This space just didn't look right without a column from Rick Watson last week.
Unfortunately, we're not going to be having any more of those unless we pull some from the archives. I have run an idea past Rick's nephew, esteemed publisher James Phillips, that will require some feedback from readers.
I am not Rick, but I'm going to try to introduce it with a little bit of his flair. (I stopped myself from saying 'Rick's flair' because it made me think of the wrestler, but Rick may have appreciated the attempt at a dad joke.)
Many is the time that I have joked about how often Rick would start a column talking about how he didn't have an idea for a column and would then pivot into a story about how an old postcard fell out of a book or a bird flew past the window and that would become his column.
The irony is that I didn't know I would be writing a column until I thought about the hat on my head.
It was a camo hat that had "Don Williams Logging: A Family Tradition" printed on the front.
It has probably been in a box for about 20 years, the approximate length of time since the namesake of our family's logging company passed away.
My grandfather, Don Williams Sr., was buried with one. A few weeks ago, my father was as well.
My brother has one, and I pulled mine out of a box that my mother found.
I am a girl who has always liked hats. After Daddy died, I started wearing a hat that says, "Great Dads Get Promoted to Grandpa." He is wearing it in one of the few photos ever taken of him with his grandson and me.
The first time I wore it was when Zac and I went canoeing a couple of days after we buried him.
As I put on Facebook, "Daddy always heard the fish calling his name but for all the usual reasons, his boat never touched the water. He was always working to make a life and then life betrayed him and he never got the rest and relaxation he worked his butt off for. No fishing poles, but we did hit the water with him today."
Besides the two hats, I have a pocket watch of his, an old grease rag and a Mack bulldog bank. The last two items I pulled out of the garage that once served as the home of Don Williams Logging.
It has been exposed to the elements since the 2011 tornadoes, and it was pretty stupid of me to be fooling around in there by myself. He had just died, and at the moment I felt desperate to pull something from there that reminded me of him.
If he had been alive, he never would have let me do it. If he saw me from the other side, he might have been the reason that I didn't crash through the floor.
I don't know what kind of stupid things he found himself doing after Papa died, but this was mine.
As I said in my column from a couple of weeks ago, the best advice I have been given so far is that no one gets to tell you how to grieve. Last time, I wrote about talking to him at the cemetery. I still do that, and now I usually wear his hat.
Because James and I work at the paper, we have gotten to share our memories of Daddy and Rick with Daily Mountain Eagle readers.
Through the years, I have also written many obituaries that ran on the front page because the person was someone important in the community.
The truth is, though, that every person is important, every loss is felt by somebody and every name on A2 represents a story that we will never get to tell.
My idea to James is that we open this space up to our readers to share some stories about people special to them who have now passed on.
There is a lot of loss in our community right now. In July, we ran 223 obits, up from 130 one year ago. (That isn't individual deaths, by the way, because it includes some obituaries that ran as both announcements and full obits a day or two later.)
If you have lost someone recently and want to tell us about them, we welcome it.
If the person you lost has been gone for many years and you want to tell us about them, we welcome that too.
If you want to write it, feel free. If you want some help, I'd be glad to do that. I can be reached at email@example.com or by calling the office at 205-221-2840.
We don't have a fancy name for it, and how often it runs will depend on how many people want to participate.
I told James that I thought Rick would be okay with using his space in this way because we aren't asking you to tell us about people who died; this project is to be a tribute to people who lived.
Jennifer Cohron is the Daily Mountain Eagle's features editor.