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Missing smiling face of my friend, Steve

By Donald K. Sanders
Recently I took a trip up to where two rivers (the Klamath and the Trinity) merge into one near the small town of Weitchepec, California. There are people up there that I love dearly, inlaws you see, and wood folk. We talked about my friend Steve Shafer who had stood on that very spot just a year or so earlier. They were surprised to hear that he had passed away recently after a short bout with cancer. They remembered him well.
I guess I hadn’t finished grieving yet because after we talked, I couldn’t get my friend out of my mind. As our little family group sat discussing Steve, I found myself lost in thought with the wind whispering through the leaves of the trees above the river. I thought about what a good friend he had been. There was no one like him that I know of. Oh, I have other friends and they are dear to me, but they are not like Steve.
Steve was a righteous dude. He was a man’s man, but very kind and gentle for the large man that he was. If I think really hard, I can
remember only one time that I ever saw him angry. That was the time his wife Kellie justifiably threw me out of their yard, for I had been a capital-A ass. I thought Steve was going to poke me in the nose but he didn’t have the heart to hit someone that was as depressed as I was at the time. Steve had a heart as big as California.
I will never know why Steve thought of me as a friend because he didn’t like negative people and I always looked at the worst of everything and I expected the worst from everyone and I usually got it too. Steve, I found to be the
exception, for he was so simple, not of mind, but of nature. Steve did not complicate things like most people do.
He could take a joke like no other man that I know. On the trip to Weitchepec a year or so ago, I rubbed black ash on the viewfinders of my binoculars and Steve walked around all day with black circles around his eyes after looking through them. When he found out what everyone was laughing at he just smiled and forgot about it.
Another joke I pulled on Steve during that trip to the woods was when I asked him to throw a rock into a cave so I could get a picture. I didn’t tell him it was a cougar’s cave and the picture came out blurry because I was running away and laughing so hard. He was a funny guy.
Really, the only thing he was touchy about was his fossil rocks, or rocks that resembled some dead animal. He kept track of each one and should one go missing, he’d go looking for it again until he found it. Steve had so many rocks that when he moved to a new house, there were eight trailer loads of rocks to move. I have never moved so many rocks in my life and Steve kept an eye on me the whole time.
Steve is gone now, and I can’t tell you how much I miss his smiling face. While driving home today I listened to an Alison Krauss song called “A way down the River.” The words are exactly like something Steve would say:
“I’m just a way down the river
A hundred miles or more
Crossing over Jordan
To the other shore
I’ll be standing waiting
With all who’ve gone before
I’m just away down the river
A hundred miles or more
Now the pictures on the wall
Will help you to recall
They’re not there to make you sad
But to remember all the good times we had.”
Steve, I miss you, bud, and I hope I’ll see you again soon.