Saturday, February 13, 2010

Remembrances: Who Laughs Last...


The portrait is of a guy named Richard Bousley. It is dated February, 1967, which places it in the second semester of my sophomore year at the University of Michigan. I was still living at home then. In the following summer, my parents moved to Ohio. After spending most of the break in Ohio with them, I returned to Ann Arbor and moved into my first student apartment. Bousley was one of my two roommates. Jim Rutherford was the other.

I first started hanging out with Bousley in the ninth grade. After living in Ann Arbor through fifth grade, I had lived in Muncie, Indiana during sixth and seventh grades. Returning to Ann Arbor for eighth grade—a “new kid” all over again—I had palled around almost exclusively with another kid named Jim—Jimmy Malcolm—who had lived across the street from me during my grade school years, and coincidentally now lived in the same neighborhood where my parents took an apartment upon our return to Ann Arbor. But following eighth grade Jimmy’s parents moved across town, and I was alone in the neighborhood.

At the beginning of ninth grade, Dick Bousley was a “new kid” at Tappan Junior High School. We met in art class. Dick walked home from school by the same route as I. We soon became friends. Other than liking to draw, one of the first things we found ourselves to have in common was an appreciation of Elvis Presley. Only Dick had the haircut, however.

After a year or so, Dick’s family moved to another neighborhood on the outskirts of Ann Arbor. He was now a neighbor of Jim Rutherford, and the three of us soon formed an after school trio.

Dick’s house had a backboard mounted on the garage and we would play “horse” or two-on-one in his driveway after school. Sometimes Dick’s younger brother, Don, would be asked to make a fourth, so that we could play two-on-two games to 21. Don was kind of a strange, quiet kid, who was fascinated with extraterrestrials—the chariots of the gods, and all that.

Following high school, Dick enrolled at Eastern Michigan; Rutherford and I at the University of Michigan. But when Don graduated high school a year or so later, he enlisted in the army. This was at the height of the war in Vietnam. As I recall it, Don completed basic training and shipped out for ‘Nam right after Thanksgiving and was dead before Christmas. He died almost immediately and right around the holidays, anyway.

By this time, neither Dick nor Jim was still in college. I had new roommates in the apartment on White Street. But Jim and I attend Don’s military memorial service together. I remember it featuring much folding of flags and the shrieking of Don’s girlfriend, who was cursing at the honor guard with some kind of foreign accent. Jim and I then went to the funeral—rifle salute, and all.

After the cemetery, we went back to the rental house on Jorn Court that Jim was sharing with two other friends—Douglas Mount and Luther B. Weems. We didn’t have much to say, as I remember. We couldn’t really fathom the waste of Don Bousley’s young life. He hadn’t really asked much of the world.

We put the Country Joe and the Fish album on the stereo and played “I Feel Like I’m Fixin’ to Die Rag” over and over and over again.

And we laughed and laughed. We laughed until we were empty and could laugh no more.