Monday, July 16, 2007
Godspeed, Mr. Weaver
It was with great sadness that I read the obituary for Jim Weaver, forwarded to me by my mother last week. Mr. Weaver, along with his wife Dinah, served as a 4-H leader for many years in Miami County, Ohio.
Mr. Weaver, a barrel-chested man with a booming, friendly voice, was a well-known figure at the Miami County Fair, where he and his family always camped out for the week. A man ahead of his time, he rode a motorcycle (complete with sidecar) and shaved his head, both remarkable things in the late 1970s conservative Midwestern farming community where I grew up. From about age 10 on, I was a member of the Weavers' club, the Springcreek Rounders (affectionately dubbed "Skinhead's 4-H" by kids in other clubs).
I have to say that I don't remember a single horsemanship lesson from my Springcreek Rounders days, but what I do remember is how welcome the Weavers made me feel as a new member in their club. As a painfully shy child, it was typically an excruciating experience to join anything where I'd have to meet new people. But in the Springcreek Rounders, everyone was made to feel part of the club, even if, like me, they rode English and had to wear a helmet (both highly unusual in 1970s rural Ohio). In the Springcreek Rounders, the Weavers strongly encouraged each child, even those who had "real show horses," to participate in the fair's fun day, and they made sure that no one failed to have a partner for the Ribbon Race or Drunkard's Paradise. Just now, I realized that while I had believed that marching with the club's banner in the all-fair parade was a great honor, it was really the Weavers' thoughtful solution for the members whose horses couldn't be relied upon to safely carry them in the parade.
In a world where it was still okay to touch kids without fear of lawsuits, Mr. Weaver was generous with hugs and reassuring pats on the back. He had a real knack for spotting the child trying to shrink into the background, and bringing them right up to sit with him and feel included. Without putting them on the spot, he paid special attention to members like Jody, a slightly overweight boy with a speech impediment who really struggled with basic horsemanship. At an age where every kid just wanted to fit in, the Weavers made sure they did.
Mr. Weaver, you were a kind and generous man. You were loved, and you will be missed. Goodbye, and Godspeed.