Tom Diaz, about Jimmy:
A friend of my mine just died, so I wanted to say goodbye by writing about
him. I first met Jimmy Hatcher at the Rose Parade in Pasadena, California,
on New Year’s Day in 1959. It was at the parade that he fell in love
at first sight with my sister. I have known him and his family for
40 years, and I thought it would be fitting to remember him in this way.
This is what I have written about him. It is a little rough, so I
may polish it up to be more fitting for the occasion.
Some people you meet are truly unique. They are molded from a form or pattern, and then the form is broken never to be used again. From an early age, Jimmy Hatcher’s world revolved around the nearby woods in Cynthiana, Kentucky, and its inhabitants. He knew about the animals in the woods and how they lived and moved. He knew about the rocks and the soil, and he studied the land around him. He was a true nature lover. At an early age he found flint formed into arrowheads in newly plowed fields near his home. He learned the origins of flint arrowheads and how they were made and used. He amassed a life-long collection of bone, stone, and flint implements and arrowheads, and proudly displayed them for all to enjoy. One of his favorite poems, “A Treasured Implement,” was read at his funeral service. It begins with the line, “Over fields of new turned sod, communing with my God I tramped alone.” During his commune with God, he learned to hunt and live off the land. He could hunt for food with a weapon or with just a string. Jimmy learned that by being quick and aggressive, he would be rewarded with a catch of game, fish, or fowl. That is the way I knew him -- giving his all to the task at hand. Jimmy never let up. He was the Charley Hustle in my life.
On our way toward Paducah, Ky. Laurel said, "What is that man doing?". She pointed to a
field at the edge of the Cumberland River (bottom land). It had just rained five inches of
rain and this man was walking in a muddy plowed field, with his hands in his pockets. I
knew exactly what he was doing. When I first had arrived in Kentucky in 1962-63, I had
lived with my sister in Cynthiana, Ky. with her husband Jimmy. Jimmy was an avid
sportsman, good enough to try out or play for the Cincinnati Reds. Jimmy had a collection
of arrowheads displayed in his living room. I had asked Jimmy where he had gotten them,
he explained each arrowhead is called a point. He pulled out a worn and tired book. The
book separated time into periods of time. Times that Indians wandered and hunted with
spears, bows and arrows. He showed me mortars and pestles, axes, spears, clubs, bird points, fish
hooks made out of bones. I said,” Jimmy where did you get all this stuff?” He said,
“Dennis, after a hard rain, go to a new plowed field and walk. The flint will shine and
sparkle in the sun. Most will be just broken flint, but if you look carefully, you will find
tons of arrowheads.” Kentucky is surrounded by rivers, The Cumberland River to the west
and south, The Licking and Kentucky Rivers to the east, and the Ohio River to the north.
The Mississippi to the west. The land adjacent the rivers were called bottoms, this land
moved/washed toward the Gulf of Mexico. That is why these rivers are muddy and the
bottoms are quite fertile. Indians roamed Kentucky, it is a glorious hunting ground with
these fences of water. Bison, bear and deer roamed these areas, before that mastodons,
as eagles, owls, falcons, heron and ducks fly overhead.
His agility allowed him to be a natural athlete, and soon after high school, the minor leagues courted him as a baseball player. He would have made an outstanding major-league baseball player, but he had promises to keep and miles to go before he slept.
He worked for the local sausage company in Cynthiana before and after he went into the Marines. My sister Sandy and I met him while he was in the service on leave the night before the Rose Parade. Sandy and I always attended the Rose Parade when we were growing up. I was a sailor stationed in San Diego at that time. The day of the parade, I was on leave for the holidays and was again spending time with my family. After meeting her, Jimmy swept my sister Sandy off her feet, and married her. They soon moved to Camp Pendleton, California, near Mission San Luis Rey, to begin their married life together.
Jimmy’s aggressive behavior and unique abilities to move unnoticed made him well suited for the Marine Corps where he excelled on the ground and in the air. His friend, Wade, came from far-away southern Georgia to honor Jimmy at his funeral. Wade and Jimmy met while serving in the Marines, and continued to be friends all these years.
I met Jimmy again after I completed my tour of duty with the Navy. I was in San Francisco but left there on a whim to go to New Orleans. At that time I had no place to go but up, but soon found myself in need of work. The closest relative I had is my sister Sandy who now lived with Jimmy in Cynthiana. With only four dollars in my pocket, I hitchhiked to Kentucky to be with my family.
November 22, 1963
A sad time shared in Cynthiana with Jimmy and family.
While I was on the plumbing job I was working on in Cynthiana. I found myself standing alone, high up on a hill, heart-broken and in shock, looking out at the city, my newfound home after hearing that President John F. Kennedy had been shot and killed in Dallas, Texas. We all stood still in silence and shock.
Jimmy was working as a butcher for the Webber Sausage Company in Cynthiana at that time. While at Webber’s, Jimmy applied for a job as a police officer in Lexington and I returned to California. I am not sure how and when he got the job, and I did not see him again until 1968 when I moved back to Kentucky. While working in Cynthiana, though, I learned to sand floors, do some plumbing, and to know the animals of the woods. When not working at Webber's, Jimmy was doing all the things he loved -- working on his yard, hunting in the woods, and collecting arrowheads.
Jimmy once told me a story about when he worked for the Webber Sausage Company as a hog butcher. He had purchased a toy rubber snake for his garden and he was going to show it to a co-worker. Before he could do this, however, he set it down while he was changing into his white work clothes. About this time, he heard a loud commotion behind him. He turned and saw his co-worker standing visibly shaken and upset, holding one of the meat cleavers they used to butcher hogs. There on the floor was the rubber snake cut up into 20 or so pieces. Jimmy’s friend loudly told him to NEVER bring another snake into the building no matter what it was made of!!
+Jimmy loved to play ball. Jimmy and I would play catch with a softball while I was living in Cynthiana. I also attended his slow pitch softball games at the local parks. Jimmy played very aggressively at either the shortstop or third base positions, and I was privileged to see him make an amazing unassisted triple play. Jimmy was in the infield at third base with one man on second and another on third with no outs. The batter hit a line drive on the third base line that looked impossible to catch. Jimmy ran, dove for the ball, and caught it before it went into the outfield. One out!! As he fell, he scrambled to third base before the runner could get back to tag up. Two out!! He stood and saw the man from second base trying to turn and head back to second. Jimmy, always fast and aggressive, had no trouble catching the man before he could get back to tag up. He caught him about 10 feet before he reached base. Three out!! Unassisted!! There was a roar of applause from the crowd and a lot of back patting after that unusual play. It was very nice indeed.
Kentucky basketball has become a passion with me.
My heart beats and my emotions soar when they play their game.
I learned about the famous Kentucky basketball coach Adolph Rupp and the Kentucky Wildcats from Jimmy and his dad. I also learned about the uncanny ability of a Kentucky fan with a strong pitching arm to throw a cream colored radio across a room in reaction to a bad play. I had a front-row seat to see that 1950 type radio fly high during a particular Kentucky basketball game.
Kentucky basketball has become a passion with me.
Jimmy and Sandy’s cabin in the woods of Berea, Kentucky: The trails were all named as they were built. You couldn’t lose your way in those woods. Jim and Sandy put their hearts and souls into building their dream cabin. He was in constant search of supplies on the streets of Berea for any object that could be useful in creating their paradise. The cabin sat on the side of a hill in the woods, hand-made with love and the sweat of their labor. Every stone, every piece of wood, was etched with the labor of love. Sandy, Jimmy, and their children were on an intimate basis with each piece of wood used to build their cabin in the sky. Their cabin and land became a haven for creatures great and small, and their home became a place where all came to spend some time communing with nature and their God.
The many faces of Jimmy Hatcher: Rugged outdoorsman; fisherman; hunter; muscled Marine; baseball player; loving husband, father, and son; uniformed policeman; hippy undercover cop; friend; university suit; and Southern Gentleman.
I will miss my friend Jimmy Hatcher for the rest of my life. He was my teacher of so many things. At his funeral, his favorite poems were read and mementos of his life were displayed for all to remember him by. I don’t need to look at pictures to remember him because he is etched in my heart and mind. There will always be moments when I miss him dreadfully, but he will be there whenever I think of him. His family and friends celebrated in his life and love as he was laid to rest in his favorite place. His favorite baseball cap was placed on his head, his hand held a single red rose, and he had a mint in his pocket. Bumper stickers proclaiming the greatness of the Marines (Semper Fi, buddy) and the illustrious Kentucky Wildcats were placed on the outside of his coffin. As we stood on the cold, wind-swept hill overlooking his pond and cabin, the dogs, geese, and ducks also celebrated the love they were given by Jimmy and blessed by God. It was a fitting memorial to a unique individual.
Everyone, please write whatever you want to add here in your own words. There is plenty of room for text and just a few photos.