This post is about a fellow named Craig Hasty. He and his Father, Del, and his little miniature dachsund, Sammy, lived just down the street from me for many years. I remember the first time I met Craig. He was coming down the sidewalk wearing marine style camouflage complete with boots. I was walking my bassett hound, Cleo. Craig and Cleo immediately fell in love with one another. Craig would always fall all over her, rubbing her ears and proclaiming, " Cleo, just a big, fat, loveable dog." I always referred to Cleo as the Cleopottamus. Craig loved that nickname for Cleo and often referred to her as the Cleopottamus. He was always bringing her bones from steak or rib cookouts and just dropping in to see her.
He became a family friend. After he took up running, he would run ( not jog ) past our house in the early hours of the morning. Sometimes we would hear his boot steps down our sidewalk as he picked up our paper and delivered it to our front door. We were one of several neighbors he performed this special service for. An acquaintance called me one morning to warn me that he saw a strange character in camouflage running around in our front yard early, early in the morning. The purpose of the call was accompanied with " I know you have two pretty daughters and I just thought you should know." I told him that was our neighbor, Craig, and he was a friend to my whole family, including my pretty daughters.
Craig was a little bit different. I never learned the cause of his mental development being slowed. He was stuck somewhere in adolescence though he was a man in his late 30's perhaps 40's. Del was a retired military officer and Craig lived with him. I believe his Mother had passed away some years earlier. Craig could drive and would often see me working in the yard and pull into our driveway just to visit. He always wore his camouflage fatigues and often a little black beret. I do not ever remember him being in a bad mood or saying an unkind thing about anyone, ever. He always addressed me as Mr. Vass although I told him often to call me Lee.
He was simply a sweet person. My wife often shared her baked goodies with Craig and his Father. They had a next door neighbor whom Craig declared a Saint. She often sent them meals and looked after them in many ways.
The news came that Del had cancer. Our immediate thought was what on earth would happen to Craig. Craig cared for his Dad as best he could and the cancer seemed to take a slow circuitous approach. Craig became even more esconced in running and joined Gulf Winds Track club. He poured his heart and soul into that association and ran several events including marathons. He was always proud of his ability to finish events. I was always amazed at his ability to run long distances in impressive times in fatigues and boots. That club became a family to Craig. He spoke to me of specific members and I could tell that he had made many good, solid friends there.
The day came that Del succumbed to the cancer. It was exactly 3 weeks later that Craig went to join him. He died in Taylor County, I believe. He went out for a run on one of the hottest days of the year. He ran and ran and ran without stopping, without hydrating and just keeled over and died. Those of us who knew him realized that he was smart enough to know that he could end his life in such an exercise.
I often think of him and people like him. It is common to wonder why the Great God who controls the universe and is said to know when a sparrow falls, places people like Craig Hasty in our midst. I believe that such people are precious to Him and He envelopes them in a special veil of protection. They are not capable of petty gossip, larcenous tendencies nor egregious behavior. They are placed in our midst for us to reflect upon and ask ourselves is the rat race we run really all that important? Craig's world was pretty small and simple. We would all be a lot better off involving ourselves in small and simple.
These times we live in are taking us back to that juncture. The world has consumed itself into a world wide depression. We will survive it only if we simplify our appetites and look to the Craig Hastys in our midst. I miss my visits with Craig. I know he is in a better place with his Mother and Father together. I also believe that he still has some time to rub on Cleo who left us about 5 years ago. His little Sammy is somewhere close by as well. I am just positive that he is happy and fulfilled. I hope to see him again one day. Hope I am worthy.