I was just reminiscing about Prairie people, specifically from my freshman year – the friends I made just as a result of being in the same place they were. Not because they were friends of some other friend, or sister, or roommate. Not because they wanted to date me, or Ruthie, or Roseanna, or Kelly.
That was the best year of the three years I was there – there was no pressure. I felt protected by my older sister’s presence, even though we shared no classes and rarely ate meals at the same time. I wonder, now, if that was the cause of my terrible, mind-losing insomnia, my junior year – pressure from others, instead of from the school itself. I was trying to be too many things to too many people – and at the same time trying to hide the person I was to person A, from person B, since I knew they would not approve. What a coward I was! Afraid of everything, and resenting others for having to be their version of me, to them.
Anyway – Shannah (my very first Prairie friend) had sent me an e-mail with pictures attached – one of which was of me and Mike Estes on the beach – my skirt is wet, and Mike is half buried in sand – and I paused and gave some time to thinking about Mike. He was a really good guy – I had no fault to find with him, save that he did not light my fire. And yet I had no idea how to behave towards him, to let him know that I did not “like” him. I was just as friendly as was allowed, and when he wrote me letters – awkward, staggering letters at about a fourth grade level – I responded with real letters and candy and baked goods sent to him in boot camp – he brought me a stuffed fox and I named it Foxibus and kept it on my bed for years – I’m afraid I behaved just like a conservative, small-town Christian girl who intended to marry someone would have behaved. But I did not know how else to be. And no one ever mentioned it to me, no one found any fault with my behavior, no one said anything about it to me – I’m sure my parents thought I might, in fact, marry him, but we never mentioned it to one another.
So, I was thinking that I really owed the poor guy an apology for my ignorance and my unintentional leading him on. I mean, he made the trip from
Spokane down to just to see me for
an afternoon. (I wouldn’t let him put his
arm around me on that occasion, so perhaps that told him I wasn’t interested…? but probably not.) Cannon
So I began looking for him, first on Facebook, (my goodness, hundreds of Mike Esteses! But none of them that blonde, square-faced young man with the wide space between his front teeth) and then on Google. And on the first page of my search for Mike Estes – Army --
I got this headline: Sheriff's
Deputy killed in the line of duty.
Oh, my god. And it was him. Michael Orville Estes. At age 43, so only about five years ago. Responding to a 911 call, his car was broadsided by a semi-truck. The only
Walla Walla sheriff’s
deputy to be killed in the line of duty.
I mean, really dead. As in dead.
Is he the first one of my Prairie friends to die? I will have to ponder that for a bit, but I think he really might be.
Marshall got brain
cancer, but he recovered. Daniel was in
a car accident, but he is more or less okay.
Dave survived malaria. I had a
brain hemorrhage, but here I still am.
Mike Estes. First death. Wow.