Ray Pool’s long ride is over
For The Madera Tribune
Ray Pool is shown here in one of his vineyards. The long time Madera farmer passed away Saturday evening. He was 95.
Ray and Kenny were great friends — for life! They were in the same grade, and they were the only two kids who rode horses every day to Arcola School. They would watch out for each other. If one fell off the horse, the other would be there to help him remount. Usually it was Kenny helping Ray.
They were real buddies and pals. Sometimes one would spend the night at the other one’s house, and when that happened they chose the barn for their bedroom. There they would play games, toss manure at each other, and then wash off in the horse trough. These were the idyllic days of youth, which passed all too quickly.
Both lads graduated from the eighth grade together at Arcola and then went on to Madera High. Their friendship held fast through the years. By the time they graduated from high school, Pearl Harbor was not far off, and in a short time the two buddies bid each other farewell and went off to become part of the “Greatest Generation” who saved the nation for the rest of us.
After the war, Kenny came back to Madera while Ray moved to Nevada, but neither man ever forgot those halcyon days of their boyhood in the Arcola district when they looked out for each other.
As fate would have it, Ray learned to fly in the service and spent most of his time in a B-17. Now he intended to put that newly found skill to use in gathering up wild mustangs. He wrangled the horses into a holding pen from whence they were shipped off to California. The job was ready made for Ray. He was making a living at what he loved to do best. Then came the crash.
Ray had not been airborne for very long before he spotted the herd. He made several passes over the animals to get their attention and then moved in to do business in earnest. That’s when Mother Nature joined the game.
The herd was gathered on the leeward side of a steep mountain. As Ray headed toward his quarry, he encountered the unthinkable — a downdraft that carried his plane right into the side of the mountain. The crash mangled the local pilot’s right side. Fortunately a group of sightseers in a four-wheel drive jeep spotted the wreckage and pulled Ray out of the twisted metal and took him to a hospital, but his wrangling days were over.
Ray spent the next year in and out of Veterans’ hospitals. He had lost not only his right leg in the crash but the use of one eye as well. Finally, with an artificial limb, he limped back to the only place he knew to go — Madera, and that’s when his buddy Kenny picked him up one more time.
By now, Kenny was married, and his mother was living with him. Nevertheless, he wasn’t one to turn his back on an old friend. He gave Ray a place to live; there was always room for one more, even if it was just a cot in the garage and a place at the table, and that wasn’t all.
Somehow Ray had to get what belongings he had back to Madera from Nevada, so Kenny stepped up to the plate again. Gathering up a group of Ray’s old friends, Kenny took a truck to Nevada and brought back everything Ray owned, including the remains of the wrecked plane.
By this time, others joined hands to put Ray back on his feet. The DaSilvas took him in for a while, as did his schoolteacher Eudora Rogers, and Ray was grateful to them all. Those ties of friendship that had begun at the old Arcola School never came loose.
By now, the reader knows that the “Ray” in this story is Ray Pool and “Kenny” is his boyhood friend, Kenny Robbins, both of whom became well-known fixtures in Madera. They, however, are only the characters. The plot lies in the bonds of a friendship that began in the 1930s when two little tykes met in the third grade. It unfolds as that friendship manifested itself in a host of unselfish acts of kindness and concern and ends when one said adios to the other.
Kenny Robbins died on Aug. 24, 2007, and of course Ray Pool was there. At the funeral he eulogized his departed friend in a unique way. Ray had a coffee cup on which was painted a scene of two cowboys being chased by a band of Indians. One cowboy is shown slipping from his saddle, and the other, instead of riding away from the danger, is helping his buddy back on his horse.
In Ray’s mind, that scene on the coffee cup symbolized his friendship with Kenny Robbins. Kenny was always there to help Ray back on his horse, never expecting anything in return. As Ray put it that day, “Maybe we will meet again someday up in the sky. Maybe there will be an Arcola up there, and maybe the Good Lord will let us have horses to ride to school, and maybe we can start a great new adventure again. I pray so, and now I have to be careful and not fall off my horse. Kenny is not here to help me back on again.”
Well, enough said; farewell my friend, your long ride is over.