State Fair ribbons for his baked goods year after year. Frequently took his daughters and their friends on camping trips. Worked with stained glass. Could sharpen a knife better than anyone I knew. If something tickled Mike just right, he couldn't stop laughing. As a kid he was known to fall out of his chair with the giggles.
Speaking of weddings, I was Mike's Best Man. But this story happened at a bachelor party for a friend I also stood up for: We were drinking pretty heavy. Metaxa. We'd light a shot on fire, blow it out and drink. After several, I decided to try one while still lit. As my mustache burned, Mike used his big mitt-like hands to put my face out, both of us laughing the whole while. That friend is dead too.
Mike had a pond behind his house. He shared it with about fifteen neighbors, but it was his baby, and few others fished it. He stocked it, fed the catfish and monitored the use of fertilizer, herbicides and pesticides. He didn't hesitate to drop in on someone to recommend different approaches to lawn care. Not that he was a greenie, per se, but he did love that pond and knew what it took to maintain a suitable ecosystem for his babies.
The above photo is not from that pond. It is from a trip he, my DS and I took to the border lakes of Minnesota. We had a gas catching Walleyes, Pike and Smallies. This Smallie was caught on a small lake we portaged in to. We carried our battery, trolling motor and fishing gear up and over a sizable hill to an awaiting small V-hull. The fishing was so good, we made the trip twice. I told a story about the trip at the funeral. I made light of his passion for fishing, for it very well could have killed us. Well, the lightening might have.
I want to end this on a positive note; and ending I am, three days of homage and testing the loyalty of a readership quite enough. There are other stories, many without pictures to prompt, all tales that become traditions to keep a memory alive. I would be remiss were I not to mention two new readers, my DD and a DN (niece), who perhaps over these last three days have grown to know an uncle lost too soon to know of the joy he brought to adults as well as children. And, no doubt, they have also learned more about me. As Mike would say, "This is a good thing." Yet, I wouldn't be writing this at all had that drunk known when to quit. And in that he has still not learned, perhaps another person on that same path will stumble across these posts and begin to reconsider a behavior that can do such irreversible damage and leave a huge fucking hole in this sometimes barely tolerable world. We need every Mike we can get.