The first of our brothers is gone

Bill Roper, left, and Jim Clark after a 60+ mile two day walk along the Tenn-Tom Waterway

This nasty COVID has made the fight personal — it’s taken one of our brothers. It hurts, even though we know Bill Roper has gone on to a better place. Bill had been a part of our Band of Brothers, who meet at Jack’s most week day morning for coffee and to solve the world’s problems as best we can.

We’ll miss his eternal “anyway” as his stories would move from a paragraph or two to Cliff Notes to a novel — “well anyway” Bill would say, take a breath and go back to his detailed parable. We would always wait patiently — because his stories were always interesting and of course, funny. That was Bill.

But I’ve known the Ropers since 1992, his loveable wife Kathy, his fun-loving brother Tony and his precious mother Arvie.

We became quick friends. One night we went to a Robert Earl Keen concert at Oxford. Bill loved Robert Earl. College kids were swinging each other about. My friend was tapping his foot. He restrained himself from jumping out there and doing the Jed Clampett stomp. That was Bill.

We went camping one night, next to the water. Bill took his boat. We’d got a late start and these two big old boys were hungry. There was one of those little black pit barbecues. We’d brought steaks and baked potatoes. Bill got impatient and reached into the fire and turned the taters by hand. We talked forever and then finally set up our little pop-up tents. Somehow or another I ended up with the food in my tent. Bill was snoring away. Coons, possums and coyotes nudged the nylon fabric of my tent making it almost impossible to get any shut-eye. Bill was still sawing logs. I started shouting “Bill, Bill, Bill.”

He finally came to, “What?”

“How can you sleep — varments are about to tear my tent down?,” I questioned back.

He stirred, came out of the tent partially dressed and said, “Well, let’s chase ‘em off.” That was Bill.

One day we got to thinking too hard, and decided to walk the waterway, in sections, all of it. We started practising on that five and a half mile trail that meanders from Jackson Street to the Natchez Trace Headquarters. We’d pack a snack, eat it at the Trace and then follow the trail back to Jackson Street.

We did it dozens of times. Bill had acquired two ski poles and that’s what we used for walking sticks. We’d talk about everything, tell every joke we knew and stories that were too good to be all true. We dodged skunks, jumped over snakes, saw flocks of wild turkeys and had more fun then two adult-children deserve. That was Bill.

One weekend we did it, walked from Lock C in Fulton to Bay Springs and back again after camping in this old cabin at Jamie Whitten Lock and Dam. I’d talked to the Corp of Engineers and got permission to spend the night there — Bill thought that was cool. I was so sore that next day. At the end of the walk Bill danced down the hill to our vehicle with his ski pole held high singing, “I feel pretty, oh so pretty.” That was Bill.

I’ll miss you brother.

The remaining Band of Brothers Breakfast Club, who meet at Jack’s are: Bob Kenney, Mike Wilson, Darrell Marecle, Howard Davenport, Jacque Prather, Terry Swindol, Tony Lute, Allen Sudduth, Bob Boyd, Jerry Duckett, Jim Karrant, Bill Lowery, Jim Johnson and Jim Clark. Most have slowed down meeting due to COVID.

Our thoughts and prayers are with the Roper family.

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