Tuesday, January 13, 2009

'Bent' a true friend

Ron Bentley, whom I mentioned in a blog recently about tent camping on the Illinois River , was my best friend after high school. I picked him up every morning and we rode to Carl Albert, then Poteau Community College , for a year. I never knew him much until then, but he became a very good, close friend until he died almost eight years ago. I referred to him as “Bent” but eventually called him Ron. At Poteau, we spent quite a bit of time together, and we even double-dated (with girls, of course) a few times. Ron was very particular and shy about asking girls out. I remember once when he wanted to ask this girl out, and we drove by her house one evening for him to stop and ask her. He chickened out, however, so I stopped and took his car keys and threw them at her front door and rang the doorbell, so when he went after them, she might come to the door and catch him there. I don’t recall if she ever came to the door or not.

After a year at Poteau, I transferred to Northeastern State and he moved on to Oklahoma State in Stillwater . We visited each other once, he coming to Tahlequah and me to Stillwater , before we both went into the military. I went into the Air Force and eventually to Vietnam , and he into the Navy and eventually to Midway. Still, we communicated through letters, and we were both discharged a few months apart. He was working in Mesquite/Dallas and I went back to Northeastern in the summer of 1971. He came there in the fall. I was in the student union one day, and there much to my surprise, was Ron. He had not planned ahead on coming to Northeastern, but after working for a few months at a grocery store, he decided he would go back to college.

So, our paths had crossed once again. Gale and I were living in the old “ Holland house’’ and Ron took an apartment right behind ours. I remember Ron and I were standing out in front and Gale came driving up from class one day. I had mentioned Ron numerous times, but that was the fist time she had met him. Anyway, we began to “hang” together. Ron and I would listen to all the OU on the radio and root for the Sooners. Then Ron got married and his wife became a Graduate Assistant and they moved into a dorm apartment. His wife helped Gale get a job as a DA and we, too, moved into a dorm apartment. Ron and I played flag football and softball together. We also played foosball in the student union, until one of us would get mad and we’d storm off for home, only to turn around before we got all the way home and go right back to the student union and play some more.

When we would go into a grocery store, we’d always circle inside the store and make it seemed as if we ran into each other. We say things like, “Ron, so good to see you. I didn’t realize you were out of the Navy …” Our wives would always be so embarrassed.

Ron and I went to several OU-Texas games in the Cotton Bowl. He always drove down from Tahlequah and I went from whatever high school football game I was covering on a Friday night, and we would meet at about 3 or 4 a.m. Then we would go to the game the next day, go eat that Saturday night, usually at Spaghetti Warehouse, and get up go to a Cowboys game on Sunday (that’s before the days of Jerry Jones, who stopped scheduling a game the day after the OU-Texas bash). Ron would always have to drive back to Tahlequah and teach the next day. I worried about him being exhausted, because of lack of sleep, but he made it back okay.

When Ron divorced many years later, he called Gale and me. We met him in Heavener at the old Crane Motel to hear the sad story. When Gale and I divorced much later, I went to my dad’s house in Heavener and Ron came by, because Gale had called to tell him. After being single for almost 12 years, Cynthia and I met. I never got to tell Ron, because when we went up to the next HHS Reunion that year as friends, Ron was already in the hospital in Tulsa but passed away the same day Cynthia and I had arrived in Heavener. His sister Linda called the house and left a message with dad, to tell me what had happened.

His daughter Raechel later came to Tyler one summer to stay with us before she started Tyler JC. Cynthia and I never got to tell Ron the good news about us getting married, but I imagine he would have approved.


At January 13, 2009 at 1:14 PM , Blogger Jim Patterson said...

Great story about good ol' Bent, John. I remember those days in Tahlequah very well.

I didn't know, though, that Jerry Jones' Cowboys had quit having home games the weekend of the OU-Texas game. You find a lot of good info in these blogs.

At January 13, 2009 at 1:14 PM , Blogger Chuck Hudlow said...

Good story, John. I remember Ron well. He had one of the widest smiles of anyone I've known and he seemed to always have it on his face. His passing was very sad and way too soon.

At January 13, 2009 at 3:59 PM , Blogger John Inman said...

Jim, I don't know if it was Jerry Jones, or the NFL, but seems like that would be more media coverage going from the OU-Texas game on Saturday to the Cowboy game on Sunday, if it were scheduled that way.


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