Sometimes life deals us a good hand and we are in the right place at the right time. Meeting Mary Morelock at the Legion Pool in 8th grade was one of those times. I knew who she was but didn’t like her because in 8th grade all I wanted was to fit in. She, on the other hand, didn’t seem to care what anyone thought about her, and she said and did anything that crossed her mind.

On that day at the Legion, there were several girls our age there, and we were hanging out together. Some of them went to lie in the sun, which left just me and Mary in the pool to hang out together. “Want to touch the bottom?” she said. “Sure,” I answered. Then we started doing flips off the low diving board, and I discovered I liked her because she was willing to try anything, and she laughed a lot and made jokes out of everything around her.

We spent a lot of time hanging out after that, and when I met her family, I felt like I’d found my second home. They were outspoken, or as we’d say today, not politically correct, but in an honest, and humorous, sort of way.

Mary’s dad, Demp, hung in the background, completely aware of everything going on but preferring to be an observer. Mostly his interactions were a few polite questions, and frequent offers of Little Debbie cakes, which must have been his idea of hospitality. “You want a Little Debbie cake? There’s a whole bunch of them out there in the freezer.” And then five minutes later: “You sure you don’t want a Little Debbie cake?”

When I first heard him say Mary’s name, he pronounced it,  “Murry,” and that’s what I called her from then on, which I later shortened to “Mur.” When we were in high school, Mary had the only car, a Jeep – one of those utterly cool, real Jeeps with a removable tan nylon top like you see in African safari movies. Since she was the only one who drove, we all called her first whenever we wanted to do anything, either alone or as a group. She had tons of friends, so she’d get a lot of phone calls. Demp saw what was going on and started answering the phone, “Morelock Cabs.”

I hung out at Mary’s house so much he nicknamed me, “The Boarder.” He’d say it, even with me in the room, when he talked to Mary about me, as in: “Murry, do you and The Boarder want some stew?”

Once a car full of hoodlums chased Mary’s little sister, Kathy (called Bunny), home because they thought she’d cut them off. When she pulled up to her house, they got out of the car and started cussing and trash talking to her. Demp came out with a shotgun and said, “Bunny, git in the house.” He calmly told the boys to leave, and when they defiantly stood their ground, he raised the gun and peppered their Mustang, shooting the hood ornament off. Word got around and nobody messed with Demp’s kids after that.

I loved going to her house because she had big speakers in the living room and they were always playing the best music nice and loud. Not ear-splitting, but way louder than anyone else’s parents allowed. At my house, we never got to have our own music in the main part of the house – we had to listen to it in our rooms. My dad always had some Charlie “Yardbird” Parker or Miles Davis music playing that embarrassed the crap out of me. At Mary’s, they had the Allman Brothers, and Demp would sit right in the middle of the speakers, reading his paper and apparently enjoying himself.

My favorite story of Demp was the time we visited Mary’s parents when my kids were about two and six years old. Every time I go to Tennessee I visit Mary’s mom and dad. They moved to a place in the country after their kids all finished college, and my kids have always loved going there. On this day, me and Mary and my kids arrived just after suppertime. Us girls sat on the back porch watching my kids chasing lightening bugs while Demp puttered around in the house. It was about 10 or 11 o’clock by the time we got ready to go. We found Demp in the garage, and we were saying our goodbyes when he offered my kids a pop. I told him no, they didn’t need a pop, but thank you. A couple of minutes later he offered them one again, just like he used to offer me Little Debbie cakes.

“No, Demp, thanks but they don’t need a pop.”

“Suzanne, why won’t you let them kids have a pop?” he persisted.

“It’s late, and if they drink a pop right now they’ll wet the bed.”

“Aw, hell, I wet the bed every night. That don’t stop me.”

That was hilarious on so many levels that it makes me laugh even still.

Demp just went to the Big Cab Company in the sky, and I know for a fact that he’s up there, cracking up Jesus, all the saints, and the apostles with his wit and shenanigans. And he’s probably standing next to St. Peter, offering the newcomers whatever Heaven’s version of hospitality is, over and over again.