For my cousin Justin Alexander Emmons (1973 – 2007)

I wish to express my gratitude for the kind words and stories from Justin’s friends and family. It gives me a better picture of a man who connects us all at this place today. Let us continue to celebrate the life of my cousin Justin.

All right, JAE. This one’s for you.

Being an only child I didn’t have siblings around day-to-day. What I did have was time at a special place with the person closest to me as a brother, my cousin Justin.

Us cousins loved to spend time at the Grandparents. Their home, our sanctuary, rested at the foot of Pikes Peak, in a cozy little neighborhood of individually designed and built houses, in the foothills, overlooking the city of Colorado Springs.

The guest bedrooms were split for their children; Joe’s room and Sue’s room. It’s how we were arranged for Christmas. Also for summer breaks with the parent’s gone, staying with the best grandparents these cousins could have.

We would explore the trails out the back yard which wove through treed ridges and bushy gullies going ever steeper up to the mountains and rush-back-down-home for cold glasses of milk.

We never really got lost …well, there was the one time… we’d been gone all day and became somewhat disoriented and got a little panicky. Justin really wanted to get back home. I led the way downhill, towards the city and it was OK …when we found the road which traveled to Duckwall’s and further to the zoo. We followed it back towards home.

Of course there was always camping. Retrieving little secrets out of the Rocky Mountains like trout from a stream.

Ah, the fish. Wandering up and down rivers with poles in hand to snag them out of their place in the river. He loved to clean fish once he learned, and was very enthusiastic to do so. It delighted me to see him ever so eager to clean even mine. “Here Justin, would you like to clean another? Sure!”

Arriving at a camp spot we would JUMP OUT of the car, RUSH UP to the top of the first rock outcropping spotted and YELL DOWN while madly jumping and waving at everyone to look.

Our grandparents had boats but the most fun was the inflatable raft. Tied to a tree, paddling like crazy to parts unknown… maybe just jumping in and out of it in the front yard, imaginations going wild. Once on a day trip we came across some pretty swift rapids, but Uncle Joe navigated us successfully through. Mostly we would just drift by a bend… with a little steeper and faster spot which made it fun, next to our favorite camp spot closest to home. Sometimes, we would hop in the river with our life jackets on, to shoot over the little spill on our backs and swim to shore.

Fire management was serious business at our camp. With our fire poking sticks crushing the big logs down and arranging them to make the flames burn blue and white and –leap– with orange. Ends glowing red from the work, we’d write smoke filled grey symbols in the sky and scratch at rocks to mark them black.

At home we would often ‘camp out’ in the Gooneybird, our Grandparent’s RV hooked up to the house in the back yard, and I am certain, no matter which trailer or motor home it currently was, that it contained magical properties, such as protecting us from being heard by anybody. I think about Justin, perhaps 11 out there with me one night, headphones on and the walkman blasting, singing off-key to the Oak Ridge Boys while I, at 15, launched pillows at him to make him stop.

We’d climb up and hang out in the scrub oak trees in the back yard. Each cousin had they’re favorite one and we’d drop straight down off the limbs to run up to the back deck for glasses of orange juice and 7-Up.

There was one chair on that deck we both adored. I had picked it out to give my Grandparents for Christmas, along with a bench that hung from the ceiling with ropes that passed through wood slats to make the back and seat. Justin had called it and after sitting there for awhile got up to go inside for something, and I immediately sat it in to take it back. No way was my cousin going to sit in my chair. When he came back he got so riled seeing me sitting there that he forgot to open the screen, bouncing off it with one hand pointing up with the number one and the beginning of a “Hey…”

As we got older we might’ve been bigger trouble makers, but then Nathan came along. If I was old enough to drive I guess that would make Nathan about 7 or 8 at the very least. We were given permission to drive the pick-up on an errand to the 7-11. On the way back I decided to take a little detour… to the abandoned gold mine where there were plenty of easy dirt road tracks and the motorcycles liked to race around. Nathan had promised not to tell but panicked on return of them finding out, and so told them what we did.

We kept in close touch through our school years of high school and college. Justin came to see me play at Drums Along the Rockies. He came out for a summer break while I was living with some friends in a big Victorian near downtown Denver.

We had a commercial sized kitchen and even in those days, Justin could cook. He’d use whatever was around him and get creative… which was necessary during those starving student years.

I believe we saw 4 separate Dead shows together… one in Denver, 2 in Vegas and one at the Sandstone with his Dad and some friends of mine who road-tripped there and crashed at his family’s home in the basement with me.

When I left for Europe after college I dropped by Kansas – natch – and it was the end of the school year and time for Omega. A special time for my cousin in his town… he put me to work and I loved it, greeting happy people arriving with their arms out the window for me to put on their plastic bracelets for the music festival. I met so many of his friends camping out there over the long weekend and it was the best way to depart the U.S.

That’s when we started falling out of touch. He’d be in Alaska while I was in Colorado. He’d be in Colorado while I was in Boston. He went to Orcas Island when I came back to Colorado.

I had a chance to see him, while he was in Orcas Island, as my wife and I were traveling through Vancouver Island, on our way to New Zealand. We didn’t stop.

We’re just back to the States and I was hoping this summer to catch up. What a tragic accident.

I’ll miss you so much, JAE.
Justin Emmons

This entry was posted in etc and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

Comments are closed.