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We take our own chances and pay our own dues

photo courtesy of thestarphoenix.com

“…The Silver Tongued Devil and I.” Kris Kristofferson

This weekend, I learned of a friend’s unexpected passing.

Bryan Juckes – aka “Juckesy” – was a professional jockey who rode for my parents’ thoroughbred stable back in the day.  I met him as a teen when he came out to the farm to “break” two year-olds one spring. I was the gawky teenager hanging around the barn, hoping to talk with the trainers and riders, and maybe even tag along with them on my pony.

Bryan was lanky, tough, good looking and hilarious.  He wasn’t just the life of the party, he was the party.  He loved hard, fought harder, and partied with the best of them.  His skills as a rider were well documented but it was his zest for life and his Pied-Piper-like ability to lead everyone down a path of fun that drew us in.

The racetrack is an exciting and exhilarating place to be … but it’s also a rough place to spend your time, especially as a young girl. Juckesy nicknamed me “kid” and took on a brotherly approach, doing his best to steer me away from the harsh realities of the backstretch.  Away from the fights, the drinking, the drugs and the divorces.

For a time, because of my love for horses and general proximity to the track, I seriously considered a career there. Taking me aside one day, he whispered, “Kid … I know you love it here but you are meant for more than what this rough life can offer you. Take your smarts and go.”  And even though my parents had already said pretty much the same thing, it was his words I listened to.

We re-connected via Facebook about 8 months ago. We hadn’t seen each other in at least 25 years and I knew we probably never would; but he still called me “kid” and we had an easy rapport, as old friends do.  He was just as full of crazy quips as ever and clearly enjoying himself; it made me happy to know he’d retired from racing and started a business.

And then, he passed away this weekend at the age of 53.   And since I heard the news, I’ve found myself thinking about this rough & tumble character, someone who didn’t just march to his own drummer, he wrote his own tune.   And it was unlike any tune I’d ever heard then or since! I have often thought about how, as we go along through life, we meet people who leave their mark on us and probably never even know it.

But, in spite of my sadness, I can’t help myself but smile when I think of him.  This is a man who took his own chances and paid his own dues, and more than anything else, lived while he was alive.

I know it wasn’t always easy and I know there was heartache.  But, when I think of Jucksey, I smile because what I remember most is the laughter, the incessant one-liners, the crazy stories and most of all … his ferocious love for life and all it offers us.

Jucksey you did it your way.  You, more than anyone I’ve ever known, lived while you were here. And I have learned so much from you – about friendship, about taking chances, and how to just get out in the world and embrace it.  I just wish I had told you so.

RIP sweet friend.

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Categories: Animals, Attitude, Blogging, Determination, Faith, Family, Forgiveness, Friendship, Gratitude, Grief, Humor, Joy, Life, Men, Personal, Relationships, Share, Thoughts, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 30 Comments

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30 thoughts on “We take our own chances and pay our own dues

  1. Oh, MJ, I am so sorry for the loss of your friend. I know this must have been a difficult post for you to write.
    Some folks really do leave a lasting impact on our lives, don’t they?
    I’m glad for the friendship you had with Jucksey. ( and I just bet he KNEW how you felt!)

    • Thank you, Diannna. The thing is, it had been so long since we’d seen each other … and we’d only recently reconnected … that it now just feels unreal. I’m sad for his family and hope that, if they read this, they’ll get a sense of the impact he made on me and others.

      MJ

  2. Sorry for you loss.

  3. This is a loving tribute. So sorry.

  4. What a gift to you both that you reconnected. Sorry for your loss.

  5. Joyce

    Hi MJ,

    I’ve been following your blog for a short time and always enjoy what your write. This is a lovely tribute. One thing stands out, “…someone who didn’t just march to his own drummer, he wrote his own tune. ” How many of us can say that about ourselves? I’m sorry for the loss of your friend and glad that you had an opportunity to reconnect if only for a short time.

    • Thank you, Joyce, for your kind comments.

      Yes – his “own tune” has certainly made me think about mine.

      thanks for visiting .. MJ

  6. Marie

    Awesome tribute to a dear friend that we’re all going to miss so much! Straight from the heart! I’m in tears… Bryan was one of the special ones who made an impression on so many people. Funny thing is he never intended to nor did he realize that he did.

    • I agree with you, Marie. I don’t think he “meant it” … he just did it. And he leaves a host of friends to miss him in the silence.

      Thank you for visiting .. and commenting. MJ

  7. Well written, MJ. I guessing it is a safe bet to think Jucksey would like the fact that you are smiling. He’d probably encourage you to get back on the horse, and continue galloping through life; just as he did. ~ Lenore

    • Great analogy, Lenore. I’d have to go full speed-you know what to the walls- to match his regular gait!

      Thanks for your sweet words, MJ

  8. would that we all live our lives that way….
    my condolences…

  9. Your life sounds like a movie…you should write more about your childhood…I’m sorry for your loss. Death is a reminder to live, isn’t it?

    • Yes – you are right, death is the ultimate reminder to live .. live while we’re here. As for the movie part? I suppose – I’ve had a lot of adventures which, to me, are normal. I’ll ponder on that idea! Thanks Kimmie … MJ

  10. I’m so sorry for the loss of your friend. Clearly he touched your life in a way that many others never could.

    • Thank you, Terri. It’s crazy because we drifted apart, reconnected, chatted as though those 25 some years had never passed and then *poof* he was gone. Just. Like. That. It has given me reason to pause that is for sure. MJ

  11. What a tribute emjay. Truly touching and an amazing portrayal of a character for the novels. Thanks for telling his story. I am sure he’s proud of you.

    • Thank you, Jessie. He was truly one of a kind and someone I will always remember. Thanks for stopping in … MJ

  12. I’m so sorry about your friend, MJ…it sounds like he saved you from some possible hard knocks! Glad you were able to reconnect before he was gone…

    Wendy

  13. What a beautiful tribute to a lost friend. I especially liked the line, “someone who didn’t just march to his own drummer, he wrote his own tune.” He may be gone, but your descriptions brought him to life for your readers. My condolences.

    • Thank you, Karen. He was “one of a kind” and I’m happy you could get a picture of him through what I wrote .. MJ

  14. Gosh, I’m sorry you lost this friend who loved life so fiercely. What an amazing man. He’d make a great short story character.

    Thanks for sharing this post with me, MJ!

    Hugs,
    Kathy

    • I’m sorry, too. He was larger than life. I wish I had told him how much he impacted me; I won’t make that mistake again. Thank you for reading sweet friend, MJ

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