Ode to Ferman, “El Capitan”

As my best friend of over sixty years lies dying

I only feel like crying

But focus instead on the happy times we shared.

If only I could let him know how much I cared.

As young boys we were everything possible

Superman & Batman seemed entirely plausible.

Our outside days consisted of “let’s play like” make believe

Or inside watching cartoons as a heat reprieve.

By attending different grade schools, we avoided competition

And so our friendship grew stronger like a shared ambition

Even when we fought or harsh words were exchanged

We quickly made up, never being estranged.

And when we finally were together in Junior High

We finally had our quests and time seemed to fly

We were both in band, my drums and his flute

And together in our Uniforms we looked damned cute.

As time slid on our interests would change and grow

But we enjoyed each other’s differences and learned to know

That we each had strengths, and very unique talents

And we appreciated our diversity as it gave us some balance.

And often as friendships will enjoy good times and bad

We both became victims and later became sad

But together we weathered and managed to survive

Becoming stronger adults and each of us thrived.

I remember his first car, a 1960 Austin Healey Sprite

A “cherry” of a car, that fit us both just right.

And as he liked to tinker and know how things worked

I listened patiently to his rambling but sometimes smirked

When after a repair or job well done

A part would be leftover or a tool could not be found.

So we traveled together all over the area

And to St. Louis, Rolla in laughing hysteria

To Kansas City for concerts and boats shows too

Promising someday our houseboat would sail the ocean blue.

Then to college we were again apart, Me East and He West,

But whenever we got together it was truly the best

And we dated girls we both knew and double-dated a lot

And we tried LSD and sometimes smoked pot.

Then we became men, and lots of things changed

We were each other’s “best man” a friendly exchange.

We took wives and had children but always stayed close

By letter and telephone, we traded a “friend” dose

And I visited him in Charleston, in Groton and Kings Bay

And he saw me in Atlanta and New York; we always found a way.

Ferman with Twin Towers Behind in New York 1981

And when he moved to the Midwest I was already there

Just a half day’s drive, and we could share our ‘where.’

So it was not unusual when we both turned forty

We were looking for an adventure, something daring and sporty.

So I suggested we go to Colorado and climb Long’s Peak,

Yes, he said, and off we went, and WOW! What a week!

We trained to the altitude in Estes and Grand Lake

Then carefully planned the hike and the things we’d take.

Our hike began at 8,000 feet shortly before two in the morning

We would go up over a mile and out eight miles of exploring.

By sunrise, we were above the tree line and though it may be madness,

When we looked back East we thought we saw to Kansas.

By eight in the morning we were at the Boulder Field and the only Rest Room.

Ferman went there slowly in thin air to avoid a swoon.

By ten we crossed the Boulders and were at the Keyhole,

The last spot before final ascent to the summit, our goal.

We sat for a while, looking down at the mountain tops

A unique perspective enjoyed by God from His rooftop.

We took pictures and breathed deeply the thin, pure air

Knowing this was the last great challenge we would share.

But Ferman kept on becoming great, even internationally known

As an Environmental Guru giving lectures far from home.

And when his body gave clear signs that it is was ready to fail

He took another leap, and sought the holy grail;

In a lung transplant and open heart surgery, a dicey operation,

He was granted more life, and avoided stagnation

And he made it eventful by taking up photography

And excelled in minutiae and photo-ornithology.

But life is not permanent and it seems to go by faster

The closer we get to that life that is after

And so it has caught up to my best friend and mentor

Who I could rely on for an ear, advice or much more.

The world will seem half empty without you my friend,

And I only hope the faithful are right;  it’s not the end,

That I’ll see you later and we can spend time together

Cause when you’re not around it’s always bad weather.

J. Gregg Sterett  July 22, 2018


External Reference:  https://sustainability.uiowa.edu/news/milster-to-retire-april-30/

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