By Joe Rector

When I was a little boy, I had one friend. My twin brother Jim and I were inseparable. We played together, fought together, and took up for each other. Sixty years later, we’re still “tight” and try to spend time with each other as often as possible. Other friends came later as I grew up and extended my world passed the front yard.

Back in the day, kindergarten was something that rich kids attended. The first educational experiences for most of us came the opening day of first grade. Jim was in a different classroom, so I was on my own. Little by little, I ventured out. Even today, I remember some of the first friends I made. Steve Buffalo and Steve Cox were buddies. We played together during recess and sometimes sat together in lunch.

Throughout elementary school, other boys became friends. Joey Wallace, Bill Jones, Pat Wright, Tommy Robinson were just a few of them. Our yard was home for football games and baseball games after school. We visited each other’s houses and even spent the night. Oh, fights broke out; in fact, every game we had at some point was interrupted by two boys throwing punches. Then it was all over, and we returned to the games.

High school introduced other new friends. Many of them were in band. Ken Mills, Mark Large, and Randy Allen were just three of them. We had good times after practices and on the weekends. Some of us managed to drink alcohol that wasn’t legal for our age. It’s a wonder that we lived through those times.

Unlike most folks, I didn’t make many friends during college. My time was spent studying to make up for a lack of educational dedication in high school. I met a couple of girls in English classes who became friends. Not until I began dating Amy my senior year did I meet my best friend Doing so has proven to be the most defining thing in my life.

I’ve made a friend or two during my adult years. Most are folks I met on the job at school. Bob Shoemaker was a good friend for years; Glenn Marquart was another buddy of mine, and Joe Dooley is now a solid friend. Others were Jim Pryor, Bobby Campbell, and Frank Kennedy, and we spent plenty of times shooting the bull and laughing during planning periods, before, or after school.

I also made some friends as I worked part time jobs at Budget and Knoxville Toyota. We worked hard and eased the times teasing and laughing.

My two best friends, yes, I have two of them, are Doug Meister and Billy Hayes. I’ve known both of them for over thirty years. We’ve played ball together and coached ball together. I can sit with them today, and it’s as if we’d never been apart.

What I do know is that most of the people with whom I made friends are still special folks to me. I might not see them for long periods of time, but all I would need to do is call them, and they would respond instantly. Some of those good friends have passed, and I miss them. The ones still here make the void smaller.

It might do this world well to recognize that we have only a handful of good friends in our lives. They are the ones who accept us even with all of our faults. No one should ever take friendship lightly; no person should set out to shame or degrade any friend. Losing a friend is a terrible thing because replacing him might prove to be impossible. To have a friend means to be a friend. That is a good motto by which folks and countries should live.