One year ago today, the world lost one truly great man.
Stephen E. Herod, aka "Airboss".
This, from the handout at his memorial:
"Stephen was born November 2, 1945 in California to Newton and Willinette Hicks Herod. He was a graduate of Kountze High School, and lived in Beaumont before moving to Warren three years ago. He was a lumber broker for United Paneling and Plywood. He was an air traffic controller, a pilot and a Vietnam Army Veteran."
To me, and to many of us, he was so very, very much more than that.
He was my friend, and I shall never forget him.
Godspeed and Godbless, Airboss.
August 27, 2005
Dateline: Area .45
I'm typing this from the office of the late, great Steve Herod. Fact is, these words come to you via his keyboard and computer.
The time right now is quarter past ten, p.m. I've just spent the day with Steve's widow, Elaine, and her son Dale. Elaine has rented two display tables at the gun show in Port Arthur, Texas this weekend. Today, the first of the two-day event, went of exceedingly well. Many people, most all unknown to us, now own a piece or a bit of the assorted gunstuff that Steve had accumlated over the years.
No, no guns were sold today. Elaine had liquidated that collection brilliantly, effeiceintly and damn near instantly with the help of one of Steve's closest and most enduring friends in Tennessee. The gear being sold over this weekend is the kind of things that we shooters tend to draw to us like a magnet draws iron filings.
Holsters, various lots of ammo, cleaning gear. Odds and ends of reloading items, unused for years. Books. Weighy tomes by Keith, Jordan and others of great stature.
Mine is the honor to sit with Elaine today and tomorrow, haggling the price of this holster or that bipod. And with every happy purchaser, a bit of Steve walked away from that table and further into the ether of... memories, dreams and..........
Sitting here typing this, on Steve's very own keyboard, I'm infused with the certainty that Steve yet abides on this ranch. This land was the land of his heart. It was the region which he returned to from his youth, after a life of circling the globe, fighting wars both hot and cold, and leaving his mark upon enemies slain, and competitors vanquished at boardroom tables from coast to coast.
After enjoying a post-sales dinner with Elaine and Dale, an hour's drive found us back here at the ranch. Area .45. Twilight coming more quickly now than a month ago, tonight heralded by the steady approach of a cool front from the North. Towering black clouds illuminated from within by frenzied lightning and the sound of the distant, but closing thunder announced it's advance.
The winds before the storm making themselves felt even indoors, Elaine and I retired to the North-facing patio of the main house. Accompanied by a splash each of Steve's favorite single-malt, I set fire to a fine maduro corona.
We each found a chair and ottman, and relaxed thereon to inhale the driving wind and to dwell in the presence of Steve, who was surely there with us, sending greetings from deep within the beautiful storm.
We talked of Steve, of his and Elaine's life together, of loss, of grief, of hopes and joys and love and stories of it all. We talked of the day Steve died, and the manner of his passing. It is private and I'll not speak of it here, but he died as he lived; a man, doing a man's work in the prime, green land of God's country. Which he had bought and paid for by the sweat of his brow and the rewards of his consumate skills and intelligence.
Tonight, I'll sleep in the daybed that Elaine has placed next to the gunsafe and this desk in what was Steve's office. When I arise, I'll drink fresh coffee poured from his brewer, shower in the office's tidy stall, and leave here freshly dressed, carrying my overnight bag, range bag and a laptop not even opened on this trip.
But I'll carry far more away with me than the mere possessions I brought in. I'll carry in my heart the essence of this ranch, and a bit of that of the man who made it more special than any other fifty-two acres in Texas. I'll carry with me my renewed dedication to stand unwavering as Elaine's friend and ally.
If I am to have any measure of worth in this life, a good portion of it will be due to the fact that a man like Steve Herod called me his friend. One of my most treasured memories of him is of a phone call he made to me out of the blue one fine day earlier this Spring. He said simply: "I called you to tell you that I'm proud to know you, Jim, and to call you my friend.". Stunned, I stammered some inchoerent reply, and Steve simply told me that one of my posts here had moved him to tell me that.
We talked of more, of course. But I'll never forget that call, or those words.
If we have the right friends, they'll help make us a better man. Simply because we wish to live up to the standards they raise in the everyday conduct of their lives.
Steve was one of the right friends. And I'm very, very fortunate to have known him. I will say the same of friends like Dennis Cottingham, Doc Russia, Kim DuToit, Marcus Carpenter and Misha. I know I can say the same of many on my blogroll who I've come to know by e-mail and phone over the space of nearly two years.
It's time I become as good a friend as they. Time for me to write again, devils be dammed and to hell with the consequences.
Steve Herod was one of the great teachers, if one would but listen.
I heard you tonight, Airboss. Past midnight now; two hours before the screen. And I got it.
And that, from the keyboard of the master himself.
Also honoring this day:
(Please notify me of any other blogs noting this day, and I'll note them here.)
Addendum: About two weeks ago, Area .45 was sold to new buyers, a young family who will inhabit it and love that land as their own.
I've no doubt, Steve looks down and smiles, and knows that all is right, that the land yet abides.
Ever shall it abide. We've seeded it with cordite, copper and lead.
And with the love of brothers at arms.
Ever shall it abide.