crescent” or approximately 30 percent visible. Normally that would not be on the minds of two teenage boys, but this was not an ordinary night. It was June 20, 1969 and Neal Armstrong was walking on the moon.

Jimmy Hughes and I shared many special times. We never knew exactly when we met, only that we had always known each other. He was the best of childhood friends and though life ebbed and flowed, our friendship remained strong to the very end.

Jimmy was buried on a hillside in Montgomery on a beautiful fall afternoon this past Monday. He was surrounded by family and friends, all sharing the stories of what a kind, gentle soul he was.

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In the past eighteen months cancer has a claimed the lives of two of my best childhood friends. Keith Granger, Jimmy and I called ourselves the Three Musketeers. We rode our bikes all over town, and then out in the country where we would strip and swim in a creek. Keith was 60 when he passed away. Jimmy was 61.

Along with our other great friends, Buddy Henry, Philip Newman, Steve Smith and many more, we built forts above and below ground. We played baseball and football, cops and robbers and cowboys and Indians.

Jimmy and I shared many firsts together, some of which I can tell in public and some of which I can’t. We grew older, drifted apart, and were rejoined years later, all the memories of a great friendship still intact.

There was never a more loyal Alabama fan than Jimmy Hughes. As freshmen, we met during the halftime of the Alabama – Auburn game, with Alabama comfortably ahead. It turns out this was the famous “Punt, Bama, Punt” game where Auburn miraculously blocked two punts and an extra point to win 17-16. Needless to say, I couldn’t find Jimmy after the game.

Retired after a long career with the Postal Service, Jimmy’s memorial service was packed with dozens of former colleagues who all had wonderful things to say about him. I couldn’t help but think that Jimmy touched other people during every phase of his life.

God blessed Jimmy and me both with the opportunity to talk on the phone for an hour just days before his death. We talked about all that I have mentioned and more. He told me how much he had always loved his wife, his children, grandchildren, and even a great grandchild.  Family was everything to him.

We also had the opportunity to tell each other, once again, what we never said as boys growing up; that we loved each other. For that, I will always be grateful.

On Saturday afternoon, I was driving a back road to Cottonwood, to visit Jimmy’s mother and family. As I came around a curve, I saw a bald eagle in the road. It never moved and I had to come to a complete stop as it just looked at me.

If flew up to a nearby tree, and gazed down at me. I opened the window and took pictures of that majestic bird, just sitting there. As I opened the door, with my car in the middle of the road, the eagle spread its wings and soared above me before flying out of sight.

Like that Bald Eagle, Jimmy has soared to a beautiful place, where he is free of pain and suffering. He has joined our friend, Keith and I am comforted by the fact that one day, the Three Musketeers will reunite again.