Season of Thanksgiving #5 – Gene Johnston
Those of you that may not know, Gene Johnston was my mother’s last husband and my step-father. I have many happy memories of Gene. He lived and breathed laughter and joy. And on the anniversary of his passing, it seems only fitting that I mark his entry for today.
Gene was a vivid prankster. Example, we would sneak off trail on hikes and growl into empty Nalgene bottles while rustling branches…clueless hikers would flee in fear of what they thought was a bear. (all his idea).
For my first backpacking experience EVER, he took us up to Turkey Pen Ridge where he KNEW that a bear had just been re-released. Sure enough, around midnight the bear came wandering into our camp. I think it’s worth me noting at this point that I was not tucked away safe inside a tent. No, I had strung up a tarp to make myself a lean-to. So…I was out in the open, waiting to be drug off by my feet like some teenager in a horror movie. Not one to have his slumber interrupted by a 600lb death machine, Gene climbed out of his tent sporting nothing but his boxers, hiking boots and his Petzl flashlight. He did what any man void of sound reason would do…he spotlighted the bear up in the tree and began talking to it…”Well hey there lil fella…what are ya doin’ up there?” Naturally, the confused bear climbed down, ran away and didn’t return. And I didn’t sleep for the rest of the night.
He could not for the life of him cook a batch of bacon properly. He had a fierce passion for putting anything he could find between two pieces of bread and grilling it. Could stomach Jalepeños better than any man I’ve known and would spend every waking hour in the mountains. An interesting fella to say the least.
Gene’s final hours were surrounded with drama at Vanderbilt hospital as war erupted in my family. He spent time on his deathbed trying to mend all that he could between us. I was there holding his hand when they shut off the ventilator. There is nothing that compares to that vivid memory. I am grateful for all the joy he briefly brought to my family and that I was there at his end. He is still sorely missed.
There he is showing the dog how to eat out of the portable camping bowl.
(Left) The one and only batch of bacon he got right (right) Gene in classic form, even after he got sick.
Hats off to you Gene.
Next Up: Papa & Nana