by Trent Rosser
(Note: This article first appeared in The Amarillo Pioneer on April 7, 2017)
There is an old saying, “A cousin is your first friend as a child. No one can understand your crazy family like your cousin.” Let me tell you a couple of stories of what my cousin, Jason, and I did while growing up. Believe it or not, alcohol was not a factor in any of these stories!
When I met my cousin, Jason, I was 12 and he was 11. His aunt was my new step mother. We already had a few things in common when we met, he was from Pampa, Texas and that is where my other grandmother lived. He would come to our house during the spring break and we would cause trouble all week. Even though his spring break was a week earlier than ours, we still managed to come home from school and get into mischief! I remember one year, we were about 14 years old, we taught Jason to jump from the trampoline to the roof of the house. I believe that my brother perfected it by jumping straight up and down, then grabbing the edge of the roof and pulling yourself up. Jason did manage to do it while we were there. Then my parents came home and we quit before we got caught. The next day, we came home from school and our parents were already home. It seems that Jason was jumping on the trampoline and he did not jump straight up and down, no, he jumped at an angle and hit his face on the fascia of the house and broke his nose. We were grounded for quite a while for that one.
When we were older, I moved into my grandmother’s house in Pampa. We were always together. On Friday, November 13, 1987 Jason and I took his truck out on the town. We were told by his father for me to drive, because even though he had a truck, he did not have a license yet. So after we got away from the house, I pulled over and let Jason drive his own truck so he could look “cool” when we pick up his girlfriend to go “cruising” the big city of Pampa, TX. Later on he went down an old dirt road and was going way too fast and tried to make a sharp turn, he put the 1970 something Datsun pickup on 2 wheels! I was looking up at Jason screaming.. AHHH!!! His girlfriend was in the middle staring straight screaming…..AHHHH!!! And Jason was staring down at me screaming….AHHH!! The truck came back down on all 4 wheels and Jason came toa stop…. It was dead silence and then in true form for Jason, he says, “ I knew I could get it on 2 wheels.” His girlfriend broke up with him shortly after that. We made it back to his house and went to sleep. The next day we were still at his house when there was a huge explosion just a few miles down the road. On November 14, 1987 a chemical plant right outside of Pampa exploded and rocked the entire town. It was so powerful that windows downtown were blown out. We, of course, came running outside and so did his neighbors. As we were all looking in the distance at the smoke rising from the edge of town, his neighbors looked at us and said, “What did you two do this time?”
It was also about this time that I had my first car. A 1977 Chevy Camaro. It was beaten up, but it was fast! We were chasing girls one night and came across a couple of girls in a brand new Pontiac firebird. Turns out they were a couple of older guys that desperately needed haircuts! So we decided to race them. This was a mistake. My piece of junk Camaro was beating the firebird, considering we both had to slam on the brakes at every intersection so we would not scrape on the dips of the road. I would get ahead then slam on the brakes. Suddenly bright red and blue lights came on and pulled in behind me. There was no rear view mirror in the Camaro so I was turning my head behind me to see if he was coming for me or the other car and did not see the curb. It was me he was after. As I was turned around I ran upon the curb. So we were now stopped with 3 wheels on the street and 1 wheel on the curb. Jason, true to form again, opens the car door and yells, “Don’t Shoot!! The damn windows don’t roll down!” I received my first ticket that night.
There are many other stories to tell with Jason, but there is one more that I want to share with everyone. While we were growing up, across the street from where I lived there was a girl named Gwen. Jason was always madly in love with Gwen. After we all grew up and went our separate ways, Jason and Gwen met back up. Gwen at this time had 3 young boys. Jason and Gwen got married and Jason adopted those boys. He raised them as his own, he loved them, and they took his last name. He was always proud of Houston Whatley, Codie Whatley, and Andrew Whatley.
Jason unexpectedly passed away this past week and this afternoon I will be attending his funeral. I talked with Jason a couple of months ago and never in a million years would think that it would be the last time I would see him. My wife and I took him out to eat and we caught up on a few things and relived the past a little. I will miss him. His brother, sister, and kids will always be in our prayers. So, sometime this week, call your cousins or another family member, just to say hello. Don’t take for granted that they will always be there. Even if you haven’t spoken to them in quite a while, break the ice and make the first move. If you are not talking to them due to something that happened, just remember, it is in the past. Forgive and forget, after all, you are family. They say that you can choose your friends but you cannot choose your family.
I am proud of my family, especially my crazy cousins!