BARBWIRE BOB – Ramblin’ around the corral with Bob Sweeney

Football, football, and more football took up my weekend and the games did not disappoint.  The take-away from the five games was a winning team better have a good quarterback and coach.  Buffalo and Kansas City  have both, and they are strong contenders to advance to the Super Bowl.  Our beloved Broncos have talent but need a winning coach, quarterback, and ownership stability.

May the “force” be with them to once again join the playoff fray and join the playoff hunt.  One other note, I did not detect any political statements or actions that have  turned off fans in the past.  The games were just hard nose football with some spectacular plays in closing seconds.  It is time for good old Ben to retire.

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I’m sharing memories from my old hometown of Craig where one of my longest friends passed away December 25, 2021.  Steve C. “Tom” Maneotis, age 87, left this world.  “Tommy,” as I always called him, was a Greek war refugee and he and his younger brother George were placed in my fifth-grade class after World War ll around 1948.  

Tommy spent his lifetime in Craig and was the “God Father” of the large successful Greek community centered around the sheep industry and agriculture Greeks immigrating to America arriving  in the 1900s to tend flocks of sheep that became large bands of sheep over thousands of acres of land in Northwest Colorado. There are many Greek families here in Denver related to Craigite families.

Tommy never was a sheep man but after a stint in a Greek grocery startup he joined Floyd Reid and Larry Cook in the local Chevrolet dealership.  He later started his own successful car dealership that is ongoing to this day, family-owned and operated.  His daughter Helen worked for me at the Daily Press as a typesetter and one of his sons Steve sold cars for “Dealin” Doug Moreland here in Denver before returning to Craig to join the family business and coach the local basketball team.  Tony leads the team along with all the family members.   They bring so much love and community spirit to Craig.

When they first brought Tommy into the classroom he was several years older than class members and was relearning English.  He was shy, but a friendly, loving person that he continued to be during his entire lifetime.  

Since he was tallest boy in the class at that time he became the star of our fifth-grade basketball team and we would just toss the ball to Tommy and he would put it in the hoop as we defeated all other teams at the local armory gym.

The last time I  saw Tommy was a year ago at the funeral of Ron Higgins who was  his first auto dealership partner in Northwest Sales.  We both sat in the corner at the Higgins’ home, following the funeral, and reminisced about our life together in Craig and our many good memories of my newspaper career in Craig and his life in the competitive car business.

Bad weather on Rabbit Ears Pass and snowy road conditions kept me away from the funeral, but I hear from Craig friends there were 275 friends at the public reception.  The Greek Orthodox church was packed, along with an adjacent Congregational church for his funeral service.

He was a great friend and a leading citizen in the community.

Tommy, in his lifetime, would always catch the ball and score for his team members.

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Another longtime friend and Sigma Chi brother Gary Oakley sent me a short piece that he wrote about his experience as a pilot several decades ago.  Gary has been a successful businessman in Denver for years and now resides in Lakewood and Hawaii.

Recapping his article, he relates  how he flew his granddaughter Molly to Montana State in Bozeman, Montana to consider attending school there.  Grandfather Gary took off with his daughter Nancy and granddaughter Molly on the 600-mile flight to Bozeman in his newly purchased 320 twin-engine Cessna for the three-hour flight.

They overspent their time in Bozeman and left as the sun went down.  Gary had to use his flight instruments to return home flying over rural Montana and Wyoming in the dark with almost no ground lights.  He had drifted off course and in the dark he realized that Longs Peak was close to Fort Collins and he was flying at 13,500 altitude and the Peak was at 14,000 ft.  He recalls, “I reminded myself of the old definition of private flying,  ‘hour upon hour of boredom interrupted by a few moments of sheer terror.”

He relates pulling up the plane and suddenly seeing the lights of Fort Collins and the lights reflecting off of Longs Peak as they passed by the high mountain terrain that he had barely missed.

The experience taught me a lesson, he relates:  “We must climb to a higher level in life to see what is ahead and be alerted to not only physical danger, but also mental and spiritual danger that may be lurking ahead.”   He continues, “We can be going along comfortably, not knowing that tragedy is inevitable if we do not make the correct decision.  Evil is so subtle; tragedy can be so quiet. Our job is to come into the light and have the strength to change course when necessary,”  He quotes a book called “It’s All Right To Cry.” The author says, “nobody is wise who does not know the darkness.”

Gary concludes that today Molly is a successful speech therapist with a great husband and four beautiful children.

I think Gary was sending me a message about COVID-19 and the dangers that we all face from this unsuspecting pandemic.  Thanks for the story old friend and keep flying at that high altitude of life.

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More football next week,  it just gets better and better!