Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Hump's funeral


You’d have enjoyed Hump’s funeral. The Baptist church was stuffed to the gills, and there wasn’t too much crying inasmuch as everyone saw it coming. His wife didn’t cry, and his kids didn’t cry much.

A lot of old friends from Austin and Tyler and Waco showed up, and it was good to see them again. Dub didn’t make it. I hear he’s not doing so great either. The service opened with a short, fat woman playing the organ (no cliché there, huh?), and then Hump’s brother-in-law — a skinny, tall guy in starched jeans and a Texas flag cowboy shirt — warbled a couple of hymns, accompanied by a home karaoke system. It took him five or six bars each song to hit the right notes, but once he found his stride, he did OK. It was right out of Red and Wesley and the ole Roadhog.

Then, this young woman — 22 or 23 perhaps — sat on the stage and rocked back and forth and pantomimed and signed to “How Great Thou Art” for the hearing impaired, who must have been seated on the first row because I never saw them.

Of course, both the preachers urged me to give my life over to Jesus. They quoted the Apostle Paul at length and prefaced each scripture with “if you don’t mind...,” which I didn’t because for the better part they focused on Hump and his family, not on my salvation. They mentioned several times that Hump was in paradise with Jesus. If that’s the case, heaven is an all-you-can-eat pizza and chicken-fried steak buffet and topless bar, and it’s nickel beer night all day, every day, and the Horns are whipping OU by two touchdowns going into the second quarter.

They asked if any of his friends would like to come forward and say a word about him, and I was afraid no one would, so I shuffled up and told them that Hump hadn’t changed much if any since I met him in 1977 when he was a freshman at Tyler Junior College and a drippy-nosed novice sports writer for the Morning Telegraph. “He was as goofy the last time I saw him as he was the first,” I recalled, and the people who worked with him seemed to appreciate the humor and truth in that, even if some of the family members did not. I wanted to inject a sliver of levity because a funeral can get depressing if you let it, and I didn't think Hump would have wanted it that way.

They buried him in a green and gold casket, which I’m not sure he would have wanted either if he’d been in his right mind, given that he was a UT graduate and hardcore Longhorn fan. Maybe in his final days, he switched allegiances from Texas to Baylor. After all, it was a brain tumor.

After theyd said the final prayer and wheeled Hump out and lifted him into the hearse, the fine ladies of the First Baptist Church — the organist included — fed us royally. Fried chicken. Mashed potatoes. Green beans. Apple pie. Sweet iced tea and watery, warm coffee. No cliché there either. All in all, it was an event Hump would have enjoyed and gushed on about for days. 

When I got home, I dug out the photo Mike took of you, Hump and me jumping off the cliffs at Lake Buchanan and looked at it for the longest time. Im out front, screaming, my legs tucked up under me. Youre right behind, and Hump is just stepping off the cliff with that “You sonofabitches are going to get me killed” look on his big ol’ fat face.

It’s hard to believe he’s gone.