I was 10 years old, kicking back in the passenger seat of a powder blue Ford Pinto station wagon with my shoulder pads bunched up so high around my head they wrecked my peripheral vision. My helmet lay by my feet as my mom drove me to another hot afternoon of August football practice. Beside me lay the loose seat belt (who wore seat belts back then?).
Music played over the radio when suddenly an announcer broke in to announce that “Elvis Presley was found dead today inside his Graceland mansion.” My mother, a huge fan, screamed and then simply stared at the radio, forgetting for a moment that she was still driving a vehicle. As the car momentarily veered toward the curb, I hollered, “MOM!!” She righted the vessel and dumped me off for a miserable hour of practice, still in a state of incredible disbelief. The KIng was dead. That was 30 years ago today.
The loss didn’t hit me so hard then–after all, I was the one who tried to argue with her that the band KISS was much bigger than Elvis had ever been, measured by the fact that my 6-year-old brother knew the name to a couple of KISS songs, but couldn’t identify a single Presley tune–but I did like some of his songs and truthfully enjoyed his campy movies. And as I’ve gotten older, have come to really appreciate the legend as much as the music he created.
It’s hard to believe it has already been 30 years since his passing and as I put those years into the perspective of hunting (as I often tend to do) I can’t help but think of how many hunting seasons that has been and ultimately, how many old-time hunters were around back then that have since also passed on.
Last week was a crazy week. My wife, pregnant with twins, spent most of it in a hospital as doctors successfully worked to postpone her labor–two months early. The crew at Outdoor Life also had to move offices from one floor to the next, seemingly not such a big deal, until you realize how much stuff can accumulate at a magazine over many, many years.
I spent most of the weekend working like a dog to get the nursery and another room remodeled should our new arrivals actually arrive much earlier than we planned, taking a short break to eat lunch and flip through the channels. With the 30th anniversary of the King’s death coming on, one channel was showing Elvis movies all day. I paused and spent an hour watching “Girl Happy.”
By today’s standards, it’s about as goofy as it gets, but as I watched, I found myself not so focused on the silliness on the screen as much as the innocence and time it represented, a time when your parents could still make any troubles you had go away, when bills and deadlines and a host of grown-up problems still loomed in the unforeseeable future, and a time when it seemed like everyone would live forever–even Elvis Presley.
How cool would that be if in each of our lives we could touch people in a way that 30 years after we’re gone, we could still bring someone joy? Pretty cool, indeed.
Man, 30 years. A lot of people, myself included, still miss him. If there was anyway to get a message to him, I think the only thing to say would be, “Thank you…thank you very much.”