Column see you down the trail, randal – opinion – aurora advertiser – aurora, mo – aurora, mo

He was exactly right. Growing up, we shared a love of all things Aurora, Houn’ Dawgs, history, politics, books and movies and we’d always say: You can only know where you’re going when you know where you’ve been. We would end up talking about our visions of Heaven, the Pearly Gates, the Streets of Gold and the people who would be lined up to meet us there.

He spent years covering sports for The Aurora Advertiser, writing a popular column called “From Under the Bench.” He also had a long and colorful career as a stringer for Hank Billings and the News-Leader and devoted a great portion of his life as a radio announcer, morning show personality and sales representative. He worked for KSWM and KKBL in Aurora/Monett, KBTN in Neosho, Rock 99 and KWTO in Springfield, and eventually Channel 33.

He covered southwest Missouri sports, murder trials, manhunts, council meetings, school board sessions and did a great deal of play by play with his old pal, Everett Archer.

I also learned a painful lesson or two in fairness when the newspaper burned on Valentine’s Day of 1981. I was about four months away from getting married and Randy showed up at the house with the publisher to lay me off. In tears, he told me how important it was to him to treat me like everyone else at work. There were others who would get the pink slip, too. He wanted to set the example by putting me at the top of the list. At the time, I was hurt and poor and really needed the job. Later on, I would come to appreciate his decision as one built on “taking one for the team” and treating everyone the same.

He had his quick wit and humor to the end. He told me he was proud of his kids and grandchildren, as well as his extended family and friends. They were going to be his legacy in the days, weeks, months and years ahead. He also told me his friends were amongst the finest folks in the world — mentioning men like Jack Muench and Scott Pettit, who had been loyal to him since childhood. He told us Brian Fogle was one of the best things to ever come out of Aurora and that his friend, Caroline, had been praying with him almost every night on the phone.

His tough, resilient, beautiful children proved him right as his son and daughter, Chad Estes (Outlaw Junior) and Cody Estes Murray (the Princess because that made him the King) worked together like a well-oiled machine. Their deep blue eyes, reminding me of the piercing eyes of their father, were filled with laughter and tears, as they did everything in their power to help their dad — moving with total grace, compassion, love and strength.

I sat with him on a bar stool a few weeks ago at the VFW in Monett. We listened to some music. His eyes danced and he talked about his life. He had been to Dewey Pennell’s 80th birthday party and he shared some stories with me from the past about his basketball days. As he introduced me to some of his friends, he told me I was ruining his image when I told them "he was such a sweet little boy." He passed out some Hills & Hollows Magazines pointing out my column and we talked about our book project we have been working on together for the past few years. I am going to have to finish it now in his honor. We walked outside to his blue truck and he hugged me as he opened the door.

As I close my eyes, I can still see those piercing blue eyes that looked all the way into your soul, he’s dipping himself a big bowl of brown beans and cornbread, picking up an onion, reading the newspaper and talking to his mother — Faye — about the day’s news and his plans to go have "ice cream" when he leaves. I can see him doing his famous Estes stomp on the dance floor and drumming up a pitch game in the corner. He is walking the streets of gold this morning with a troop of angels he was looking forward to seeing. They are going to have to upgrade their soundtrack and if they don’t know how to play cards, they are sure going to have to learn.