Jimmy Hampton left us last week, and my heart is broken.
Jimmy and myself hunted together for years, not a finer fellow has ever lived. I knew his daddy, and his daddy was one of the few people who I always thought really liked me. Jimmy was always laughing, and once you heard it, you would never forget it.
I last saw Jimmy at the Breakfast with Santa, held at Hemphill each year. His wife Starla is one of the founders of their community center. Jimmy has two children, Tommy, with whom I hunted when he killed his first squirrel, and Melissa, who works each day with the less fortunate people of our county. Jimmy has one granddaughter, and three grandsons. He loved taking his grandchildren hunting, and had a hunting camp around Carter County.
I was turkey hunting in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina last week when word got to me that my lifelong friend had passed. That shows me even more how close I am to the end of this journey we call life.
In our minds, we take pictures that can be developed time and time again. I opened my mind’s eye and reviewed some of my snapshots with Jimmy. I can still see us around the campfire in the Daniel Boone National Forest squirrel hunting, or frozen to death deer hunting in the George Washington National Forest. I remember the first time he brought his son, Tommy, and how excited they both where.
I had known Jimmy for more years than I care to admit, and never once saw him say or do anything bad to anyone. When all the rest of us were sitting in camp not looking for a brother-in-law of his who was lost in the Daniel Boone because his father-in-law dared us to go, Jimmy was the one who left the safety of camp to look for him.
There may be someone in Letcher County who likes Jimmy, Starla, Tommy, and Melissa as much as I do, but nobody any more than I do.
One of these days Jimmy and I will hunt together again. Until then, old friend, keep the campfire burning. To his family, you already know how I feel about all of you.