283-xx89 is a number I hope to never forget. In today’s age I find it amazing that we ever memorize a number, but this one was engrained in my memory long ago. You see, I grew up with a very unconventional grandfather; I didn’t have the pleasure of meeting him until I was about 15 years old, shortly after I moved to Texas.
This cute old man lived down the street from us and he gladly opened his heart and house to many of us rug rats who grew up in the neighborhood. He provided a role in our lives that each of us needed. Grandfather, friend, advisor, loan officer, helping hand, sounding board, voice of reason, etc, etc, etc.
For just over two decades Earl was a person who was in mine and my family’s life on a daily basis. He provided for me so many opportunities that I can’t imagine ever having if we hadn’t met. But as I look back over the relationship we had and reflect on it, all it really boils down to is a very simple message he lived by and passed on to us. Be honorable, your word is your bond.
Earl was very much a Navy man and told us stories of his experience in WWII throughout his life. As most sailors I know, he also owned boats for most of his retirement years. It was Earl who provided me the opportunity to spend my summers at the lake, camping on peninsulas, water skiing at sun rise, and introducing me to the best all-you-can eat chicken fried steak restaurant you were going to find.
His stories and experiences of scuba diving while living in Puerto Rico, I’m sure played a large part in my desire to obtain my diving certification, after which he and I made many trips to Lake Murky, Possum Kingdom, and Lake Travis. Unfortunately, we never did get to go search for that cross he swore was at the bottom of Lake Whitney. And I will never forget how much he enjoyed being the oldest diving member of the Diving Rebels Scuba Club.
Although I never had the desire to hunt, Earl still felt I needed to know how to skin a deer. For that matter he also taught me how to do the same to a squirrel and make a very tolerable gumbo out of it. His back woods cajun ass could cook one hell of a étouffée and he never feared experimenting with food. One never knew what you might end up eating if you stopped by his road kill café. But you could bet on the fact that you would never leave his house with an empty stomach. He swore up and down that this somewhat famous chain stole his Earl McMuffin idea. Enjoying a good meal with friends was one of the pleasures of life he enjoyed the most. In fact iHop would do him right by erecting a statue of him in their foyer.
My memories of this man go back a long way and if I sat here long enough I could surely write a book. Many people come and go from our lives, but it’s really special when one leaves an impression this big. Because of Earl I had the opportunity to meet so many great people and do so many great things. For this I will be eternally grateful.
In Memory of Earl Hawkins
The photo above was inspired by Richard Sturdevant. Just before my grandfather passed I attended a seminar with Richard at the DFW Photo Expo. It wasn’t until a couple of months later that I came across this portrait I had taken, but immediately my mind went work. This isn’t where I thought the final image would end up, but I am very happy with it and I feel that he would be also.