Clifton Blue: Remembering a Lifelong Friend
Old Man Winter seemed to be hanging on. Every time I thought spring was about to make an appearance he would raise his ugly head and drop the temperature into the 20s.
Linda and I were supposed to be in Florida, down around Everglades City, enjoying some early spring fishing; or to be more precise, I would be fishing and Linda would be soaking up some rays and reading a good book. Unfortunately, the trip had to be postponed.
The year 2013 ushered in one crisis after another. First, it was sickness. We both came down with the upper respiratory crud that has affected so many in our area, and that took a month of recuperation. Then came the real kicker. On the way home after a brief visit to one of my favorite towns, Charleston, S.C., where we took in their latest Waterfowl Festival, I got a call from one of my oldest high school friends, Clifton Blue.
“Hey Bryant.” The cell phone was breaking up and I could barely make out who was calling. “It’s Blue.”
The phone went dead. I drove on down the road until I picked up another tower and returned Blue’s call. No answer. I’ll call him when we get home, I thought. We’re not that far from Southern Pines.
After unloading the car, I called Cliff again from the house phone and still couldn’t get him, so I left a message. “Hey, Blue. We’re home. Give me a call.”
Cliff Blue and I go way back — to the second grade, as a matter of fact. We’ve been friends forever. You know, the kind of friend you can miss seeing for a couple of years and then, when you do get back together, pick up on an old conversation without missing a beat.
In high school, we burned up the roads of Moore County. We played baseball and football, hung out at the Clam Box, the one and only local drive-in, competed for the same girls and, in general, had a rip-roaring good time.
I was thinking about our days as youngsters the evening we got home from Charleston, even going over an old story with Linda, who has heard it a million times. It was about one time during spring break from college. Cliff and I drove my old ’40 Chevrolet to Fort Lauderdale.
The movie, “Where The Boys Are,” had premiered the year before. Blue was a student at Louisburg and I was a sophomore at Brevard, and we happened to be home on break at the same time. Not having much to do one evening, except stand around at the Clam Box and check out the girls, I suggested that we gas up the old vehicle and head south. Fort Lauderdale was rumored to be running over with pretty co-eds.
Now Cliff’s daddy was big into politics, having served as Speaker of the House one year in Raleigh. It was rumored that he was even in line to be governor in a couple of years, and he ran a tight ship at home. Later that evening when we told him our plans, he asked me what my parents thought about the adventure. I told him that they said it would be OK if he agreed to the trip.
He did and we immediately drove to Pinebluff, reversed the story, and got an OK from my parents. Thus began our greatest road trip. We still talk about it.
The next morning, Cliff called me back. “Hey, Bryant. Join Mitch and me at the old Aberdeen Grill for lunch tomorrow.” Mitchell Hardister was part of our high school class and we try to get together periodically to catch up.
Billy Marts, another classmate from old Aberdeen High, joined us the next day, and we had a great time at lunch. Much of our conversation centered on what seems to have become a general topic of conversation whenever we get together now, and that’s the latest health concerns of the group.
Clifton, unfortunately, had just been treated for a heart problem, but he didn’t seem to be overly concerned. As we finished lunch, he pulled a little digital camera from his jacket and asked the waitress to take our photo. Then we headed out the door, speaking to people we knew on the way.
On the sidewalk, as we were about to leave, Billy said, “Blue, you need to get out in the sun more. You’re pale.”
I followed up, “Yeah, go home, get a cold beer and soak up some rays like we did that time in Florida.”
He laughed and said as he climbed into his pickup, “I’m gonna do just that.”
The next morning about 9:30 while sitting in his sunroom, Cliff Blue passed away. There is an old saying that a person never dies as long as someone remembers his life.
Cliff Blue is going to be around a long time.
Contact Tom Bryant at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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