So there I was, a rope in one hand, and a half bottle of jack in the other. I can't believe he's gone. I never thought of my life without him. Jimmy was always such a good guy. Thanks to 9/11, he was dead. I was down at the Battenkill about to stand up and finish it. Then out of Nowhere, I looked over and seen something. I must of wiped my eyes four or five times.
It was Pedey, the little black dog. A local legend in Sandgate, Vermont. I swear this dog was part human. He came to wish Jimmy a final farewell at the cemetery today. I made eye contact with him there and he must of seen how much pain I was in.
So I belted down some more jack and said to Pedey, "Nice Knowing Ya." Then Pedey came to me, licked my hand twice and sat right next to me. Pedey knew it wasn't over for me. I knew right then and there it wasn't over for me. I dumped out the rest of the jack and Pedey walked me back up the mountain. It was amazing that Pedey walked about five miles to make sure I was alright. But that was Pedey, a dog who cared about his community.
When I awoke the next morning, I was hungover as all hell. I sat on my porch with a gallon of water. Then Pedey came down and sat in the chair next to me for the better part of an hour. I decided to make some breakfast. I figured i'd get something in my stomach after the Jack Daniels almost killed my soul and sanity. I made myself some sausage and eggs. I gave two sausages to Pedey which he chowed down. I told Pedey I was going to go take a nap. He calmly got off his chair and went back up the mountain.
When I got back up, I felt a little bit better. I asked myself, where do you want to be in five years? One of those answers was to not be lugging hay up and down the mountain with my Uncle. I wanted to do something in memory of Jimmy. I knew enlisting in the army was not for me. I decided to try to become a volunteer firefighter in Arlington, the next town over.
I went down the next day to the Arlington Fire house. I talked to Chief Donald. He told me the steps I would have to take. Six months later, I was a volunteer firefighter. About a year after that, I became an official Arlington Firefighter. I was proud that I could give back to a community that gave me so much love and peace. I was glad that I didn't hang it up because that's not what Jimmy would of wanted for me.
I'm Andrew by the way. Jimmy and I grew up two houses away from each other. A half mile would separate our houses. Both our fathers worked for the town of Sandgate. They helped plow the snow in the winter and helped fix the roads when it rained to much. They were good friends and it was like we were all family. My mother worked as a second grade teacher and Jimie's mother was a nurse. I also had a Jack Rusell Terrier named Rosco.
So there we were, it was Jimmy, Rosco and I raising hell up and down the mountain. I remember going to the Battenkill which was a covered bridge and a nice swimming spot. Jimmy and I loved swinging onto this rope into the creek as Rosco watched.
Mrs. Williams hated us back then. She would cook these delicious pies and sit on her front porch as they cooled down in the kitchen. We would sneak in her back door and steal a few of them. She caught us once and yelled "you kids are gonna end up in jail." We didn't care as we ran away. We sat under the biggest Birch Tree in Sandgate and devoured those delicious creations.
Then, there was Mr Foster, the town drunk. He lost his license and had to walk everywhere. Most nights, his wife drove up and down the mountain looking for him. One night, Jimmy and I seen him stumbling up the mountain. I asked Jimmy to help me lift the recliner we had in our barn. We put it close to the street and waited for Mr Foster. I said "Mr Foster, you must be exhausted?, take a seat." He said "thanks, you kids are alright." He proceeded to pass out in the chair. My father seen him in the chair the next morning and gave him a ride up the mountain. He asked Mr Foster "What's that smell?" and Mr Foster said "I don't know." Boy, my dad was mad at me when he realized Mr Foster pissed his chair.
Fifth grade was a tough time for both of our families. I didn't know it back then but I learned a lot about life at a early age of eleven. Jimmie's grandmother was at the age when she started forgetting almost everything. His parents couldn't stand the thought of her in a nursing home. They sold her place and had Grandma Betty move in. We loved Grandma Betty. She would tell us stories how she grew up and how she met Bill, Jimmie's Grandfather. Bill died when Jimmy was a baby. I think just talking to her helped me and Jimmy at the time.
At the same time, my grandfather, Eddie was in hospice. He was such a great guy but a chain smoker and now fighting for every breath. Grandpa eddie owned a farm. He always gave us butterscotch candies and let us ride his horses. We'd sleep over there and help clean the stalls. Then he'd make us a gigantic breakfast. We learned from him what hard work was. We were at his bedside when he passed.
It wasn't even a month later when Grandma Betty got sick. She was in and out of the hospital with pneumonia. Jimmy and I would go see her. She was just the nicest person ever. She told us "believe that God is always with you and to look for the good in people." After fighting sickness for months, Jimmie's mom found her favorite rocking chair. She died peacefully holding the remote while watching the golden girls.
Jimmy and I made it through it together. We would always ask each other why we all couldn't live forever. I guess when they say deaths come in three, they weren't lying. It was about two months later and Rosco started getting Lethargic. We took him to the vet and they gave him medicine but that didn't help. I remember leaving for school and petting him, saying, "Rosco, be a good boy, see you after school." When I came home, my father already had him in the ground in the backyard. He had a cross with Rosco name on it.
I ran to Jimmys crying and Jimmy asked "what's wrong"? I said "Rosco Died." We both sat there crying. It was like all three deaths hit us at once. After about twenty minutes of weeping, jimmy said "Lets go walk down to the battenkill." We went down there and listened to creek running. I looked at Jimmy and said "Jimmy, this has just been the year from hell." Jimmy put his arm around me and said "Brother, it can only get better from here."
We ended up going to my cousins house in Manchester, New Hampshire for Thanksgiving. I was in such a bad place, I didn't want to be there. We were at the table eating all the fixings. My aunt said to me "you can always get another dog." I yelled "I don't want another dog, i want Rosco." I proceeded to storm out of the house.
My cousin Eddie came out didn't say much for a few minutes. He sat next to me and asked "what's wrong?" I said "what's wrong, let me tell you what's wrong. Everyone I love in this life is dying. Are you gonna fix that?" He calmly said "Drew, we are all gonna die." With that, I ran as fast and as far as I could. They didn't find me until the next day and I could barely walk. I had blisters all over my feet.
After that incident, my parents thought I needed counseling. What they couldn't understand was, no amount of medicine or counseling can fix real life shit. So I sat there with Dr. Tilly and told her my story. She sat there with her legs crossed and her pad and paper as I told her my tail of woe. She proceeded to put me on a antidepressant like that was gonna help my pain.
One week later, I flushed the pills and never wanted to see pills for as long as I lived. Two weeks later, I started coming back into the person I was. Jimmy was also going through it. We just talked everyday and realized we couldn't change what happened. I can't say we ever moved on but we got through it.
Time went on and in ninth grade, things really changed for the better. I met a girl named Julie in gym class. She was a cheerleader for our football team. I played Free Safety and was very confident that no team would score on me. She picked up how confident I was when we actually met for the first time. My buddies, the Fitzgeralds, who were lineman for the team threw a party. Julie happened to be there with her best friend Stacey.
Julie came up to me an pushed me asking "you really think your the cat's ass?" I was stunned she even knew who I was. "What do you mean?", I asked. She said "your always raising your arms and yelling at the other team to bring it on." I laughed and said "i'll do anything to get the team fired up." She smiled and I asked her if she wanted a drink. She said "I want some shots." The next thing that happened, we were throwing back a bottle of buka together.
We really hit it off over the next six months we went to the movies, a few dances the school held, and I even showed her my favorite spot, the battenkill. Then out of the blue, she said "maybe we should start seeing other people." I was shocked because I thought everything was great. So, within a week, she started dating the captain of the basketball team. His name was Troy Rivers. He was the tallest kid in our school and was only a junior. Jimmy got me through it saying "kid, girls are a dime a dozen. Look at me, I've had three girls in about six months." I said "your a ladies man." Jimmy laughed and said "they are looking for a fun time and so am I." I laughed and said "Jimmy you really know how to turn my frown upside down."
Jimmy was six feet tall and always had his hair slicked back with gel in it. He always had his gold necklace on that had a big cross hanging off of it. I swear he thought he was the italian stallion himself from one of those rocky movies.
Most of the time, random girls would ask him out. I remember when Linda Pratt said to him, "Jimmy would you like to come to lookout with me friday night?" The lookout was about two miles up the mountain that had great views with millions of stars. But nobody ever went there for the views. Jimmy said "Linda, me and you at the lookout sounds like a great idea." She was smiling when she left, like Jimmy was Elvis Presley or something.
It was even more classic how Jimmy approached girls. Jimmy and I were walking down the hallway when he stopped to talk to Rita Conway. She was a redhead and always wore nice dresses but was shy like me so we never talked much. Jim went up to her and said "you know honey, I see your struggling in math. Mabey after school sometime, you can come over and we can go over some equations." She was blushing and said "ok." The next day she was over his house and he was doing a little more than tutoring.
We were now seniors about to graduate. "One week from now, i'm glad its over," Jimmy said to me. I said "yeah, high school was fun and all." We ended up going to graduation and our parents were so happy. We were invited to Joey Wilson's double keg party. He was the most popular senior and we knew it would be fun. We were all having a great time and that is when Shelia Stone approached me. She said "I've had a crush on you forever, I wish you weren't so shy." Without even thinking about it, I started kissing her. Needless to say, that was a great night.
I was working full time helping my uncle with hay. Jimmy got a job at Franks Metal Shop and he was glad he could begin his life with no more classes. We still lived next door and I seen him almost everyday that summer. I knew I didn't want to lug hay forever but making some money was always good. Then came the day that changed everything, 9/11.
That day was horrible. My Uncle and I were listening to the radio when an announcement came on. "The Twin Towers in New York City have been hit by two planes." I looked at my uncle and said "what is this a joke?" As we went up the mountain, it was on every radio station. My uncle said lets finish this load and go watch the tv." We went back to his house and sure enough, this was no joke. My uncle and I sat in disbelief. We watched as both the towers came down. We both knew we had just witnessed a lot of people who just lost there lives. We couldn't even move for hours just from the shock of it.
Finally around six, my uncle dropped me back at my house. He told me he would see me in a few days. Then around seven there was a knock on the door. It was Jimmy. He asked "Can you believe this shit?" I said "it's unreal." It was tearing at me so bad. Jimmy said "lets go to the barn, I got something in the truck." He pulled out an eighteen pack of beer and some Jim Beam.
After about two hours of drinking, I still didn't have much to say. Jimmy on the other hand was pissed. I never seen jimmy so mad. He kept pacing around the barn repeating himself, "they attacked us, they attacked us." At that point, I didn't even know who they were. I was so fixated on the images of the day that I didn't hear to much what people were saying. Jimmy then said "they started this war and i'm going in the Army." I said "Jimmy, your doing well at the metal shop." The thought of Jimmy going into the Army scared the shit out of me. "Come on Jimmy, let's talk this out," I said. He raised his voice and said "there is nothing left to talk about." I gave him a hug and we were both crying. Sure enough, he went down to the recruitment center the next day. He would be leaving for boot camp in less than two weeks.
He was leaving on a sunday. That saturday, we threw a huge party for him. Everyone was there from Sandgate. The Fitzgeralds made an appearance as well as Joey Wilson. Rita Conway showed up crying. She gave Jimmy a hug and whispered something in his ear. I asked him later what she said. "Andrew, she wanted me to teach her more Algebra." I almost pissed myself laughing.
Anyway, there was food everywhere. my uncle made his famous chicken wings. Mrs Williams came with five of her pies and told Jimmy he didn't have to steal them. Jimmy smiled and gave her a big hug. What a special night it was. I hated that he was going but admired his courage.
The music went well into the morning hours with a huge bonfire going. We had a lot of laughs that night and that is what matters in life. Jimmy was sitting down around the fire. Pedey came and sat in the chair next to him. Jimmy rubbed Pedey's head and said "Pedey, i'm gonna miss ya." With that Pedey jumped off of his chair and onto jimmie's lap. It was like Pedey know Jimmy was going to go serve his country.
The next morning, Jimmie's mother was a bucket of tears. Jimmy and I felt like we got hit by a freight train. Jimmie's father cooked us breakfast but I could only manage to eat the eggs. I figured if I was gonna throw up, bacon would not be a good idea. We then got ready to see Jimmy off at the bus station. Jimmie's father and I went to the car. Jimmy sat on the porch next to his mom. I'm guessing that she was begging him not to go. Then, they finally both stood up and had the longest hug I ever seen. As Jimmy walked to the car, his mom ran into the house crying. "She's really gonna miss you son." "I know dad, I know."
That whole ride, a lot was going on in my head. I thought about all the times we had together both good and bad. I was trying to hold back my tears. We pulled up to the bus station and both Jimmy and I got out and puked. I don't know if it was the booze or the emotions of the day or probably a little of both. "Thank God, you didn't puke in the car," Jimmie's father said while smiling. Jimmy walked up to his father and shook his hand. "i'm really gonna miss ya pops, take care of mom and I will writed whenever I get a chance." "Ok son, kicked the shit of them over there," as Jimmie's father walked back to the car.
I went up to Jimmy and gave him a hug. "Be safe over there." "I will, I will see you when I get home." I told him i'd get the victory cigars ready for his return. I then got back into the car as Jimmy boarded his bus. On the ride home, Jimmie's father said "Don't worry kid. Jimmy has never ran from anyone or anything his whole life." So that was that, Jimmy was off to the bootcamp.
Ten weeks of bootcamp and the rumors were that Jimmy would be shipped to the Middle East. He would be right in the middle of all of it. My anxiety and worry was unbearable. I stopped over his mother house once a week and realized my concern was nothing compared to hers. She would just rock in her rocking chair and keep saying "he should of never signed up." I tried to cheer her up and tell her that Jimmy would be home soon to give her another big hug.
She received a letter from Jimmy about three weeks after he started bootcamp. It read, "I met a lot of good guys here. We are running everyday and learning all sort of new stuff. We can't wait to go kick the shit of them. I hope you and dad are alright and hope you guys understand I had to do this. Tell Andrew to hang in there but i'm sure he comes to calm you down. Please don't worry, i'll be back to Sandgate to be a pain in the ass soon enough, Love Jimmy."
Jimmie's mother was crying after she read the letter to me. "That day filled my son's heart with hate, He wants revenge." I went and sat next to her and put my arm around her. I said, "Jimmy is just trying to do what we are all trying to do. He's trying to make sense of what happened that day." I hugged her and told her it'll all work out in the end.
After bootcamp, Jimmy was sent to Iraq. I tried to stop over Jimmie's parents house as often as I could. My mother would also try to comfort Jimmie's mother. She got so emotionally sick that she quit her job as a nurse. 9/11 was taking a such a toll on a lot of good people. Our concern was on Jimmie's mother. Jimmie's father didn't know what to do. he told us all she does is look out the window everyday and cry herself to sleep every night. He also told us she was barely eating. She kept repeating herself "he should of never went, he should of never went." The father didn't want to send her away to a hospital but he feared she was having a nervous breakdown. They went to the emergency room and she was then transferred to a psychiatric hospital for two weeks. She came out and had a better outlook on things.
One thing was a letter from Jimmy. It read "everything is going good here over here." We are making sure the Marines have a safe entry and exit to the point where the bullets are flying. Mom and dad, I can't wait to see you again." I wasn't upset not getting mentioned because Jimmy and I started our own correspondence. He would share in my letters what was really going on there. Bombs going off, soldiers taking their last breath, and sounds of gunfire were just the beginning.
It was a long nine months but Jimmy made it home safe. Again, there was a coming home party for him. There was a banner entering Sandgate that read Welcome Home Jimmy. The grills were up and running and a pig was getting roasted. Jimmie's father ordered a dj. We all waited for Jimmie's arrival. His mom was the first to see him and run to him as he got out of his rental car. We figured he'd seen the note at the house that read, down at the Battenkill, come on down. He didn't know the whole town would be there. I gave him a big hug and a cigar and said "don't leave us again." He looked at me and shrugged. I didn't know what that was all about but would find out later. We drank until the morning hours and danced until our feet got sore. When I seen Jimmie's mother happy again, it made me feel good.
Two days later my anxiety resurfaced. Jimmy and I were in the barn drinking beers. Jimmy said "the Army is giving me six weeks to decide whether or not I want to re-enlist." You can't be thinking about going back there," I said. The barn went silent for a minute. He could sense we all wanted him to stay. "Andrew, we've only just begun to straighten things out over there." "What the hell are you talking about. You served your country. Do you want to see more of what was in those letters." "No", Jimmy said."Ok, so stay." "It's not that simple, he said. I was at wits end with him and didn't know what to say.
I knew right then and there he was going to re-enlist . There was nothing his father could say to him either. I just hoped his mother could handle it. Jimmy and I hung out almost everyday and it was like old times. I was hoping he'd see that we could grow old on this mountain and change his mind. However even Pedey strolling up to Jimmie's house daily wasn't enough for him to stay.
So it was two weeks before he had to let the army know. He sat his father and I down in the barn. He said "i'm going back in, can you tell mom?" "Jimmy, your gonna break your mothers heart," his father said. "What do you want me to do dad?" "you have all the information in front of you son, its your decision but we want you to stay. Your mother can't handle you gone nevermind in a warzone."
The barn went silent as jimmy paced around the barn weighing his options. Then Jimmie's father got up and said "I guess i'll break the news to your mother." Not even five minutes later his mother let out this scream like she was being stabbed. "No Jimmy No," she yelled. She cried herself to sleep that night. Then she had a few more days to make Jimmy see the light. That next morning, Jimmy and his mom sat on the porch. His mom asked "what's over there that's so important." Jimmy thought for a minute and said "I don't know mom, I just wanna make a difference." "You can make a difference here, son." But Jimmy wasn't going to budge and soon would re-enlist. Jimmy told his parents he didn't want another party. He did however want his father and I to drop him at the bus again.
This time was different. The day started out the same with Jimmie's father and I in the car but Jimmie's mother wasn't on the porch. She couldn't get out of bed to see Jimmy off. Jimmy went to her room and kissed her as she laid crying. Jimmie's mom just kept crying and Jimmy left and got in the car. Jimmie's father put his hand on Jimmie's hand both understanding the seriousness of the situation. We took off for the bus station.
I was thinking that Jimmie's mom might come close to another nervous breakdown. Jimmy really didn't understand how much it impacted his mom because nobody told him about what happened with his mom when he first went in. I am sitting in the backseat filled with so much regret that I never told him. Jimmy is trying to keep our minds occupied by cracking his one line jokes but my mind is elsewhere. I want to yell because I feel my voice needs to be heard but yet I sat there silent. "Do you know where they are shipping you Jimmy," his father asked. "One of those sandboxes over there, don't worry, i'll be fine." "I know Jimmy, I know," as his father nodded his head.
We pulled up to the bus station and nobody puked this time. I got out and hugged him and said "just make it back to us," as tears rolled down my face. "Sandgate is my life, you and I will grow old on this mountain. We don't have to worry about nothing as long as Pedey keep an eye on things." With that, I laughed and said "your right about that my friend." I got back in the car and his father said his goodbyes and we left. On the way home, Jimmie's father said "I hope she can handle this." I said "me to."
Three weeks later, I got a letter from Jimmy. It read...I want to thank you and your mom for looking out for my mother. Sometimes in life, situations arise that have to be addressed and that's all that happened here. I will be back soon to look after that mountain. Be good my friend, Jimmy. That was the last time I would hear from Jimmy. Two weeks later, I was driving up the mountain. I seen a car in front of Jimmie's house. A priest and a decorated officer were walking to Jimmie's door. I knew he'd died as I pulled into my driveway. I didn't know what to do. I ran to Jimmie's house and tried to console his mother. She kept saying "lord take me, lord take me, i'm ready." Then she punched me in the chest and asked "why did you let him go back?,"as she fell in my arms crying. At that point, I didn't know if I was coming or going. The whole time at the wake and the funeral I wanted to die. After the funeral, Jimmie's father took his mom back to the hospital. I, on the other hand was thinking about ending it at the Battenkill.
If it wasn't for Pedey, I know I wouldn't be here. That little dog not only saved me but helps the people of Sandgate on a daily basis. He made me realize that no matter what happens to keep rolling on. About a year after Jimmy died, I was down at the general store. I ran in Rita Conway. We talked a little bit. She told me she had a kid with some guy who left town and was working for the dollar store. I told here about being a firefighter and we clicked. Soon after that, I took her out on a date and the rest is history. We ended up falling in love and buying a house in Arlington. On a weekly basis, I visit my parents and Jimmie's parents. Pedey is usually in the area checking up on Jimmie's mother. That dog is so much more than a dog. He is the heartbeat of Sandgate, Vermont.