Walking into the Future
My friend Andy (in the photo) and I lived across the street from one another in Fort Walton Beach in the panhandle of Florida during 1967-1969. He got me to join Sea Explorers where we had great fun racing canoes, camping, and other wise playing in the surrounding waters. This hike was my first big organizing experience - our two crews were in competition to see which of them could get the most of their crew members to complete the entire 50-mile survival hike through the Eglin AFB forested bombing range carrying all of our gear during the hot and humid Florida summer. My step-father was stationed there before we moved to Beale AFB in California in the fall of 1969.
My crew got together and planned to carry just the bare essentials. Andy's crew showed up at the start with ice chests, tents, and first-class eats. My crew won the contest and Andy and I still laugh over the experience. I gave him the winning crew patch many years ago.
Sometime back in the 1980's I was speaking in the Palm Beach, Florida area and there sitting in the audience was Andy Schmidt. It was the first I'd seen him in many years and it was a wonderful moment to see his smiling face in the crowd.
Andy had his hands in many kinds of work over the years and lived in Hawaii for a bit. On one of my trips about 20 years ago I got to visit with him while speaking on Oahu. While there we got talking politics and he sounded just like the right-winger roots that grow deep in ultra-conservative northwest Florida. Our friendship was chilled after that and went dormant.
These days Andy is back in his family home on our old street in Fort Walton Beach. He is on the Internet all the time and has taken the leap into full-bore progressive politics. He sends me many links to good articles he comes across and is reading books to catch up after many years of sailing blind. I am really proud of him - not many people make huge political transitions in their 60's but he has done it. Just goes to show that people can learn and change. A good thing for sure!
The best thing though has been to rekindle our friendship - we were really good buddies back in those sea scout days. To reconnect with Andy has brought us both a joyful memory of our youth and the determination to walk forward to deal with our chaotic future. That's what friends really do.
Thanks Andy Schmidt!