Since the end of the harvest, Popeye hasn't been home as much as he usually is. That's because he's been hanging out with other family members, all of whom I didn't even know he had!
It all started last summer, when Popeye brought in his brother, Nokelee, to help complete a retractable tent on top of our porch to allow us to use it year-round. Similar to the roofs now found in some sports stadia, it can be closed during bad and cold weather (remember that we have lots of thunderstorms here), and can be opened on beautiful and clear nights, which occur mostly in late spring and early summer.
Then, over Christmas, as I reported, he brought in all eight of his brothers and sisters, and they in turn brought most of their families. Now, he visits their homes about once a week, in part to make sure they have companionship and in part to fill out what otherwise would be idle hours caused by a reduction in his schedule on the farm.
Alonzo Hoyt Barefoot, who has a resurrection age of 58, was actually born 80 years ago - May 11, 1933. His parents were Handy Barefoot and Parlia Ross. In addition to Popeye and Nokelee, Handy and Parlia had sons Noah, Landon, and Labell, daughters Mattie, Mahala, Minnie, and Etta Bell, 13 grandchildren, and 14 great-grandchildren. The children live in separate houses in different neighborhoods of Heaven, outside Idealia but within the political boundaries of the Confederacy. Specifically, Nokelee and Noah live together with their families, as do Landon and Labell. The daughters live with their husbands who have different last names.
Popeye loves to talk about them, and recently as he was rattling off the names of the distant relatives, he gave out the name of Matthew, Labell's grandson. He then asked me if he remembered the scene at Rockingham Speedway after I won my first NASCAR Sprint Cup title. "Of course I do, very well," I responded. Popeye then told me that there was a freckled-faced, redheaded boy that somehow snuck into the victory celebration. That was already in the back of my mind; however, I never knew the boy's name. "That was your cousin Matt," Popeye told me with surprise in his voice and a twinkle in his eye. And in that moment, I shared that sense of pleasant, unbridled surprise.
That's why I'm so glad Popeye came into my life when I was a little boy and has stayed there ever since. And now I see him and talk to him every day, forever and ever.