Saturday, October 3, 2009

The Cowboys Still Ride High...

More years ago than I care to remember, I started a small casual social group that has come to be known as the Cowboy Cooking Club. There were three of us then, and there are three of us now...albeit a different three. Our mission , as it were, is to provide exceptionally good food and wine for small dinner gatherings that we put on at least a couple of times a year. Spouses, significant others and honored guests are invited to share in the bounty of what can be anything from a couple of hours to a full week of preparations leading up to the main event. Nobody goes away hungry. That just wouldn't be hospitable.

A few years back, one of the original Cowboys drifted off to live his life via a different set of rules. My buddy Skip and I held the fort for a couple of years on our own, and the quality didn't suffer any, but we both knew there was something missing. And the x-factor that made the whole cooking club what it is today was right in front of us the whole time!!!

Skip had been in the insurance business for the better part of the first 15 years that I had known him. When he got out of that industry, he turned over his customer base to his friend Kirk, who had a business that was positioned for the long haul. It was important to Skip that he turned his clients over to someone who would look after them like he did. Kirk was one of the few people in this life that had earned that kind of trust from Skip. And that was good enough for me. I had known Kirk for a few years by this point in time, and he and the lovely Miss Sue were frequent guests at Lemmings Walk (my humble abode). They had even managed to attend a few  of the Cowboy Cooking Club dinners.

At one of these dinners 3 or four years back when we were really pressed for time in final preparations, we asked Kirk to step in and he bailed us out of a pretty tight spot with the grace and class of a true Cowboy gentleman. After the dinner, Skip and I talked it over for what must have been, oh....let's call it 15 seconds, and we decided that Kirk had to be our third Cowboy. We met him for lunch a little later that week and Skip and I told Kirk about the conclusion we had come to. The smile began in his eyes, and soon his face was lit up as it must have been the day he got his first Red Ryder. It brought tears of pride to my eyes then, just as it is  doing now. You would have sworn we were giving him the Presidential Medal of Freedom...

I should mention at this point that Kirk is one hell of a cook. He enjoyed cooking with the Cowboys, because we always cooked foods with big layers of flavors. He needed this. You see, a couple of years before I met Kirk, he had been diagnosed with cancer. He went through a long and torturous treatment cycle that left his throat badly scarred and his taste buds severely impaired. Skip often took Kirk back and forth to the hospital for his treatments. He was always nearby to provide relief and support when Sue and the rest of Kirk's family needed it. They are what you would call the best of friends. Through this whole period, I would hear Skip talk about Kirk's spirit and positive outlook and how that was something we should all aspire to. When the disease went in to remission, everyone was certain that Kirk's spirit had played as big a role in driving the disease away as the medicine had.

We helped Kirk celebrate 5 years in remission earlier this year. I am told that this is a big milestone for cancer survivors. The Cowboys cooked up a mean meal and lots of Leonetti couldn't have had a better time or a better group of people to celebrate with. Life was good!!!

Until last month.

Sue told us that Kirk had been in to see his oncologist, and that there was a spot on his lung that they were troubled about. It had been there all along, but since it hadn't changed in size over all these years, the doctors had decided to take the approach of "wait until something happens". This spot, you see, after all these years, had started to grow.Kirk put his usual brave face on it, but it was not hard to see that he was worried.

He went in for the biopsy about a week later, and the procedure went badly - in the middle of the process, his lung collapsed and the doctors had to scramble to repair the damage. If that wasn't bad enough, the results from the biopsy turned out to be inconclusive, so Kirk had to go in for more tests the following week. Through all of this, Kirk and Sue soldiered on. All of his friends had made their wishes known to their respective makers - if positive thoughts were worth a buck Kirk would be a millionaire for sure -and we held our collective breath for good news. The final results came in earlier this week...the nodule does need to be dealt with, but it isn't the return of his cancer.

You could hear Sue's smile through the e-mail message she sent.

This is one of the times where the good guys really won. Kirk is one of those guys that makes us all a little better just by being around. And he will be around for a long time to come. His doctors will take care of the small stuff...his friends and family will have his back. That is what friends do...

Ride High, Cowboy...

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