MAY 4, 2012 – By Ben Robinson
Even though it’s been over 30 years ago, May 5th, 1981 is a day I remember like it was yesterday.
At the time I was in fifth grade at Newton, but had known many kids from Covington through my cousin Ray Kimmel – kids I would eventually become classmates with one year later.
One of the Covington kids I knew was Donnie Harrison. He lived a few houses away from my grandparents on Klinger Road and he would come over when we visited our grandparents on the weekends – as did Ray Kimmel. Donnie’s sister, Denise, married my uncle around this time as well.
In those days my grandparents use to harvest their own meet in the winter, so it was a common practice for the entire family to show up and help process the meet. For us kids, it was a chance to get into mischief and nobody was better at finding mischief than Donnie Harrison.
One time Donnie had the bright idea of trying to tie the tails of two cows together, slap them on the rear and see if their tails would come off if they ran the opposite direction. Of course, tying the tails together was impossible because the cows wouldn’t hold still long enough, but Donnie sure tried.
Another time we were in the process of trying to build a fort in the back of one of my grandfather’s barns, sorting through wood for our masterpiece. Our venture got sidetrack because Donnie came across an old box filled with girly magazines. I still remember the huge, innocent grin on Donnie’s face as my uncle Bill walked around the corner and caught us looking at things way too advanced for 9 or 10 year olds.
That was Donnie, mischievous, ornery and most of all, funny – and he let his personality show. You knew by the look on his face the wheels were always in motion inside his head – “looking for something to do”.
One of the things Donnie loved to do the most was play football. Like so many kids before him and so many more since, Donnie played for the Little Buccs. I never got to play with him since I lived in Pleasant Hill at the time, but I always remember him wearing his football jersey – what seemed like every time I saw him.
There are so many more great memories of Donnie fresh in my mind and the minds of those who knew him. But there is one memory of Donnie that hurts more than any other in my youth. That memory is from the morning of May 5th, 1981.
We were eating breakfast before school and the phone rang. Mornings were a routine back then as all I thought about was how I hoped the school day would go by fast so I could get out to baseball practice or come home and play. I didn’t have a care in the world for school or anything “really important”, so there wasn’t any need to worry when the phone rang as I shoveled cereal down my throat.
Suddenly, a typical day turned into a horrific one as my aunt was on the other end of the line informing us that Donnie lost his life in a motorcycle accident the day before. I remember vividly thinking it wasn’t real, that we’d always see Donnie the next time we went to my grandparents. After all, we had already made plans that we were going to go to the creek behind my grandparent’s farm and build a dam to make a swimming hole the next time we met up.
Unfortunately, reality did set in throughout the following days and over the years Donnie’s friends and classmates have all grown and had families. Many of us have kids who are now the age Donnie was when he left us far too soon.
Even after all of these years, Donnie’s memory is alive and well in all of us who knew him. As you get older you realize how special he was because of the way he lived his life – mischievously innocent, fearless and taking advantage of every moment.
Maybe that’s his message – to get everything you can out of the life you are given.