I wanted to write something about a childhood friend. His name was Paul Louis Miller, Jr., but, as his father was called Paul, he went by Louie. I lived next door to him in Flint Hill. We moved there in 1960, so we were next door neighbors until mid-1962, when I left for the city, but I had known Louie through all of grade school and high school. We were about the same age, but he was a year or two behind me in school.
Let me tell you the best thing about Louie. I do not believe there was an evil or mean bone in his body. I doubt I could find anybody to say anything negative about him. He had the best, heartiest laugh. And we laughed a lot. It didn’t matter if the joke was on Louie or on me, we laughed together. I lost track of him when he moved away to pursue his life.
I knew he lived in Maryland for a long time, and I think I remember he was a teacher for years. I saw him a year or two ago when I was playing music at The Public House. He was there with some friends. And then I last saw him just a few weeks ago at our Fifth Sunday church celebration at Sperryville, the end of September.
Louie sold me my first “real” guitar. At least, I considered it to be real, because it was made of wood. Previous ones I had were toys, of plastic or pressed wood. Louie sold me the guitar, which I think he had received as a present from his parents some years prior, for $2. It didn’t have any strings on it, and I am not sure if it had a bridge. Didn’t matter. I had the $2 and he wanted to sell it to me. I went to the pawn shop in Front Royal and bought a set of real guitar strings, Black Diamond brand, for $2.50. I thought I was in high cotton. My dad said I had just put a $10 saddle on a $5 horse. That was OK, too.
When I lived next door to Louie, he always had some kind of old car that he was tinkering with. I must admit to a tiny bit of envy that he had a car. As I recall he had an ancient Plymouth, something like a 1936 coupe. But the one I remember best was a 1949 flathead Ford. One day when I was there, he got it running. And I don’t remember if we were supposed to or not, but we took a ride. We went out the Fodderstack Road about a mile or so. The car was running terrible.
We turned around and headed back, and Louie, wanting to show me what it would do, floored it. The poor old flathead coughed and sputtered and spit, and could barely get out of its own way. Louie and I started laughing. He even opened his door and put his left foot down on the road as if to help the car by pushing it along. Problem was, his shoe came off and was left sitting in the middle of the road.
We were in hysterics. He stopped and turned the car around and went back and got his loafer. We made it back to the house, but we agreed more work was needed before we ventured out on the road again.
Paul Louis Miller, Jr., was one of the good guys. I was so sorry to hear of his passing last week. To his family, his friends and all those in his circle of love, you are in my prayers. Please accept my sincerest sympathy and condolences. He was a wonderful fellow, and all who knew him will be the poorer for his passing.
Rest in peace, my friend. Maybe on the next go-around I can be a bit more help to you, and perhaps we can get that old flathead running a little better.