Inherent within this business of approaching the precipice is the long gaze backward. Chronology remembered not for what happened, but who.
Scott Scheuerman lived a block east in Wichita. In Pleasant Valley in the early ‘70s, there were so many kids, cliques just sort of sprang up organically. Scott's clique and mine didn't have much to do with each other. Think of us as sort of a suburban Sharks and Jets.
Except without the moves, knives or Natalie Wood.
I can’t remember exactly how we broke the ice, but we did and from roughly ages 12 through 17, were inseparable. The kind of friendship where we'd walk into each others’ homes, raid the fridge, plop down on the couch and feel right at home.
“Chrissakes, Matson, you
re eating me out of house and home!”
We had three things in common. Three things that bound us together and dominated our time, our conversation, our hopes and dreams.
Sports, cars and girls.
Scott was a jock. I was a band geek. His girlfriends were cheerleaders. Mine were... well, let’s just say they weren’t cheerleaders.
Scott was a gifted athlete, especially baseball and basketball. I tried hard, but lacked the skillz.
His first car was a ‘73 Cougar. Mine was a ‘70 Falcon.
In the only three areas of life that matter for teenage boys, Scott excelled. So the fact that he wanted to be my friend did wonders for flagging adolescent self-esteem.
Two quick stories.
July 4, 1972. Shooting bottle rockets in the Skateland North parking lot when one zoomed errantly into an adjacent field of dry wheat stubble.
It went up like, well, like a field of dry wheat stubble. Our first instinct was to split. And fast. Instead, Scott ran to the nearest house and asked the inhabitants to call the fire department.
The firefighters arrived, did their job, took the 1972 equivalent of our contact info and carried on with their appointed rounds. Couple weeks later, Scott and I were shooting hoops in my driveway with our 10-speed bicycles parked nearby when the red Fire Department car pulled up.
“Are you Mike?” I generally answer ‘yes’ to that question.
“Then you must be Scott,” eyeballing us, our 10-speeds, our parents
homes, Pleasant Valley.
“I'm on pyromaniac lecture duty. Here
s the lecture. You guys have it pretty good here.”
He stepped in close enough to poke a firefighting finger and make his one and only point.
“I DON’T WANT ANY MORE OF THIS SONOFABITCHIN’ AROUND WITH FIRE! GOT IT?”
We'd often ride our 10-speeds downtown to Wichita Aeros minor league baseball games.
Passing through the turnstiles, fans were greeted immediately with “GET YOUR LUCKY NUMBER PROGRAMS..!”
As fate would have it, I got a lucky number and was rewarded with a Kodak Pocket Instamatic. Gloating over my booty on the way home, I held up the camera so he’d be certain to understand who, exactly, got the lucky number.
My best friend raised a middle finger to salute my good fortune.
Scott had the answers to the important questions that tend to comprise the worldview of teenage boys. Invariably, he’d do the right thing while simultaneously putting off a vibe of leading the insurrection.
We were best friends in every definition of the term, but as teenage boys, would never deign to say it out loud. After the teenage years, we drifted apart, but ever since, Scott has remained my touchstone for best friends.
When my son was born in 1985, the list of possible names was short. One entry: Scott.
I ran across his obituary in 1998, while managing news clips for the Graves re-elect.
His sister, Patti, and I are Facebook friends. Patti wondered what he’d be like, had he lived.
I suspect he’d be much like he was as a teenager.
Leading the revolt with confidence and honesty.