Dalton “Roadhouse” James

January 30th, 1990 – March 9th, 2017

I’ve been writing this for over a year… every time I open it, I struggle to find the words. The right words to send you off with. You’ve been gone a lap around the sun and then some, and I still feel like I’m just beginning to let you go. The right words to describe who you were. The words that would undeniably resonate your memory to anyone reading this. And I’m writing this standing in the bathroom still wet from the shower… What random timing from inspiration eh? I guess when it hits ya, it just hits.

As for the right words? Ill find none perfect. I really never thought I would be here.. And really, the perfect words would be yours. If anything I’m sure you’d have a whole lot to say about this whole ordeal. In truth I’d really like your opinion.. on just about everything really.. from my outfit choice (since you made me get spiffy just to go to our local watering hole) or what Im making for dinner tonight, even what we’ll name baby #4, the one Ill never get to call you up and tell you about. You always had an opinion, sometimes even an unwelcome or sarcastic opinion. From gmo debates in the kitchen to which restaurant we HAD to eat at on your most recent visit. As if I needed that when you were still alive. And now I desire it more than anything. One last pointless debate. One more strategic and sarcastic jab. It’s funny the things we miss or choose to specifically remember.

Like the kitchen.. I have so many memories of you in our kitchens. And so many others honestly. So random! Eating, drinking, or just talking. From making a couples dinner on a Valentine’s Day in a tiny apartment when we were young and dumb to pouring shots of your favorite while I roasted a homegrown bird that you helped us butcher. My mothers sink full to the brim with empty beer cans from a long pong tourney, and those parties we were never supposed to throw, that first night I saw you play and heard you sing. Holding a month old baby or rocking another through a teething fit, you have been there with us. Intertwined into every piece of the fabric of our lives. You, our dearest friend, are part of us. A piece never again to be filled.

Even after you left back to work. The first just as the third time. You were still everywhere. A bent up cowboy hat on the hook by the door, an empty bottle of pricey tequila from that one year of rodeo, a torn oilfield hoodie I found in the trunk of my Buick, a koozie hanging in line next to everyone else’s; you littered yourself all over and I could never be more grateful for that. Well now at least. I’d always give you guff for leaving your shit everywhere. And I am positive you’d give me shit for saying guff just now. I still laugh at things I know you’d think were funny. Or smile at a new song I know you’d love. You are everywhere. In a country song on the radio, air drumming like a mad man in the passenger seat. Singing every word to every song. I still have this lingering feeling that if I wanted to bad enough I could dial you up and I know you’d answer. Ever that reliable phone talker.

You’ve shown me more about how to live this last year than ever. I’m sorry I didn’t listen more when you were alive. Im sorry I didn’t relax a little more and take things a little less serious when you were here. I envied your ability to maintain a positive outlook even on your worst of days. How you’d never let life get you down. That old soul and excitedly happy outlook have taught me so much. I’m laughing more now. Stressing less now. Jumping at opportunities and working harder for my dreams. I’m not afraid anymore, well not as scared at least. I can see more clearer now. Thank you friend.

You buddy, were my best friend. I’m not saying that lightly or because I want to impress you.. or anyone. Lawd knows I wouldn’t dare make your head bigger than it already is. It’s just truth. But you brother were the Ted Mosby to our Marshall and Lilly (without all the whiny marital dream garb) and I know you’d laugh at that. But it’s so true. You love us so equally. I never felt like you weren’t my best friend just as much as Spencer’s. Never did we or will we have a friend like you. You’ve watched our relationship grow, blossom, wilt, and winter over to come back for a stronger season. And you never took sides, you never held anything against us, but were there so equally for us both. So encouraging and loving, so understanding and wise. I don’t know how you always did it. Too much info? Never. Nothing was ever TOO personal for you. You just loved us.

I can’t believe you’re gone… what a time to get this out there huh? But Sisters Rodeo.. it was your holiday bro.. and it will never be the same. I know everyone keeps saying that, but it really won’t. There will always be an empty chair where you should be sitting. I might be the only one not excited to celebrate but I’m working on it. My reason to put my boots on and cowgirl up, was all you bro. And now I guess it has to be you again. You wouldn’t want me to sit and mope, I know you’d have drug me up those damn bleachers anyway. What fate that I’m pregnant for rodeo… again! Last year you kept me present in my grief so I could watch over everyone and this year it’s fate. This mama is not meant for a rodeo party quite yet. Last year I had such a vivid memory, one that I wish so hard for but would never come true. I can just hear you saying, “GET UP, WE’RE GOING! (Whistle, yaw!) Put your boots on… ok wait… LEXI!!! Put QBs boots on since she can’t reach her feet! Now get up and come on! We gotta get that baby outta you somehow!!” And Miss Dublin was born not even a week after your party. It breaks my heart that you’ll never meet her, see how much she looks like her sisters, hold her for me while I make dinner like you always did with Murph. And now here I am again, one year later, pregnant with a new baby. God willing you’ve put in a word up there and it’s a little boy.

I miss you calling me from the road and talking for hours. I miss your loud voice. I miss your sweet singing voice. That shit eating grin. I miss how you always raced to ride shotgun like a kid. One thing I don’t miss is being shot in the toe by a BB gun, I’ll get you back one day! I miss being practically asphyxiated by your cologne before a night on the town or mostly the rodeo, sounds odd but you choked us with that smell bro. I miss your sometimes ridiculous music choices. Your laugh. I miss lessens on the oilfield, when you’d suddenly serious guy up and talk about your passion, you loved that roughneck life. I even miss your horrid sexist jokes.. and that’s saying something. That grin.

Man you left too soon. Thank you for being you. Never trying to be something you weren’t. For taking what life threw at you and throwing it back harder. Never selling yourself short. For always being there, a constant in our lives. For unconditional friendship and love. A warm hug. A good joke. Help when we needed it. Acceptance. Fun. Encouragement. Your commitment. A laugh when I really needed it. Thank you for the people you loved that you brought into my life, and now I love them, your family away from home and anyone who touched your life or said you spoke of us often. Most of all, for being a force of nature. For teaching us something about ourselves and about life. I promise we’ll not forget it, none of us. And don’t worry about us, we got this buddy.

To Dalton Ray James, a lighthearted soul and fiercely loyal friend. Forever a big deal, and truly always in our hearts. Now let’s do the damn thing!

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