Sunday, November 6, 2011

So long, Dean

 Our Dear Neighbor Dean Despain passed on to the Happy Hunting Grounds September 2, 2011.  He was born in Jerome January 9th, 1940, so he was 71 years of age.  Dean was a very Wise Man, even wiser beyond his 71 years.  It seemed that Dean had done everything, been everywhere, knew everything, caught everything, hunted everything, and even owned everything.  Dean was not only a Jack of All Trades, he was a true Master of All Trades.  There was no task, challenge or mountain too tall for him to tackle.  He looked life square in the eye and went mano y mano with anything and everything that life threw in his face.  It's really hard to believe that something finally quieted his bright and shining Spirit.

Dean was one of those guys who seldom come around in this day and age.  He was a throwback to the Old School.  I often thought Dean was a reincarnated Mountain Man who drove a beat up old Ford Bronco instead of riding a sturdy trail horse.  Dean's hunting and fishing stories were without peer in my experience.  He could easily top anyone's outdoor stories and he always did so with great gentlemanly class and style.  Dean wasn't one to brag about his exploits or survivor skills.  He told his stories always in the most matter-of-fact manner as casually as he would have described a trip to Camp Verde for groceries.  Dean lived through more narrow escapes than the proverbial cat with nine lives.  We always figured he would land on his feet no matter how high, hard and far he was dropped from the Tree of Life.  Floods, fires, car wrecks: you name it, Dean took it all in stride as if it was just another day at the office.

Dean and his Forever Loving wife, Joanne, raised a large family of incredibly smart kids who have gone on to really distinguish themselves.  One's a high ranking military officer, another is a DPS officer, one's a nurse and all the others are likewise very remarkable and successful.  Dean doted on his many grand kids and I often told those kids and him to his face that he was The World's Best Grand Pa.  NOBODY could hold a candle to what Dean did for his grand kids.  He was the ultimate Grand Pa of every little kid's dreams.

Dean was the penultimate sportsman--a real Man's Man.  There wasn't any game species he feared, from the biggest, wildest African mammals to the largest creatures in the deep, deep sea.  One of my favorite of Dean's portfolio of fishing stories was about the time he was in the Sea of Cortez off Old Mexico when his boat was surrounded by a big pod of huge whales.  I don't recall if they were killer whales or gray whales.  Anyway, they are almost as big as semitrailer trucks and they circled his boat and swam under it.  They could have flipped his boat with a mere flick of their mighty tails.  So the whales started singing under his boat.  Heck, maybe they were paying tribute to The One who was a Prince of the Outdoors!  Anyway, as Dean told it, their singing was so close and so loud it vibrated the floor of his aluminum boat so badly it put his feet to sleep.  He said their singing was so loud he wished he had ear protection.  Dean wasn't above a little story teller's license.

As his son, Critter, said in a eulogy at Dean's Memorial Service,

"Everyone here has a “Dean” story. The funny thing is that every single one of dad’s stories had some truth behind it. Some stories were just stretched a little further than others--that’s all, and in every one of his stories there is an adventure. I would like to put an observation out there for all of you. Most people in the world live their lives looking for that adventure of a lifetime. Dad didn’t have to look......he had a lifetime of adventure and chose to share that with everyone. With dad, even a simple trip to the grocery store could turn into an adventure!"

One day I saw Dean sitting in front of his garage over an old Coleman stove. Intrigued, I went over to find out "whazzup."  Dean was melting lead in a pot and pouring the molten metal into giant sinker molds.  The lead fumes were coming right up in his face.  I said, "Dean, aren't you worried about those lead fumes?"  He just laughed his great Dean laugh and said, "It's gonna take a lot more lead than these fumes to kill me."  That was years ago so I guess he was right.  Anyway, Dean and his grand kids went to an old shooting range to dig up and scavenge used lead bullets.  He melted them down to make the giant sinkers.  He told me they were as good as gold in Old Mexico.  Apparently, lead is tough to get down there because of the restrictions on guns and bullets and so forth.  The Mexican fishermen coveted lead sinkers and would trade just about anything for giant sinkers for their nets and lines.  Dean said he used the sinkers as currency on his many trips to fish the Sea of Cortez.

Oddly, I have been searching online for a "right and proper" obituary for Dean Despain.  His obit doesn't exist.  Perhaps the Family didn't want one published.  Who knows?  We'd certainly love to tell you about his incredible life.  Dean was an amazing Man.  One day he did me a great favor.  It was back in the year 2000 when I was considering retiring for the first time.  I was really worried about it because we had none of the so-called per-requisites that the experts say you should have to retire.  No real assets.  No real income.  Nothing, really.  Anyway, Dean sat me down and gave me one of those Old School Man-to-Man talks.  He told me it didn't matter.  It was totally OK to retire with nothing.  He said there was some strange Law of The Universe that would take care of me and Susun.  He said everything we needed would be provided for.  As long as we didn't consume ourselves with hand-wringing and worry, all of our needs would be met and we would never want for anything.  He said everything would come around just like magic right when we needed it.  He smiled and his eyes twinkled and he said, "Just give it a try, you'll see how it works right from the git go."  Well, you know what?  Dean was right on.  He was so right on that it worked like magic right from the git go just like he said.  We will always be forever indebted to Dean for those priceless and timeless words of wisdom.  We've already attempted to pass them on to many others and will continue to honor Dean with the repetition of those kind words.

Dean loved many things: his wife, Joanne, his children, his grand kids, his boats, his guns, his books--the list is long.  Perhaps one of the things Dean loved the most was his Old Bronco.  He bought it brand new off the lot in Flagstaff.  The Bronco and Dean were a truly "matched pair."  They were born to be together.  Dean got the Old Bronco fired up last April this year for one last trip around the neighborhood.  He brought one of his grandsons, Christian, down Memory Lane to say "Howdy."  It was the last time we saw Dean and we shall always cherish our final glimpse of this Great Gentleman.

We have absolutely no doubt that Dean is now regaling God and Saint Peter and all the Angels with many a great tale from Dean's exploits down here on Earth.  We can imagine God and Saint Pete scratching their flowing beards and saying things like, "Why, Holy Tarnation, I've never heard the likes of that one before, did you, Pete?"  Meanwhile, Dean laughs that Great Dean Laugh and his Spirit echos through the Halls of Heaven.

So Long, Dean, we'll miss ya, Buddy.  Fish ON!


Wayne Ranney said...

Great post! What a man.

The Goatherder said...

I didn't know he'd passed and wish I'd known him by more than reputation. Your remembrance is beautiful. Happy Trails Dean.

Marti Spudboater said...

What a nice story,John. I wish I'd met Dean. He sounds like the kind of man I'd like and a real salt of the earth. Thanks for sharing and maybe you can share some more around the campfire.