I lost my friend the other day to heroin. He was kind of a crazy man, but I loved him anyway. From making us all dive for cover when his fireworks display went awry, to truck driving in a NYC tunnel where trucks can't go, to driving through garage doors....things were not dull where Firecracker Joe was. Yet he was kindhearted. He was the sort of person who'd help you out if you were in trouble. When we didn't have much money, he hired me to clean his house. And he sure loved dogs. He was working up to a truck driving job where he could take his beloved Golden Retriever with him. You never had to wonder what was on his mind -- he was very open about telling you about his antics!
Just a few days before his death, I found a letter from him that had been tucked away in my backpack for a year. I'd write him while he was in prison, and he'd write back, but it would take a month or so to get his response, since we're on the road so much and don't get our mail. I hadn't answered this letter, since he was scheduled to get out a couple weeks after I'd received it. He wrote congratulating Russell and I on our 10th anniversary, and saying he admired the way Kira turned out. He wrote about how John Connell came to his hearing. He wrote about how beautiful he thought Idaho was, but also how much he loved the free state and the Free State Project. He said he scrawled fsp.org into all the books he read in prison, and onto the walls of all his prison cells. He didn't move for the Free State Project, but grew up there in New Hampshire near Lake Lake Winnipesaukee. But he was sure a freestater in spirit.
A while back, he came out to Grafton while we were visiting. Russell and John Connell tried to talk him out of doing the heroin when they heard about it. He just got mad at their efforts, though.
There's a story in the Bible about Jacob and Esau. Jacob was the younger brother and was not supposed to inherit the father's estate. But one day, Esau came home famished after hunting. Jacob was cooking stew, and when Esau demanded some, Jacob said he'd give it for Esau's birthright. So Esau sold his birthright for a bowl of stew. I can't help wondering, is our birthright, life, so cheap that we'd sell it for so little return? Is partying so important that we'd scorn this immensely amazing gift of life? Drugs may give you a thrill, but nothing compares to the joy that comes from our God.
I wish Firecracker Joe was still around. I'm going to miss his crazy stories. I'll miss talking conspiracy theories with him. I'll miss running into him out on the road. My heart aches that he's gone. Stupid heroin.