‘Blood brothers’ carry on, even through death

Published 6:08 pm Friday, May 20, 2011

Joyce Kilmer penned the words, “I think that I shall never see, A poem lovely as a tree.”

If Mr. Kilmer had been standing with me beneath the old towering oaks at Pea River Cemetery Sunday, there would have been no “thinking” about it.

As hard as man might try, he cannot compete with God’s creations.

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My thoughts drifted briefly away from the grave dedication ceremony of a veteran of the Revolutionary War to a friend who is buried in that beautiful old cemetery.

What a wonderful final resting place for her. Bittersweet memories for me.

After the ceremony, I walked down to my friend’s grave. She died May 16, 1994. Seventeen years. It seems like a hundred, yet only like yesterday.

Betty Kay Graves and I were childhood best friends. She lived just down the hill from me. With a little wind behind me, I could throw a ball from my house to hers.

Every morning as soon as we got out of bed, we started playing. We didn’t stop until our mamas called us in to dinner. “Betty Kay! Come to dinner,” Miss Louise would call.

“Jaine! It’s dinner time!” Mama called even louder. Mama’s voice carried. You could hear her hollering a country mile.

What I would give to hear Mama call me to dinner just one more time.

Betty Kay and I had a tree house in a chinaberry tree between our house and hers. We built it ourselves with help from my cousin Jimmy. We nailed boards to a wide forked limb and then climbed even higher and nailed boards to a narrow forked limb. That was the crow’s nest. From there, we could “look out” for pirates, Indians, cannibals – anything that might be “after us.” From the crow’s nest, we could also signal each other that we were back from dinner.

“Caw! Caw! Caw!”

When I heard Betty Kay calling from the crow’s nest, I’d wash down the rest of my dinner and go running back to the tree house to play all afternoon until we were called in for supper. Then we went back outside and played until it was time to go to bed.”

As I stood at Kay’s grave, Sunday afternoon, I heard an ol’ crow cawing from the distance. Don’t know what to make of that. Maybe nothing. But it’s funny some of the things that remind you of times past, of the people back there in your memory.

My best childhood friend and I loved each other and hated each other at the same time.

We fought like tigers. Mama said we wouldn’t stop until one of us got blood and it didn’t take long.

We were blood “brothers,” Betty Kay and me, just like in the picture show.

With our Tuf-Nut knives that we got when our mama’s bought us Tuf-Nut back-to-school blue jeans at O.K. Ramage clothing store, we cut a gash in our thumbs, pressed them together so the blood would run together. That made us blood brothers for the rest of our lives.

Betty Kay was the only blood brother I ever had. That made us special friends. Childhood, special friends who wouldn’t stop fighting until one of us drew the blood that bound us as special friends.

And, each of us had evidence of that.

Betty Kay had a scar on her lip from where I hit her in the mouth with a porcelain doorknob. It was my turn to sweep the yard and she wouldn’t let go of the broom – until I drew blood.

I have a scar on my right hand where she cut the end of my finger off with the push lawn mower. She drew blood.

Betty Kay and I shared our growing up years. We were blood brothers and you don’t get any closer than that.

It’s been 17 years now and I miss her. I didn’t know how much until I stood at her grave and heard the cawing that came from somewhere in the distance.

I almost answered back.

Jaine Treadwell is features editor of The Messenger.