HEY, I Know Her! ….. Stuff happens every day – good stuff and bad stuff. “Stuff happening” is so commonplace we tend to ho-hum the news. Saturday I was skimming a local news website and noted a headline about a “State Education Official Murdered”. Not sure why I was compelled to open the story. HEY, I know her! The State Education Official was Kathy (Arnold) Taft – my hometown schoolmate and friend of 50+ years. …..
Ms Burroughs 1st grade class at Lemuel Harvey Elementary School – in the class picture I’m on the first row 3rd from the left. Kathy, I believe, was down the row on the right. Ironic as it turned out!
As you regulars know, Kathy and I grew up in a small town, not REAL small – “just right” small. TWO movie theaters and two high schools (pre-integration South). Our high school class had a little over 200 members.
In those days, you grew up with the same bunch of kids. 3-4 elementary schools fed into the one high school but through sports, church and assorted social stuff everyone knew everyone else around your own age.
There are concentric circles in “knowing people”. Kathy Arnold woulda been in maybe my 3rd or 4th circle. Ours was an easy-going community where everyone pretty much got along. There was the “country club set” and the Fairfield Park crowd and Emma Webb Park bunch and 1-2 other geographical subsets but lots of intermingling among’em.
It was a Happy Days “growing up” centering around the assorted rites of passage of that era – like “Homecoming” each Fall. Tobacco was the straw that stirred the local economic drink meaning big ol’ tobacco warehouses ideal for assembling homecoming floats. We’d gather in the warehouse each night of Homecoming Week and stuff colored tissue paper into chickenwire to decorate the flatbed trucks aka “floats”.
If you had asked me 15 years ago to list everyone in my senior class as I remembered them I probably would have listed Kathy Arnold between #50-75. She might have had me at about that point too, I guess.
I went off to Chapel Hill, my launching pad to the world. I think Kathy went to ECU. Our class has been really good about regular reunions. I’ve been a regular attendee over the years as has Kathy. A testament that those “Happy Days” really were “Happy Days”.
Kathy’s mom, Tess, lived across the street from my mom for awhile. They were good neighbors. Most neighbors were good neighbors in our town.
“I love those Dear Hearts & Gentle People who lived and loved in my home town …..”
I tried various careers over the decades. Kathy, she often joked, “tried various husbands”. Both of us had varying success in our sampling of life’s offerings.
One of Kathy’s husbands was Tommy Taft – a hot-shot trial lawyer who (yes) ran with John Edwards and his high-flying Democ-cronies in the mid-late 90s. Tom & Kathy had a beach house on toney Figure Eight Island and hosted “Al & Tipper”. You may know a few “Als” but likely only one “Tipper” so ya get my drift. Kathy and Tommy’s marriage went south. Tommy kept the beach house.
Meanwhile yours truly was gaining notoriety as an “Extreme Right-wing Fanatic with some notorious friends”. Uh oh …..
NOTE: American Politics in the 21st century is divided into two categories per “the media”: (1) Left-wing Lunatics a/k/a “Mainstream Moderates” ….. and (2) Extreme Right-wing Fanatics a/k/a “the rest of us”. I’m not a (1) so I must be a (2). Oh well….
Allowing that I haven’t had my Ginko Biloba fix this morning; it was either at our last reunion or Phyllis’ birthday party that BobLeeRight met KathyLeft at the punch bowl. Oh ….. have I mentioned that Kathy had “aged” REALLY REALLY WELL!
I’m old-school Southern boy ….. when encountering a woman I measure her first by her physical charms well before I confront her ideology of choice. If the former grades out high enough I can deal with her goofy politics at least in a social encounter. If Quite Lovely Kathy had launched into a uber-Lib rant I could have just looked at her and smiled while mentally taking “pi” to 20 decimal places, but that never happened at all.
We had a maaahvelous chat during which she asked “BobLee, as charming and smart as you are, how could you possibly be a Conservative?” To which I smiled, gave her a hug, and replied “Kathy, dear, you just answered your own question.”…… “….. and Kathy, you’re a she-lib who shaves her legs and doesn’t ride a broomstick. What’s with that?” Kathy Taft and BobLee bonded right there at that punch bowl.
We both are FOE (Friends of Erskine) which, of course, always mystifies Libs who meet me. Mystifying Libs is great fun ….. and not all that difficult.
After our re-acquaintification, Kathy and I would seek each other out at social events. The last time being “Coach Jones’ Funeral” this past Spring. I told her she really needed to meet The Popular Young Chancellor & Pistol (a/k/a Holden & Patti Thorp). I am partial to attractive ladies with engaging sense of humors. Kathy and I always joked that we knew we were being watched to see if we’d start a fist-fight over politics.
My friend Kathy Arnold Taft was killed last week in what appears to have been a home invasion that became a random murder….. DAMN IT!