Tuesday, August 10, 2010

When a Great Warrior and Worthy Adversary Passes...We Salute You Jon Eldeen


I have known the one and only Jon Eldeen of the Hang Around Cafe for four years. My husband, Doyle has known John for many decades, back to when Jon cooked Fry Bread on an open fire, and Doyle hadn't even conceived of his own kitchen yet.

There was a friendly rivalry that existed between them, and yes, even friendship. They used to shop together for Events and shared many an after hour evening together shooting the breeze, and sometimes almost each other.

My experiences with Jon were casual and to the point, he often questioned my taste in men, and I often questioned his taste in fashion and decorum.

My favorite event to do with Jon was Dade City Withlacoochie Park Rendezvous in Florida, At this Event John set up directly across from us and we couldn't avoid eye contact, or tossing a few barbs at each other. He was a man I loved to hate, and looked forward to the next engagement when we would lock horns again.

I would often stage impromptu puppet shows at the counter, just for his benefit and chagrin. I would make obscene shapes out of wet bar towels and wave them at him menacingly. I would often pretend to walk down invisible steps to the basement, disappearing behind the counter, only to raise the finger of defiance at him, which often got him to crack a smile and to shake his head at the crazy woman across the way.

He liked me, and I liked him. But it was more fun to pretend we didn't and put on a show for the rest of the camp. We were competitors and it was better for business to not get along so folks would be walking by on the chance the sparks would fly and they'd get a free peek. It was also more fun and a great way to pass the long slow days when the public was a no show.

I really used to get his goat at camp meetings, I would make faces at him as he gave, "The Speech", as I used to call it, his long winded rambling at the end of the Event, that was all about what the promoters of the Event should do to make the Event better, he was right, but I had heard it so many times I always took the opportunity to make faces at him, when only he could observe me doing so, to try to throw him off. He never lost stride and always stayed on point, but his face would betray a certain irritated amusement.

He never acknowledged these childish "fits" of mine, or made any allusion to my bad manners. He didn't want it to stop. It was like a kid Brother and Sister, elbowing each other at the Saturday Matinee and the show wasn't the same without the ritual pot shots.

My last encounter with him was at our Kitchen when we hosted a Camp Feed and he passed through the food line, grumbling as he went, at having to enter our "Sad little Enterprise". He had cooked his favorite rice pudding to share and I contributed garlic fry bread rolls. We alternately wrinkled our noses at each others attempts, but we ate each others offering, and liked it secretly, rejecting it openly. Never would a compliment pass between us, never a kind word and we revelled in it.

I was relating to another buck skinner how my Father was raised on Isle Royale. Jon's head snapped around and his eyes lit up. Turns out he knows much about the place I was born.When he came abreast of me, we talked like regular people for the first time. We promised to swap Isle Royale history the next Event we met. Our relationship was finally warming up to a civilized future. We were going to sop kidding around, (for a short while), and become real compatriots.

But it was not to be.
Jon passed today, and I am feeling the loss. I can't imagine a Rendezvous without him, major crabby old curmudgeon that he was. Life without his caustic remarks will be all the blander for it. Now I will never know the knowledge he had to share about my homeland. I am lost, for a while, in hole he has left, for he took what he knew with him and it will never return.

Jon was many things, Father, Husband and Incredible Historian. "He also cooked a little".
He will be sorely missed and my prayers go out to his family in their time of sorrow.

The portrait photo provided is from Professional Photographer Ava Francesca, and the picture was taken at Dade City Rendezvous 2009. Thank You Ava!

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