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Big brother taught me how to fish

Nov. 16 is the 67th birthday of my big brother, Tim, who now lives way up high on a mountain in Arkansas. I guess he’s a mountain-man of sorts, and a mountain of a man, too.

Tim taught me something important when I was still soaking wet behind the ears. Tim lived out the old adage of teaching a man to fish instead of buying him a fish. In his process of teaching me to fish, he’s helped me feed my family for almost half a century.

Somewhere in his teenage years, he got in on a bricklaying job with Brian Light, his best friend at LaGrange High. A few years later, in 1973, Tim hooked me up with the crew, too, which was the beginning of his fishing lessons.

The associations on that brick job left a lasting impression. There was the bossman Red Williams, Brian’s brother-in-law, who taught me — through a significant amount of hollering — to pick ‘em up and lay ‘em down. You understand, I’m sure. The job also brought me into contact with Doocy, a big gentleman with missing teeth and a serious attitude problem. 

So, while my big brother did me a good favor helping get that job with Brian and Red that summer, he might not have done me a favor getting himself on Doocy’s bad side. Consequently, Doocy both loved and hated me all summer long, and I didn’t know from one moment to the next which one it was going to be.

Overall, though, Tim did me a special favor introducing me to bricklaying and, unknowingly, setting me up to be able to support my family while also going to college between 1975-1984.

A few years after my initiation on the job in the summer of ’73, Tim and I got a chance to lay brick together out in Houston while I was starting to raise my family. Tim was a tremendous worker, and I didn’t always measure up, although I learned to try. Tim could lay brick fast, and so he got in good with a couple of foremen in Houston. They kept him busy for quite a few years, and Tim indulged them into hiring me a few times, thinking they were getting another Tim. That is probably what Red thought when he took me on in 1973, but whatever longevity I had on those jobs was out of respect to Tim more than any particular skills I had.

So, Tim not only got me into bricklaying, he helped keep me around on jobs long enough to get my college degree and move on to teaching and coaching. The truth is, Tim did not only teach me to fish. I think he something better. He hung around on the bank to bait the hook for me when I needed it.