Before I turned professional, organizer that is, I learned you just can not organize the unwilling. Working in a family business from college to 1999, I took many opportunities to tidy up my big brother’s office. And did he hate it.
As a hunter, fisherman, golfer, all around outdoorsman he would never throw anything away…it could be used somehow. But life was how he liked it, and it took a while to learn that was ok.
You may not have been one of the 900 at Tuesday’s service, but I would like you to meet the man I wish I could annoy once more by organizing his desk. The following article was written by Jody’s dear friend and hunting buddy Sam Venable at the Knoxville News-Sentinel. Thanks Sam!
One More Time If You Please
I’m going to bend a rule of column writing. Just today. It’ll be out of my system by the time you read these words. Then we can press on to other matters.
What I’m going to do is extend a piece that ended a couple of days ago. I can’t help it. I’ve got too many precious memories that wound up on the cutting-room floor, and they beg to be told.
These are memories of my lifelong pal, “Jode” McKenry, who died Sunday and was buried on Wednesday.
As I alluded to the other day, Jode rarely missed a meal. “Heavy Lunch” was one of his many nicknames. That should tell you about his relationship with fork and spoon.
On a September afternoon more than 20 years ago, a bunch of us piled into his vehicle and, with a boat in tow, headed toward Chickamauga Lake to hunt wood ducks.
It was one of those in-between times of the day. Lunch was a distant memory, but supper was just as far into the future. Knowing we’d be on the water for – gasp! – at least three or four hours, Jode decreed the need for sustenance.
At an exit of Interstate 75, he swung into a Dairy Queen drive-through and began taking orders from the assembled masses – all of whom figured what the heck; if Jode’s gonna eat, we might as well, too.
By the time we pulled to the front, he had the itinerary memorized. When the woman opened her window and asked what we wanted, he began counting it out.
I forget precise details of the inventory. But I distinctly recall it was the most ghastly, fat-laden, calorie-packed, grease-dripping assortment of junk food this side of a stroke. Something along the lines of seven or eight double cheeseburgers and as many fries. Plus four or five hot dogs, maybe a bowl or two of chili.
The clerk wrote everything down – this was when you talked to a real person, not a voice – and then pointed to a flyer on the window. It advertised a special on ice cream.
“Would you like any frozen Dove bars?” she asked.
Jode’s face begin to contort, signaling the start of one of his patented laugh attacks. I didn’t know what he was about to say, but already my giggle-o-meter was vibrating.
“No, ma’am,” he replied, his voice shaking. “We’re eating light today.”
Our vehicle erupted in a riot of laughter. So did the Dairy Queen kitchen, plus people at the counter who heard the exchange take place. The poor clerk was heaving so violently, I thought she was going to spit up. There were so many tears in her eyes, not to mention Jode’s, it took them forever to complete the transaction.
Cancer from 50 years of smoking took Jode’s life. But even early-on in the treatments, he still had that same maniacal sense of humor. When I phoned one day to check on him, Jode announced he was drinking a large milk shake.
“You’re talkin’ to a man with a 42-inch waist, and at the doctor’s office this morning they told me something I’ve been waitin’ all my life to hear. They said I needed to be careful not to lose any weight.”
Sam Venable’s column appears on Sundays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. He may be reached at 865-342-6272 or VenableS@knoxnews.com. His latest book, “Someday I May Find Honest Work: A Newspaper Humorist’s Life,” is available at bookstores, the University of Tennessee Press and online from the News Sentinel.