I grew up with two older brothers—Chuck was 14 years older than me, Larry is 9 years older. So, it was like being an only child. My brothers were all grown up and mostly out of the house by the time I was old enough to be fun. That’s one of the reasons why my buddy Sonny and I were so close. I always thought it would be cool to have a sister. But that wasn’t in the cards. The Wilson’s did not have a girl born into the family for some 100 years until my niece Jodi, Larry’s daughter, was born in 1965. But there were a couple of young ladies who became like sisters to me and I will never forget the fun we had and the kindness they showed to a geeky, pesky cowboy kid.
In November 1965, Chuck was killed by a drunk driver. He was 24, had landed his dream job as basketball coach of the high school we all attended, and he and his wife had just two days before announced they were having their first child. It was a very, very difficult time for all of us. In the spring of 1966, the Heft’s—Bill, Martha and their daughters Jean and Nancy–invited us to their house for dinner. We knew the Heft’s, but not as well as some others in the community, so it was kind of a mystery as to why they invited us. They lived in a beautiful farm house on top of a hill about four miles from our farm. Bill was an executive at Packard Electric and part time farmer. Martha was a well-educated and proper lady.
Bill and Martha wanted to take Mom, Dad and I on vacation with them for a week at Myrtle Beach, SC. They felt it would be good for all of us to get away. Jean and Nancy were about nine and five years older than me, respectively. They were beautiful, not only like models on the outside, but the most wonderful people on the inside. They, it seemed, always wanted a little brother. So it was a good match. It brings tears to my eyes when I think of how they were so enthusiastic to meet me and how they talked to me, really made me feel welcomed. I was star-struck by both of them. It was the beginning of a friendship and a several-year tradition of Myrtle Beach vacations. The sisters I never had.
Sisters and brothers, I’m told, have that caring, mischievous, adversarial, teasing relationship all rolled into one. Jean, Nancy and I were all that. I must have been a real pest to them, but they gave it all back and then some. We had a lot of adventures. Nancy and I would sneak into hotel pools and swim like we were residents, thinking we got away with something big. I would do ornery things like pour cold water on Jean when she was sun bathing. One time they ganged up on me and dragged me into the outdoor shower in my street clothes. As Christ said in Luke 6:31, “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” At the end of the day, I guess we enjoyed all the pranks we did to each other. It was a simpler time then, and at least for a week out of the year, I found out what it was like to have sisters, and Jean and Nancy, had a brother.