After WB’s funeral ceremony in Escondido, Carol and I went to the mortuary to collect his ashes.
They were in a pretty big little wooden box. It felt funny driving around with his ashes. But that was my job. He had asked before his death that he be taken back to the little ARP church in Ora, SC, and I said that I would do it. Joan had asked too. It never crossed my mind not to do what he wanted. In my imagination, that’s where he belonged back with his mother and father and the little daughter he had but who lived less than two weeks.
As hard as it was on me and Steve too to leave SC, the only place we had known at that point, and felt comfortable knowing, I think it must have been harder on WB to leave that area and his family behind. WB didn’t develop any real connections to anybody outside family. There was his wife, of course, and the boys. And beyond that his brothers and sisters back in South Carolina and that was just about it.
He didn’t drink so he didn’t hang out at bars jawing with his co-workers. He wasn’t really into sports. So he didn’t go to football or baseball games. Nor did he bowl or go to auto races or golf. Nor did he play pool or any manner of board games. He had fellow bricklayers that he would mention from time to time and he knew some of the brick mason tenders. But I can’t say that he made any friends in California.
Well, there was one guy that he seems to have done a few things with or maybe a few things for. This guy was as crazy as a loon and in fact ended up in the mental hospital. Jack Sickler, I think his name was. I remember that he and WB staked out Jack’s house I think because Jack thought that his wife was unfaithful. And I do believe Jack talked about killing his wife and himself at different points. Maybe they were friends since WB was loony too. But I think it more likely that WB sort of looked after Jack and tried to keep him out of trouble, though he wasn’t much good at it.
WB was not social really or a scintillating conversationalist. Even later on when he visited the homes of his children he would say a few things and then go to sleep in the chair he was sitting in or maybe disappear off into one of the bedrooms and go to sleep.
I had occasion, when I was a brick mason tender, to observe him interacting with his peers at lunch break. They would go sit in some unfinished house to get out of the sun. They would sit on the concrete or pull up a can of some kind. WB would sit sort of off from the rest. And mostly they weren’t talking at all. But then WB would say something like, do you remember that job where we had blah, blah, blah and when was that exactly? And then if any of the other guys had been on that job they would set to figuring out when that job was. And then WB would say, and wasn’t so and so on that job. And if anybody had been on that job too, they would set to trying to remember if so and so had been on that job or not. And then somebody would say that no so and so had not been on that job but he had been on this other job over blah, blah, blah, and WB would wonder when that job had been, and they would set to remembering when that job had been.
And it would go on like that for the whole half hour, if they talked about anything at all. Those were some of the damndest conversations I ever heard.
That’s WB in the picture mixing up adobe for the blocks for his masterpiece, the adobe house on Delridge.