Writings and observations

RIP

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Thinking of a lost friend. Robert Hopper, RIP.

When you got to know him, he preferred Robert to Bob. When you didn’t know him well, he would answer the phone as “Bunker Hill, Bob Hopper speaking.” Which, the way he tossed it out, sounded like “Fuck Your Mother” in Russian.

I always accused Robert of having a Bolshevik streak in him and he never denied it. You should’ve heard his stories about growing up in Flint, Mich. He was such a tough SOB his parents sent him off to reform school. And that was one tough company town.

Robert hacked around Alaska, Nevada, central and western Washington, doing everything from digging ditches for wealthy mine-owners to painting bridges with red-lead paint. Between injuries he suffered mining and driving long Nevada roads he was in pain all the time we knew him, but he rarely talked about it.

I would take 10 more minutes with Robert than a month with Albert Einstein. Robert and I became friends when we broke out into a discussion of over which was better for the desert island: Zen & the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, or Roger and Me. And then, whether it was smarter to use ether or WD-40 on a balky Diesel. We actually agreed on that one. WD-40 is easier on the heads and valves than a straight bang of ether. (Name its secret ingredient and win a free glass of ice-water.) He also knew how to keep a lead-acid battery alive for centuries. I’d learned the same, from an old Scotsman 50 years ago. Answer that question and I owe you a beer.

Good Lord, do I miss that guy. We could get so ferocious and feisty, then land laughing at ourselves, all in the space of a few minutes. RIP, my friend Robert.

My only regret is that the people of Kellogg never knew the giant that was in their midst. Robert and a pair of partners bought the Bunker Hill because, to this rough-cut kid, it was “the shining city on the hill.”

Even from Flint, that meant something.

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