Try to keep things on the sunny side

The late Judge Grover Halliburton was a unique guy with a genuine love to be around people. He was a storyteller who also enjoyed hearing stories. Grover ate lunch out everyday but disliked dining alone. For several years someone different would have lunch with him daily. Judge Claude Wimberly frequently went to lunch with him. Rev. Leo Anderson and Jack Lovet joined him at other times. If he were alone, he would invite someone out of the chow line at the golden Corral to join him. Since Wednesday was my only afternoon off, I’d meet him for lunch. Often others would join us. The Wednesday group started to grow, soon we were joined by Constable “P.T.” Thompson, Jerry Wimberly, who was Orange Fire Chief; Capt. David Peck from the Sheriff’s Department, Marty Delano, city councilman at West Orange; Judge Pete Runnels, owner of Sears; and C. Delle Bates before I hurt his feelings. I’m truly sorry about that. I said it was stupid for anyone to vote for Geo. Bush. I was right but C. Delle took it as me calling him stupid. I really like the guy. He was my friend, a fun guy who told great stories and whose life is a great story. Maybe someday he will forgive me and we’ll make amends.

Anyway, other people started dropping by and 10 years ago we named the group the Wednesday Lunch bunch. Grover loved it. He loved gossip, any kind, so often I would make up a story and he wanted to hear every detail.

Grover was kept alive for several years by a contraption strapped around his waist like a holster. The medicine and procedure cost $30 thousand a month to maintain and was so delicate that it was transported by airplane and kept refrigerated. In fact, it was packed down several times a day with dry ice. The time came when he could just barely get around but he wouldn’t shut down. He seldom missed the Lunch Bunch meeting and if he did, we knew he was in the hospital. Grover was in poor health but I never heard him complain, not once. He counted his blessings, loved life and didn’t fear death, claiming he had beat it for several years thanks to the medical marvel at his side. Only two existed in the entire Houston region.

Grover often said it was great for friends to get together just to enjoy each other’s company and friendship. No agenda, no club officers, no dues, no one seeking anything from the other. It’s always been open to anyone who likes being around real people exchanging ideas or telling a story. Commissioner Owen Burton tells great stories about old timers he’s known.

Looking at this group you would think otherwise but politics are seldom spoken. I learned my lesson with Bates, no religion either.

Over the years, the many who have attended seem to have the same things in common, love of country, goodwill, friendship and enjoyment of a once a week break from daily chores. They enjoy the interaction and fellowship with different people, from all walks and backgrounds. Over the years the friendships have grown, like family everyone cares about the well being of others and check on each other when conditions call for it.

In the last few years, ladies started joining the guys and that’s a good thing. Marlene Merritt, wife of our sheriff-elect, is my buddy. I miss it when I don’t hear from her. She and Keith have been together since they were kids. Unknown to most is that Keith’s life story is a fascinating one. His upbringing wasn’t a bed of roses. He will be a great, down to earth sheriff. I fell in love with Constable Dee Aven. She’s just solid good people. My favorite female to pick on is Judge Janice. That Cove girl will do to ride the range with. A lot of good folks came out of the Cove besides Judge Menard. Two other lunch bunchers, Judge Parkhurst and Rev. Leo were raised in the rough part of town. God forbid that I should ever have to appear in Judge Janice’s court. I’m afraid she would catch up for all my meanest. I believe if that ever happens, I would just have to appeal.
Everyone who stops by to break bread every week, and the group is always rotating, are just common, ordinary folks when you get to know them. We welcome everyone.

We miss our friends who have departed. They were part of our lives. Gone are Grover, P.T., Louis Dugas, Tony Houseman and Shorty Taylor, a WWII pilot who enjoyed the storytelling at the Lunch Bunch as much as anyone. Like Grover, he attended to the very end until God called him away.

So it is Down Life’s Highway, a bunch of folks who keep on the sunny side of life enjoying the freedom and privileges afforded us.

We ain’t doing bad.