Seventeenth-Century English clergyman, Thomas Fuller, said, “If you have one true friend, you have more than your share.”
Amen and amen! I have been blessed with more than one, but last week, I lost one of my best. There are those who are friends for a season and then they move on. There are those who are friends when they need us or something we have, but when the need is gone, so are they.
Then, there are those rare friends who are there for the long haul. These friends stick with us through thick and thin, and their friendship last until the end. Fred Ledford was this last kind of friend to me.
In our earlier years, Fred and I shared many things in common. He and his dad used to visit my dad’s place of business when we were probably 4-or-5-years old. Soon after those first meetings, Fred and I began learning to read, write, and do arithmetic together in Mrs. Slaughter’s first-grade class at Plainview Elementary School. We shared many classes and times together over the next 12 years before we donned caps and gowns and walked across the stage to receive our high-school diplomas.
Our love of cars was one thing that brought us together. Fred grew up working in his dad’s paint-and-body shop, as I did in my oldest brother’s. We both learned to paint cars before we were old enough to have a license to drive the cars we painted. At one point, we even had cars that were almost identical. He had a dark-green 1968 Malibu. I had a dark-green 1969 Malibu. Both had hanging 8-track-tape players, because we both loved music. We often swapped tapes by John Denver, CCR, Bread, and James Taylor. We even bought matching harmonicas once, and learned to play our first song on them. It wasn’t a classic-rock song, but a classic nursery rhyme…Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.
After we graduated from high school, my friend and I became business partners. At the ripe-old age of 18, we opened our own paint-and-body shop in his dad’s old shop building. It was there that we both learned the art of custom-paint work. Before long, I moved on to go to college, but Fred moved on to driving 18-wheelers and also to become one of the best car-restoration guys in the area. He could strip an old rust bucket down to the ground and build it back like brand new.
Whether it was rebuilding your car, building a prayer garden at his church, or doing some special mission, Fred spent most of his life doing things for others. He was a humble selfless servant. Fred captained my mama’s washtub once to retrieve my wayward fishing lure. Although he ended up wet, I appreciated the effort! On another occasion, when he was still a small boy, he crawled under his neighbor’s store to retrieve a dead cat for him! The full stories can be found in previous columns and books of mine.
In 2016, doctors discovered a tumor inside Fred’s head. The prognosis wasn’t promising, but after surgery and treatment, God blessed Fred with six-more years of life and us with six-more years of Fred. In 2017, I was the one with cancer. After surgery and no treatment, I was declared cancer free. Not long afterwards, Fred and his wife Teresa came to Opelika to bring me a hand-quilted cancer victory quilt.
Last week, my friend didn’t lose his battle, he won his ultimate and eternal victory. He had fought a good fight, finished the race, and kept the faith. We will miss you my friend, but go rest high!
— Bill King is a native of Rainsville, where he and his wife graduated from Plainview High School. King is a writer, musician and author. His column appears in the Times-Journal Wednesday edition. Visit brobillybob.com for more information.
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