If a picture is wroth 1,000 words, then a song must be worth at least a million.
That hit home for me in October of 2014 when Wayne Metz called the country radio station KBOW.
It was the morning after Pat Kearny died, and Wayne wanted to dedicate the Luke Bryan song “Drink A Beer” to his cousin, the chairman of the Butte Sports Hall of Fame, avid historian, author and legendary Butte broadcaster.
It was a great gesture and a nice, simple honor for a man who was friends to so many.
The cheesy song is hard to dislike, and it resonates with most of us. It makes us think of that friend we dearly miss.
Wayne became one of those friends when he died at the age of 63 on Jan. 8, and his family held a private service for him. His obituary in the newspaper was just 109 words, which only begins to describe the underrated Butte character who called himself the “Stickman on Excelsior.”
He needs a song.
In normal times, we would have a funeral for Wayne. Then we would go to a reception, tell stories, tilt a glass to his memory and smile.
During the pandemic, we are missing out on the traditional funerals that bring closure and start the healing process. For Wayne or for any of our fallen friends.
That made is why Ed Skubitz was having a hard time saying goodbye to his old pal Ray Goldsworthy.
Ray, 79, passed away two days before Christmas, and his obituary did not make into the Butte paper until Jan. 10. The obit was short, but eloquently written.
Check out the first line:
“You can take the boy out of Butte, but you can’t take the Butte out of the boy.”
Before he was a professor, Ray was an accomplished boxer, baseball player and bowler in the Mining City. He also perfected the art of setting the pins in a bowling alley.
Back before automation took over, setting pins used to be a great way for kids to make money.
“He could set pins in two lanes at the same time,” Skub says. “The good bowlers wanted a good pin setter, and nobody was better than Ray.”
Ray played guard for coach Ed Simonich on the School of Mines football team in Butte. Skub was one of his teammates in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Skub says Ray was a good player.
One thing that really stands out to Skub was Ray’s memory. He was like an encyclopedia. He was Google before there was Google.
“He was just a guy who knew everything,” Skub says. “If I wanted to know who played in the 1960 bowl game or something, he could tell me.”
Goldsworthy grew up on South Montana Street. As his obituary would suggest, Ray was a Butte Rat to the core.
“He was just a great guy,” Skub said. “He was one of the good ol’ boys in Butte.”
Skub used to be the first person in Coach Bob Green’s office after Montana Tech football games. He used to help me interview the coach after wins and losses.
He surely would have loved to have had the chance to tell stories about Ray at a funeral or the following reception. Instead, the family will hold private services.
So, Skub called me because he wanted someone to share some stories of his old friend.
I learned of Wayne’s passing from those 109 words in the newspaper. I had known him since I moved into the neighborhood almost 20 years ago.
Wayne was wearing a Green Bay Packers hat the first time I met him. I think it was the same hat he wore the last time I talked to him a month or so ago.
Every time I would see him, I would say, “Hey, you need to go get a new hat.” Wayne would respond with some words not fit for print because he knew I was talking about his team and not the faded, dirty condition of his lid.
Wayne would sit on his back deck on Excelsior Avenue. He would drink out of a big coffee mug that I always suspected was not filled with coffee. If he was not whittling a walking stick or cane, he would watch the cars go by as he listed to the radio.
When it rained, Wayne would pull out a canopy he made form an old, blue tarp.
What Wayne lacked in sophistication, he more than made up for in ingenuity. Sure, it might have made him look like Cousin Eddy, but that tarp kept him dry.
Sometimes Wayne would be fooling around with his guitar, writing a song as he waited for a costumer to stroll on by.
In the parking lane of a semi-busy street, Wayne had a stand made from PVC pipe showing off his sticks. On the frame was a handmade sign advertising his handmade waking sticks.
A couple of years ago, Wayne got a notice from the Butte-Silver Bow government telling him that he needed a business license to sell the sticks. Apparently, a business in town ratted on Wayne.
Of course, that made his neighbors laugh because hardly anyone ever saw Wayne actually sell a stick. Maybe he would sell one or two during the folk festival, but that was it.
Usually, Wayne would give the dang things away.
I offered to help Wayne by writing a column to expose the shortsighted bureaucrat who sent the letter, but Wayne would have none of it. He was peeved, and he was going to handle this situation by himself.
“I’m gonna call Palmer,” Wayne said, referring to Dave Palmer, a former neighbor who was then Butte-Silver Bow chief executive.
After getting an earful from Wayne — and probably a good laugh — Dave got the situation resolved. Wayne did not need a business license, but he had to agree to put his stick stand on the sidewalk instead of the parking lane.
It was a great, yet very unnecessary compromise. And they say you can’t beat City Hall.
The story of Wayne’s victory over the local government would have been one of the many that would have had us smiling at the reception following Wayne’s funeral. Unfortunately, we will not get that chance, at least not any time soon.
When Kearney passed, St. Ann’s Church was packed for the funeral. So was the reception, where stories of Pat’s many moments of greatness and orneriness brought out a great many laughs.
One of the worst things about the pandemic is we do not get to do that for Wayne, Ray or many of our other friends we have lost over the last year.
So, in their honor we should all take a page from Wayne and dedicate a song.
Call the radio station, find that old CD or go to YouTube. Somewhere, you will find the perfect song to play and remember your old pal.
I could not tell you what would be the right song Ray, but I am sure Skub could. I just know which tune will forever make me think of the “Stickman on Excelsior.”
“Drink A Beer” never really fit Pat Kearney, anyway.
— Bill Foley, who will also think of Wayne every time he hears “Old Hippie” by the Bellamy Brothers, writes a column that usually appears Tuesdays on ButteSports.com. Email him at email@example.com. Follow him at twitter.com/Foles74