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James R. Stout

Randolph Scott, An Aquarium, and A Red-Hot Spinning Top

            In the spring of 1975, I was 19-years-old. I worked a part-time job at Fox Photo and was also in a trio. We would often times practice until 10 or 11 o’clock in the evening. It was a time of change for me. I was out of high school and trying to decide what I wanted to do with my life. The job allowed me to earn money to pay for gas, dates, and the upkeep on my car. Many times, I would get home around 11 o’clock and what I didn’t know at the time was I would be making some great memories that I cherish today. It was a unique time. When I would get home, it would be after the evening news was over and my parents would have turned off the TV and be preparing for bed. But a very special ritual began for me and my dad that would only last for a little while. By the fall, I would be involved in a job that was more demanding, I was seriously dating the girl that would become my wife, and I guess the most significant thing that halted the ritual was my parents were having the kitchen and dining area remodeled. I’ll explain how that affected things in just a moment.

            During those months during the spring and early summer I was able to truly bond with my father in a way that I hadn’t been able to previously. I wasn’t just a child anymore. The remodeling was months away, so the house was still the way it had been since we moved there in 1967. The only difference was we had added on a den. What had been a very small den before the den was added, became my father’s home office area. It was where he had a desk and filing cabinet for his business. There were some floor to ceiling bookshelves that were built into the wall on one side of the room with a window between them. That window had at one time been where an A/C window unit had been, but we moved it to another window in the adjoining living room after we built the big den. In the fall of 1974, Dad decided to buy a fair-sized aquarium and put it in front of that window. He bought some very pretty and colorful fish to stock it with, a sunken ship that was not only an air pump but provided a place for the fish to explore and some rocks and a cave like formation. He also had a special aquarium light that could be set for daylight and moonlight.

            I would get home and Mom would have already gone back to get ready for bed. Dad would be sitting there in his desk chair facing the aquarium with all the lights off in the room except for the aquarium light. He simply liked to sit and watch the fish and it was soothing to him. I got to where I started making sure that I got home in time to pull up a chair and sit there with him. While we watched the zebra fish, angelfish, tetras, and other fish that he purchased at Pier 1 imports when they were a different kind of store than they are today, we would talk about our day. He would tell me what parts of town he had gone to on his service calls that day, what kind of repair work he had brought home, and things that might have seemed mundane subjects such as where he ate lunch that day. I would tell him about my day too. The customers that I met, the new products we were selling at Fox Photo, how the trio was going, and so forth. I recall him telling me about songs that were current hits on the station that he listened to in the car. In particular, he was very fond of songs such as “Whatever Happened To Randolph Scoot” by The Statler Brothers” and “Ice Cream Sodas, Lollipops, and Red-Hot Spinning Tops”. I probably thought they were hokey at the time, but now when I hear those songs there’s a tightening in my chest as I think of my Dad and those evenings in front of the aquarium. After about 30 minutes or so, Dad would head-off to bed with the nightly instruction to be sure and turn off the lights in the den if I stayed up to watch TV. As he got up and started to leave, he would reach down for just a second and squeeze my shoulder with his hand. It was his way of saying, “I love you”.

            Although those days didn’t last a long time, they were like seeds being planted for a plant that wouldn’t sprout for decades. The last dozen or so years of Dad’s life we became very close. We would talk on the phone every day, I would go over to visit them several times a week, and from time to time I would take him with me to run errands in town just to share some time together. I think those days back in 1975 really did plant a seed that yielded fruit 30 and 40 years later. And, they still do in a way. Although Dad has been gone now almost 4 years, I have those memories. I was in the car today coming back from Huntsville and I had the XM radio on. One of the stations that I have programed on the radio is “Willie’s Roadhouse”. It’s a station sponsored by Willie Nelson and they play classic country music. I had just turned off the highway and on came “Whatever Happened To Randolph Scott?”. I’m not ashamed to admit that I teared-up a bit thinking of my Dad and those special times that we had together. I miss him terribly. I miss his sense of humor, his Dad jokes, his kindness, his huge heart, his ever-present smile, and the sheer joy of just being with him. I know this sounds silly, but I hope he gets to enjoy things like that red-hot spinning top in Heaven.

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