Gene and Paul were best friends. Gene lived with his wife, Janey, across the road from me and Paul lived in a clapboard house back off of Beaver Dam Rd. about 2 miles away.  They were both notorious for their drinking, they both loved to party and people frequented their homes.

 

In 2010 Gene became my ranch hand. He drank a 5th of Jack Daniels a day but who was I to say he couldn’t drive my tractor. He was as capable and reliable a man as I’d ever met. He called me boss lady and swore he’d stand in front of a bullet for me. Id kind of believed him. Gene was, a rare man in this world, he was a man of his word.

There was a brief interlude when Gene decided to give up drinking. He started attending the church of his oldest son, a fire and brimstone Baptist preacher and virulently opposed to alcohol. Gene pasted a bumper sticker on his battered red mini truck that said, “Prepare to Meet Thy Maker.”

Shortly afterwards, in May of 2011, Paul’s was killed when his clapboard house caught fire and burned to the ground.

Paul’s death sent a shock through the neighborhood, but was particularly hard for Gene. Afterwards I sensed that a bitterness had crept into Gene’s otherwise jovial disposition. He gave up church with derision and changed his bumper sticker back out to: “Hold my Deer while I Shoot that Beer”

Gene died at the age of 72 on Oct 9, 2013, two weeks before I left Mississippi.