Thursday, October 16, 2008

The Lesson of the Busted Concrete

George Jones entered eternity late last week. (not the Silver Fox of country music fame who sang "He Stopped Lovin' Her Today"...I'm thinking of a much more significant George Jones)

George's son Barry was a year ahead of me in high school and we also went to UF together. Last I knew, Barry was in Birmingham as an engineer of some sort. George's beloved wife Lil worked with my mother for some years.

Mr. George was a very pleasant & very funny guy. All of us friends of Barry's enjoyed hanging around George. I remember a classic line of his from years ago. It was homecoming @ UF (this was back when they were still a terrible football team), and Mr. George had come down for the game. Naturally, a huge party @ mine & Barry's fraternity house was part of the weekend. (George was part of that same fraternity back in his day at MSU) Fairly early in the evening, Mr. Jones pulled Barry & me & a couple other guys aside & gave us this sage advice: "Fellows, I've been looking, and have noticed that there's quite a nice herd of ladies running around here. I believe if I were a young single man like you guys, I could cut me one out of that herd!" I still chuckle at that line today.

Mr. Jones ran a construction business in Ft. Walton Beach. Which is neither here nor there, except for the huge impact that particular business had on me. As many of you know, my UF academic record was...not awesome. *clears throat nervously* Such that I had to lay out of the Spring quarter of my freshman year. I recall Mom telling me that she had talked to George & that he had a job for me. This remains one of the most important jobs I ever had. My job was to clean up all of the junk around where they were building things and haul said junk off to the junkyard. You know all the cool construction jobs that involve hammers & toolbelts &, well, actual skill? This wasn't one of those.

You know the big tubs of liquid cement that they hoist up to upper levels of buildings? Yeah, well, that gets jostled & spilled a pretty good bit. You know what happens to cement after it's poured out? It gets hard. Still with me? Good, because here's where I started my construction career. My very first construction task was to take a sledge hammer & bust up a rather large slab of spilled & hardened concrete, toss the chunks into the back of the truck, & haul 'em off. Did I mention that it's usually quite warm in the Spring in NW FL? Especially on construction sites when one is a sledge-hammer-swinging laborer?

So, why is this such an important job? Because rather early in the morning on my very first day of construction work, I concluded that maybe going to class & studying aren't so bad after all! I will always be convinced that Mr. Jones selected this particular task on purpose on my first day to teach me this particular lesson. And I will always be grateful for the lesson of the busted up concrete. Years later after my stuff was rather more together, I told Mr. Jones about that particular lesson & asked if he did that on purpose. He just smiled that great smile of his and patted me on the shoulder.

I like to think that before dementia took his mind, George Jones became proud of who I became, and recognized that he had more than a little bit to do with that. I'll always cherish that thought too.

Thanks for everything Mr. Jones! Especially the lesson of the busted concrete! You made a huge difference in the life of a young clueless 18-year-old. RIP, my friend & fraternity brother. See you on the other side...

With love and fond memories and much appreciation,

p.s. - please join me in praying for Mrs. Lil and for Barry and Barry's kids and for Karen (Barry's sister), won't you?

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