“Back door friends are the best, I would rather have back door friends any time.”—my long time Center friend, Vance Payne
The back door at my house has been eerily silent lately, used for little more than weekly trips securing supplies or strolls in the yard.
The remainder of house arrest while held hostage by COVID-19, I’ve spent on things dismissed for decades by saying, “I’ll do that someday when I have time.” That includes reviewing half a century’s worth of haphazardly filed creative work: columns, short stories, news clippings, poetry, photography. It’s an enlightening exercise akin to opening doors into one’s past releasing floods of fond memories one moment and reminders the next of forgotten friends and thoughts hidden in the hurry of life. One of the latter was back door friends.
Although my domicile for the last 15 years has been landlocked on a street corner within walking distance of the courthouse, my preferred choice for living is anywhere on a lake. Watching the sun rise and set over water for many years, it once occurred to me that identifying the back door when living on the water can be a matter of one’s point of view. On the lake, you have an entrance door on the lakeside as well as one on the street side because visitors arrive by water almost as much as they do by land giving rise to the question: how do you define the back door?
And that’s important because more often than not, the choice of doors through which a visitor enters denotes what kind of friend has come calling.
Damon McNair was a back-door friend in Boerne. Dalmon was editor of The Boerne Star when we bought the Texas Hill Country newspaper in the early 90s. He retired when we took over, but he continued to come by the office. He said it was to check on the mail or share a story idea. I’ve always maintained it was just to smell the ink and newsprint, a professional affliction better appreciated when you’ve spent your life in a newspaper office.
Long before going to Boerne, I knew back door friends were the best. My long-time Center back door friend, Vance Payne, taught me that. He was adamant that back door friends are the best, and that he would rather have back door friends anytime.
Dalmon always came in the back door at The Star, probably because there was a spacious city parking lot behind the office and only a couple of spaces on Main Street near the front door. It also likely had something to do with the fact that he came in the back door reporting to work every day for many years.
Back door friends may or may not knock and because they are friends, it really doesn’t matter. Some enter quietly while others roar in like the lion in spring. Dalmon always entered quietly. There was never a rhyme or reason as to what time of day he would come through. It might have been two times one week and three or four the next, but his first stop was the mail basket we kept for him.
If it was a press day, he simply nodded to those who saw him because Dalmon lived most of his life meeting the deadlines of a press day and knew there wasn’t time for idle chit-chat. Other days, he would wave and speak, inquiring about the weather, the local news, or simply asking, “How’s business?”
Dalmon was not only a back-door friend in the Hill Country, we also shared roots in the Texas Pineywoods. Dalmon was a native of Gilmer not far from my hometown of Mount Pleasant. Unfortunately, my friendship with Dalmon was brief. He died not long after I settled into the publisher’s chair in Boerne. However, it doesn’t take long to befriend good quality people, especially those who come in through the back door.
To this day, the front door at my house is fine for delivering packages, running for public office, or distributing religious tracts. But if you show up at the back door, I’ll know you’re the best kind of friend.
In the coming weeks as we start returning to some degree of normalcy, it may be a new normalcy for us in the U.S. But one thing will not change—back door friends will always be the best.
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