• Mike Matson

My First Best Friend

In the summer of 1966, when our family moved from rural Rooks County, Kansas to the mean streets of a Wichita neighborhood called Pleasant Valley (with a culture reflective of its name), my Mom would not let me ride my bicycle on streets that were paved. Only gravel streets, of which there were a few, but inaccessible without first traversing pavement.

Never mind that back in Rooks County, we rode horses, explored limestone caves and all manner of activities that any reasonable person would consider more dangerous that riding a bike on a paved street.

Scott (right), with his sibs Mark and Patti, ca. 1987.

Became fast friends with a kid a block over, who questioned Mom’s logic and encouraged insurrection. Mom eventually came around on the pavement question and Scott Scheuerman and I would ride our bicycles all over the Air Capital, leaving first thing in the morning and aiming north by northwest to PV in the early evening, often long after our “be home when the streetlights come on” curfew.

Among our fav haunts was then-Lawrence Stadium to catch Wichita Aeros day games (top farm club of the Cleveland Indians and later, Chicago Cubs). A popular promotion was the sale of “lucky number programs.” Buy one and take your chances.

As fate would have it, on this day I had a lucky number and was rewarded with a Kodak Pocket Instamatic. Pedaling home, I held the camera high, to ensure Scott had a deep and meaningful understanding of who, exactly, had won the booty. The response came in the form a middle finger thrust in my general direction.

One Fourth of July, we were lighting fireworks in an empty parking lot and lost control of a bottle rocket, which set an adjacent field of dry wheat stubble ablaze. Scott did the right thing right away, sprinting to the closest house, hollering at its inhabitants to call the fire department.

Scott's friendship meant so much that my only son is named in his honor. We lost track of each other until one day going through clips in Gov. Graves’ office I ran across his obit. Cancer. He died at 37. Entirely too young.

Scott Scheuerman (1959-1996), from whom I learned all the inside dope when it came to life’s essentials at age 13 (read: girls, cars and beer) and that oftentimes, it is more expeditious to ask forgiveness than to ask permission.