by Richard E. Noble
I knew Jack for a number of years. I always felt that Jack could have been the inspiration for the original Sad Sack cartoon strip. He was a “sorry” type fellow. He seemed to have just enough ambition to keep breathing. That's providing there was no serious obstruction to that circumstance. He was kind of like Forest Gump, but without the good fortune. He did some commercial shrimping, some oystering. He liked to fish with nets, poles or whatever. He fished the gulf, the bay, the rivers, the creeks, and the ditches. He enjoyed fishing with a cane pole, and had a passion for Bream.
I lived next to him at this campground. He rented an old camper – the kind that slid onto the bed of a pickup truck. This one didn't have a pickup truck; it just sat on an array of concrete blocks.
This poem began at the Eastpoint, post office. He was picking up his mail ... general delivery. He couldn't afford a box. He told me that he wasn't feeling well. He had been to the V. A. hospital. He couldn't go there often because it was too far away. Jack was a veteran of the Vietnam War. From then on I saw him here and there fishing, but each time I saw him he got thinner, and he looked worse and worse. He was like a stray cat with a deathly virus - everybody looked at him, but nobody ever stopped to pet him.
Jack, I always felt, was the kind of guy who didn't really deserve to die. I mean, for some people, death is a conclusion. As they say today, their death was a sort of justification, a closure. For some their death seems to serve as some sort of example, or moral lesson. For others death seems to be just what they have been looking for. Then there are those of whom we say there was no person that we ever met who was more deserving. But Jack didn't deserve to die one way or another. He was just here. He wasn't in anybody's way, and if he was, I am sure that he would have moved. He didn't bother anybody. He drank a little and fished a lot. He had no real opinions on anything, and always seemed to have a reasonable amount of compassion for anybody and anything. His dying served no real purpose, but I suppose, some would say, neither did his living. In this respect, I guess, he was pretty much like the most of us.
Jack Sprat could eat no lean.
He didn't have money for a packet of beans.
He worked enough to live in a truck,
And he drank a bit when he was down on his luck.
He was up or down, and roved about town.
He wore old clothes, but never a frown.
Jack Sprat, he ate no fat,
And his mother doesn't know or care where he's at.
Jack had no use for fancy things,
Diamonds, or jewels, or sapphire rings.
He sat on the bank and fished for Bream,
And the cancer made him slim and trim.
And when he died, no one cried.
Some shook their heads, and a few of them lied.
"He was a hell of a man, a really brave fellow."
But the truth was
He was kind of 'wussy' and rather mellow.
Jack rarely sat in a pew with a hymn.
He just sat on the bank and tried to catch Bream.
He never owned, himself, a good pair of shoes,
And he never got done payin' his dues.
He was always going to get him a car,
But, really, he had no need to travel that far.
He mostly stayed on the unpaved street,
With sand in his toes and dirt on his feet.
He never went out to try to win.
He mostly sat on the bank and tried to catch Bream.
And when the cancer caught him and made him so thin,
He just sat on the bank and caught some Bream.
And when he died ... no one cried.
Oh his mother frowned, and his father sighed.
But I swear, when I saw him in his box,
He had a little grin, and, I know darn straight,
He was sitting on some bank,
Trying to catch him some Bream.
Idaho Penitentiary Hospital
8 months ago