Earl Edward Jobe, Jr 1955-2004
You set that rifle against the side of a barn, that's all. You never kept a bullet chambered, and you always had the rifle on safety. Always. When we were boys hunting birds with shotguns you reminded me again and again. "You just get one chance to be safe, Cuz." For years we had been like brothers. Playing, hunting and fishing, swimming at the lake, sharing the early attempts at chasing girls. You stayed at my house, I stayed at yours. Every summer we both spent a couple of weeks at our Grandmother's house deep in the East Texas countryside; those were the best. You were bigger and stronger than me, Eddie, but never a bully. You looked out for me, constantly. I wasn't with you that day. You had always liked hunting more than me, and in our teens, I just stopped. I didn't want to shoot anything again. I grew my hair long, smoked pot, when to music festivals. You wore cowboy hats, drank Jack Daniels, and rode bulls in the rodeo. You were the son my father wanted me to be! And you moved on to bigger game. Deer, antelope, wild hogs bigger than a man. You were always the safe one. The family trusted you to go off alone; they knew you would bring home meat, a hide, a head for the wall. You set that rifle against the side of a barn, that's all. By 22 you were married, had a little girl, she was the light of your life. You set that rifle against the side of a barn, you were taking a break, and when it discharged I am sure you were surprised. "You just get one chance to be safe, Cuz." Just one, Eddie. And when that 30.06 bullet ricocheted off of a piece of metal, split, and that piece went into your head, it didn't kill you, it just wiped your mind away. For 27 more years you lived that way, just a shell of yourself. Unable to remember your wife, your child, or the cousin who called you brother. Dying took a long time. And now you lay next to your parents, just a short walk from where we used to hunt birds, and talk about girls, and dream of the adventures we would have together as men. I still remember you, Eddie. I remember you, Cuz. Brother.
JAMES LEE JOBE