By Bill Shepard
“Make some new friends,
Keep your old.
One is silver,
The other is gold.“
I read the above lines from a plaque that was hanging on the wall at my sister’s house recently. As I read the lines, I gave thought to what I once read that was written by an older man. “If I had known I would live as long as I have, I would have made friends with folk that were younger than I; then when I was old, I would have a lot of friends,” he continued, “Now all my friends are gone.”
Old friends, like old coins, are priceless. They grow more valuable with the passing of time. Just like old coins, we tuck them aside and often forget they are still around until something special happens and we remember like I said, old friends are valuable and become more rare with the passing of years.
Some years past when I would return to my hometown of Darlington, I had a number of friends that could visit and I did so. What a joy it would be, as we would reminisce about the times we shared together when we were youngsters. I would begin a conversation with the words, “Remember when?” and off we would go down a long, winding road hat always led to some special place we both remembered. Like the recent visit I had when I was in Darlington and visited with an old friend that still lives there. Heyward Gainey is the one of a few people that I can visit and open a conversation with, “Remember when?” Heyward and I go back in time farther than any other! We pushed wheels and slapped old car tires up and down the narrow dirt streets of the village. We searched for crawfish to use for bait to catch the small perch that swam in the waters of Swift Creek. Ah, the stories that we shared together as we visited. We even reminisced about the time that we rode bareback, two big mules over the village. What memories!
Sitting as our audience was my wife, daughter, sister and Heyward’s wife, Betty. They were kind; they sat quietly listening to the two of us relive memories of our childhood. I knew that it was time to stop the storytelling and return to now, when my sister said, “Bill you’ve told the same story twice!”
Heyward will reach his 93rd birthday in just a few weeks, so straight ahead, old friend, and hang around. You’re valuable and when I return to Darlington, we can be together again and make some more visits and stops along and winding road into the past.
You, old friends, are valuable and when they are gone, they cannot be replaced. That may be why they become more valuable with the passing of time.
I bet I have revived memories in the minds of those reading this. If so, write that letter or make a call; better still, make that visit you have put off making. That would be a great way to begin your New Year!
Mr. Shepard is a native of Darlington, S.C., and a current resident of Piedmont, S.C.