Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Memorial for Darryl Ferguson

My Father-in-Law, Darryl Ferguson, passed away and we said goodbye to him on Saturday, August 25. It was among the saddest things I ever had to do. Growing older stinks if this is the kind of thing that starts happening.

I remember the first time I saw him; a large man lying on his stomach, propped up on his elbows reading the Chronicle. The television was on, and he barely spoke. Then he stood up. At about six foot one, around 240 pounds, OP shorts and a faded t-shirt, he was imposing. This is the look he called “Bumzilla”.

As I started coming over there more and more and more and more, I got to know this man, also known as “Fergie”, or if he felt so inclined, “Fergenstein”. He loved telling stories of when he was a kid, or as a young man hunting in the wilds of the Almeda area, when there was nothing nearby but jackrabbits.

Some of my favorite stories were about the store he owned and operated for years, Ferguson Food Center. The would-be robbers, troublemakers and crazy people provided enough material for a book. He used to sit at the counter reading the paper, and when a suspicious-looking character would enter, Fergie would reach under the counter for his .45 automatic, and casually point it at the possible trouble spot, follow him around the store, all the while concealing the weapon in the Twinkie rack and continuing to read the paper. He never had to do anything from there, but he would just say that he was ready, and the “Twinkies would get real hot, real fast!”

Ferguson Food Center was also the site of many other actions that weren’t funny, but that showed the real man, The store is in a really tough part of town, Wayside and Navigation for those of you familiar with Houston. Many times, some homeless person would wander in wanting to panhandle for some money to buy some demon rum. Some would even offer to sweep the parking lot or some other menial task for a little money. Darryl never gave them money, but more often than not would give them food, a burrito, a sandwich, or some other real food. They would say “Thanks,man...” and start out the door. He would tell them, “Have a seat, you have to eat it here.” He didn’t want them to go out and sell the food for Ripple.

Many times he provided food for people that he knew were down on their luck. The gruff exterior concealed the heart that was caring and compassionate and generous. I don’t think anyone will ever know how many people he helped and touched.

Another thing about Darryl, he always had impeccably shiny shoes. Most of what he wore day to day were black Justin ropers. They shone like a military man’s shoes, and although he never served in the armed forces, his footwear could be mistaken for a career Marine officer’s shoes. He routinely shined those boots every night. EVERY night. There must have been fifty coats of parade gloss black Kiwi shoe polish on them.

After he got finished with the store proprietor business, he became a bailiff in the Harris County Family Law Center, 308th District Court. Every night on arriving home, he turned on the television, but not the news. Instead his viewing of choice was the Three Stooges. He said that he had seen enough bad news and sadness for the day, and he just wanted to laugh. He had a dry sense of humor, but also had an affinity for slapstick. As my beloved would get ready for a date, Darryl and I would watch Stooges videos, or old dumb monster movies or just reminisce about our favorite Tex Avery cartoon gags. He also related stories from the courthouse. The most enduring line he used was the ever-popular, “Button your shirt and button your lip…”

I will miss Fergie for many years, and I thank him for the 25 years of laughter, advice and relaxed good times I enjoyed in his company.


Rob V. said...

aA --

What a heart-warming tribute to your father-in-law. Hope those close to him will read your blog and cherish his memory. I also am close to my daddy-in-law, Tex, who is about as salt-of-the-earth as any country boy in Texas. Tex is on the other side of 80 now and he may not be around too much longer. Don't like to think about it, but I might be putting together a similar tribute about ol' Tex in the not too distant future. You're right. Some things about getting older are just downright unpleasant.

aA said...

thanks mr.v, you are once again very eloquent.

Anonymous said...

BIG TOE said...

I remember when I would go to work with my dad. One employee was glad to see me walk through that door. It was (Big) John. He new that when I came to work with my dad that Fergie was buying lunch for all of employee's. I got to choose the lunch spot. I chose Taco Bell. John and I would go and pick up the lunch orders. I would climb up in his big truck and John would skweez behind the steering wheel. the steering wheel had a big knob that the would spin around to steer his truck. I never missed the small details.Floyd another one of dad faithful employees would make jiffy pop on a hot plate for me in the afternoon. At the end of the day when it was time to go home my dad would always tell me to get a sack underneath the counter and fill it up with candy. We could put as much as we wanted in the bag. My friends always thought that was cool. I did too.

aA said...

Big Toe, we could fill a book with great stories, i'll bet you have some that nobody has even heard!

the photoSmith said...

Well I didn't know Fergie, but after reading your tribute I feel like I got a brief glimpse into his life. He sounds so much like my father-in-law it's scary! Gruff on the outside but when given the chance will help out any one who needs it.