I’ve been expecting to wake from a bad dream, but had no way to express it. Now I have something concrete to write about. My sister called with news of two deaths in the family. Well, actually, one was in the family, the other was practically family growing up in Cody.
My great-grandmother, Golda Stuehrenberg, was 97, and had nearly recovered from a perforated organ (spleen, I believe). Its quite rare among my friends to have 4 living grandparents, but I’ve even had great-grandparents in my life. Golda was always a rambunctious woman, which was evidently a trait passed down to her son (my grandpa) Stan, and his children. Recently, she’d even been dating a gentleman we’d nicknamed Fast Eddy because he drove a canary yellow El Camino with yellow wheels. It was cute as all hell. She’d been relatively healthy until just the last couple months, and I’m so glad that my wife had a chance to meet her last year. We also have a shockingly colorful afghan that was a graduation present. My cousins and I are under strict orders not to use it though.
The other death was B. F. “Pepper” Curry. I don’t recall the exact reason our families became friends, but Helen and Pepper often sat for us when my parents were away. Pepper had an imagination that outpaced that of ours as children, and was the most wonderful person to be around.
Pepper often took me fossil hunting in the dry lake beds around Cody and regaled me with stories of when he and Buffalo Bill used to “hunt Indians.” These stories were fake, and we knew it then, but they were still delightful. Part of what made them so great was that he himself wouldn’t hurt a fly.
The only toy gun I owned as a child was made from a broomstick and pine that Pepper fashioned for me; burying a .22 shell into the stock of authenticity. Pepper made all manner of wood boxes, toys, and puzzles, and loved to share them. He was always playful except when in the wood shop, when he was suddenly serious about safety. My baseball cards are still locked away in a wooden chest he made for me, the top decorated with hand-carved arrowheads.
Both Helen and Pepper’s health has been declining in recent years, and Pepper’s seems to have been worse. Hilary has been corresponding with Helen for some time, and said that Pepper would thank her every day for taking care of him.
Pepper was both like a grandfather and a child-hood friend. I learned so much from him and Helen, and their impact on us is immeasurable. My early exposure to natural history, woodworking and bluegrass were all basically his fault. Thank you.