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An older gentleman, 70 years young, full of life, and a great guy who has done a lot for our small rural community. A community so rural that a gas station and a post office are all thats present, no town limit signs, if anything just enough room for a sign that says welcome on one side and come back soon on the other. A community where everyone knows their neighbor.....and in many cases the nearest may be a mile away. A community that most show up at the church for special occasions like a pastor appreciation dinner, and where everyone goes to pay their respects when a member is lost. The community that I dearly love, have grown up in, and hope to call home all of my remaining days. Earl was doing what he enjoyed, working his farm, mowing hay on his john deere tractor, here today and gone tomorrow, just as it could happen to any one of us. Tragically, something happened and the tractor rolled over. As hard as it is to see such a wonderful man go like that, it was his time, chosen by the almighty, and the almighty sure chose a good one to bring home. I've sat at an old hand built table in the back of the gas station store on a many a rainy day and played rook with Earl, he and some of the already past old timers taught me to play on that table when I was 8 or 9 years old. Over the past 25 years or so, I've seen several of these hard working, callused handed, but generous hearted old timers pass on. The older I get, the more I realize how they helped shape me. Some of them I helped in the hay fields, some I helped build fence, some I never worked for at all but spent time with them in the little diner, or at the rook table, or in the community fellowship hall, and although most in very small ways, still they each played a part in who I am today. I'm also glad that my son has had the opportunity to know him, and a few others that remain. Every saturday morning through the winter months, Boomer and I get up and go to the diner to eat breakfast, and then head to the rook table. He's learned from them just as I have, not only about playing rook, but about life as we set and talk about the previous weeks sunday school lesson, or about how much hard work it was to patch the fence, or many of the other life shaping events that happened in the community. I'll never forget a couple years ago beating Earl and his partner in the annual rook tournament held at the volunteer fire and rescue building. Earl had never won the tournament, nor had I, and a plaque hangs on the wall above the old rook table at the store with each years winners dating back to 1983. I have poked fun at Earl for that ever since, all in fun, and he always has a smile about it and says "one of these days I'll beat you and even the score". It would be an easy choice for earls name to be in my place in trade for him to be with us a while longer, but somewhere deep down, I wouldn't doubt that he let me and my partner win, just because thats the kind of man he was! Earl, build us a table up there, and keep the deck shuffled, we'll play when I get there. God bless your soul and your family, you will be missed!
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