My wife’s sister, Ellen, recently mentioned that a lot of my columns revolve around food. I hadn’t thought about it, but I believe she’s on to something. I have a thousand memories that involve food, and I can’t think of a single one that isn’t pleasant. One of my favorites goes back to college days when four friends took a low budget weekend outing to Lake Blackshear.
It was the spring of 1971 when Don Giles, Dennis Mills, Mike Chason, and I pooled our resources for a two-night road trip. We left the campus of Valdosta State College on a warm Friday afternoon, waiting of course until we had finished our homework assignments and returned any library books that were due. We had seventeen dollars in the kitty, enough to buy gas for Dennis’ white Dodge Challenger and some grocery money.
Don’s parents owned a cabin at Lake Blackshear and had a ski boat that was begging for young riders. We stopped in Cordele and purchased boloney, cheese, bread, mustard, and eggs, all the essentials for a wonderful weekend. The baloney provided variety through tasty cold sandwiches or having it fried for breakfast.
We ate like kings until Sunday morning when our supplies were depleted. Thankfully we still had four eggs and four slices of bread. We reasoned it was enough to sustain us until we could make it to the V.S.C. cafeteria in time for supper. Dennis buttered the toast while Mike ceremoniously distributed a single egg to each of us, cautioning that we handle them with care.
Don’s egg survived the transfer but soon met disaster. It fell from his open palm and splattered like Humpty Dumpty amidst shouts of, “Scoop it up! Scoop it up!” We had postponed sweeping the floors that weekend, so Don refrained from what could have been a tempting situation.
As Don covered his egg with old newspaper, Mike began frying the other three. Our memories differ as to what happened after that, and every time this story is told it changes a bit. My three friends are not fully committed to factual recollections.
My remembrance is that I generously suggested we each share one third of an egg with our host and good friend, but Dennis strongly objected. He was disturbed that Don would end up with a whole egg, leaving us with only two thirds. I counter offered that we could each allot one fourth of an egg, noting that would provide an equal portion to everyone.
Dennis was silent. He was struggling to check my math while anxiously searching for a somewhat honorable way out of his dilemma. During that brief pause in the conversation, Mike seized the opportunity of a teachable moment. He held up the spatula to indicate he had something important to say. “If we share our eggs with Don,” he said, “he won’t learn from his carelessness. But if we keep our eggs for ourselves, Don will understand that reckless behavior has consequences.”
Don and I had been good friends since the fourth grade at Unadilla Elementary School. The thought of him having nothing but a slice of bread for breakfast tugged at my heart. I realized, however, that Mike’s proposal was for Don’s long-term benefit. And so it came to pass that three of us enjoyed our sumptuous breakfast, while Don nibbled at thin toast that once had been the end of a loaf.
We’ve laughed about that weekend much longer than could have been predicted. Two years from now will mark its 50th anniversary, a milestone that’s significant only to the four of us.
I guess Mike was right about teaching Don a lesson. He hasn’t dropped a raw egg since then that we know of. But there was a bigger lesson for all of us. We were given a lasting reminder that special moments can surface without warning among friends. If Don hadn’t dropped that egg, our weekend would have been far less memorable. It’s a blessing when four aging friends can laugh about a little thing from their long-gone youth. That’s reason enough to get together when we can.
We’re planning a reunion in Valdosta for 2020. To be on the safe side, I’m taking an extra carton of eggs. I can’t bear the thought of seeing Don’s hungry look again. Sometimes that image still tugs at my heart.