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Chuck Hinman: What I Respect About My Best Friend

Chuck Hinman, remembering his Best Friend, Ken Campbell.
The next earlier Chuck Himman column:Chuck Hinman, IJMA 333: It's a Boy!

By Chuck Hinman

My best friend is my former neighbor, Ken Campbell. I first met Ken the day we moved into the neighborhood at 5017 Bridle Road in Bartlesville. It was in 1973.

I would have laughed out loud if I had known that thirty years later I would write about Ken as my best friend.

Ken didn't waste any time getting acquainted with us, the new kids on the block. In later years I have heard him refer to this characteristic as "just snooping around" with his trademark mischievous grin! He did what neighbors are supposed to do, be neighborly. He was a super-snooper!

Ken knew, and regularly visited more of his neighbors than anyone I ever knew. That is not to suggest that everyone liked Ken. Ken was the mastermind that got paved streets in our addition, at a time when young couples were struggling just making house payments. He ruffled some feathers in that endeavor but years later, I think that most everyone was glad that he pushed that project.

I never knew Ken's age. He must be 5-8 younger than me. He always ate properly and was the picture of health. He watched his weight. It was just one of the many areas of his life that he never let get out of control. If he got a few pounds overweight, he quit eating until he returned to the weight he wanted to carry. Pretty simple plan? He wasn't a freak about fads but he was obviously the master of his ship.

Right off I found Ken to be a conversationalist who is a good listener, an oxymoron. He might not agree with you about everything but he handled that in a nice way -- he spoke his mind on a possible confrontational issue but added his trademark "Ken Campbell" smile.

He was strong-minded enough that I did not push something on which I knew his position was different than mine. I possibly kowtowed in some areas with Ken. For example, Ken had planted a row of sycamore trees on his property near our common property line. Over the years these trees provided wonderful shade for us in the afternoon but not without a price. Sycamores are messy and after a wind or rain storm, our yard was littered with sycamore limbs! Not only that but sycamore leaves are huge. It doesn't take many to fill a trash bag. But the trees were more important than the mess they created.

Not long after we became neighbors of the Campbells, I was pruning a branch of one of Ken's sycamore trees overhanging our yard. The branch was a nuisance when I mowed. Ken and Nylene's daughter, Donna, just a little tyke, came storming out their back door and yelled that I had no right to do what I was doing! I kept looking for Ken to come out to call his daughter off but he never showed up. We kidded about the incident in later years but I was never sure whether he sicced her on me or if he was no where around. Needless to say I treated his sycamore trees as holy. Wink.Ken was a fixer -- first class. He could do anything and do it better than a skilled tradesman. I never saw anyone who was as versatile in his skills. It would take a book to write about all the different things he tackled. Many times, the things he fixed were the first time he had done that. But he had a practical systematic approach to any job he tackled for the first time. If it didn't turn out well, he would tear it out and do it over. When it was finished it was not only satisfactory, but perfect. He didn't tolerate sloppy workmanship and time was never a factor.

Many years ago I had a sprinkler system put in my yard. Ken spent a lot of time watching the workmen as they completed my job. Shortly thereafter he asked me why I hired that job done. When I stammered around with my answer, I countered by asking him if he thought he could do that. He answered with a typical Ken Campbell smirk, they didn't look like brain surgeons to him. He was right and that was his philosophy about most any job.

I don't know how many times I would be struggling over some perplexing job and Ken would come over and in a nice way -- take over the job. He didn't want any praise or "pay-back." He liked fixing things and man, did I like having someone like him around. He was a jewel. I grew to like that guy more than you can imagine.

Nylene, Ken's wife was a wonderful person. She had health problems that were considerable but she was a good partner for Ken. I couldn't believe it when Ken told me one time that he could alter his clothes on the sewing machine. He was an avid collector of "coke" items. Their house was like a "coke museum." He bought and sold "coke items" on the Internet and then made the nice shelving on which he displayed his mammoth collection. Even in this, his decorating savvy never seemed to be compromised by poor judgment because he was a man in a woman's typical field. Their home was beautiful because Ken, with Nylene's expertise in what Ken lacked, made it so.

Ken and Nylene were expert cooks. Every year at Christmas time they invited all the closest neighbors, about 12 couples, to their beautifully decorated home for a Holiday brunch. Ken was probably more involved than Nylene in preparing the food but Nylene was the final boss. Even as much of an expert as Ken was in cooking, he obviously deferred to Nylene in the kitchen. The end result was superb and masterfully done.

Do you begin to see why I liked this guy.

Let me throw one more thing your way about Ken. Several years ago my brother Bob and wife Lindy came to visit us. They came in their pick-up camper. When Bob backed his camper in our driveway so they could hook it up to utilities, he inadvertently banged into my eaves troughs in front of the garage door. Bob was distraught but didn't have a clue what to do about the damage. I told him to forget about it, that I would fix it after they left.

Almost before they got out of the driveway to go home, here came Ken to survey the damage. I had assumed that I would call someone to replace the damaged section. Ken urged me to "be calm" while he contemplated what to do. He went home and returned with a ball-peen hammer and a short section of a 2x4. Little by little he worked the eaves trough with the hammer and 2x4 until you could hardly tell where the damage had been. Sometime later, I applied some touch-up paint and walla -- another Ken Campbell repair job was masterfully completed.

I could go on and on, relating just the things, Ken fixed for me, not to mention the similar things he did for all the other neighbors he befriended as he did me. I think I was special to him. I don't know how many times I have seen him with a little muscle-help, re-roof his house. Then he could have gone in the house and made a wonderful apple pie for their supper.

Ken's and Nylene's backyard bordered our side-yard. At night I could easily see in their kitchen window and tell that Ken was washing the supper dishes. Ken didn't shirk household chores because of Nylene's health problems.

Over the years, Ken and I spent many hours visiting over the fence that divided our properties. When Connie became disabled with Alzheimer's Disease, I found Ken to be a person on whom I could "unload." Even though Ken seemed to have a brusque, tough shell which he seemed to enjoy presenting, underneath all that baloney and facade, there was one of the softest compassionate hearts you can imagine.

In some ways he was that brusque kind of foul talking person and then he would turn on the soft hearted person that you couldn't help but love. In conclusion, let me demonstrate. One time when it was time to be going to bed, Ken called me and said "Do you know where your cat (Abby) is?" It was popular in those days for the Channel 6 late evening newscaster to open their program with "It's 10 o'clock, do you know where your kids are?"

I glanced around the room and replied, "No," Ken, "I don't know where she is." He answered with the brusque-Ken tone -- "Abby is on top of our house and she is meowing to get down but doesn't want to jump." I was ready to go to bed and I thought "So ...... what do you expect me to do. Leave her alone, she got up there, let her figure it out." I forgot to mention that Ken and Nylene neither were very fond of cats. They tolerated Abby. Abby seemed to sense that Ken didn't like her and for some reason she seemed to force herself on him. Dumb cat!

I began to get the picture that Ken expected me to put on some clothes, bring my step-ladder, and get Abby off his roof. It was clear when I got over there that Abby was anxious to get down. But she was skittish about getting close enough that I could grab her. Donna and Nylene joined Ken and me in the light of their porch light. Donna finally got up on the roof and handed Abby to me. I had no sooner put her on the ground when it was obvious why she was having such a fit to get to the ground. She went a few steps after I released her and pooped. I thought it was hilarious and was ready to bid everyone, "Goodnight" -- when Nylene said, "what do you want to do with the poop?"

I looked at Nylene and thought, "you are not serious, are you?" I was stuttering when Nylene asked Donna to go in the house and get a plastic bag. Nylene demonstrated how to pick-up poop without getting it on your hands and then handed me the bag!!

On my way home carrying the step-ladder and a bag of cat-poop I contemplated whether Abby had any future in our family.

A contrasting Ken Campbell was the one who called me ever so often at night and instead of asking a dumb question about Abby's whereabouts would ask me if I wanted to meet him over the back fence. I knew from a lifetime of experiences that meant he was going to hand me two plates of the best dessert concoction that you can imagine -- the kind that just melted in your mouth. It would be something he had made for their supper and he wasn't selfish about sharing the good stuff.

I could go on and on but I think you get the idea -- Ken Campbell -- my best friend! May his tribe increase!

Written by Chuck Hinman, May 14, 2004, ImPeruvians Writing Club

This story was posted on 2012-06-17 04:19:46
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