This is not my normal blog, but it’s a subject that is very much on my heart. I buried a friend yesterday. Thomas (Tommy) Gaines funeral service was yesterday in a beautiful church that he was instrumental in getting built. I grew up with the Gaines and Williams families. For many years, those two families formed the nucleus of Riverview’s most valuable employees.


Mine and Tommy’s friendship was formed in the hard manual labor of my dad’s tobacco fields. There were three Gaines brothers, Sammy, Tommy, and Junior. While none of the three had ever touched a set of weights, all three looked like Mr. America with their physiques. Sammy was six years older than me while Tommy was five years older, and Junior four years older. The Bishop who preached Tommy’s funeral referred several times to Tommy having the biggest hands that he had ever shaken. Well, the Bishop never shook Sammy’s hands. We lost Sammy many years ago in a traffic accident, and he was a fine human being also.


As a 12-year-old, Pop threw me in the tobacco patch, and expected me to hold my own with these giants. Well, that was flat impossible. Topping and suckering tobacco was one of the hardest, hottest, and most challenging tasks in the tobacco patch. Each man had to carry his own row and was expected to keep even with the others as they worked down the row. I would fall so far behind that I could barely hear the others talking and singing. All of a sudden, I would come upon a section of my row that had been topped and suckered. I would look way down my row, and see Tommy and Sammy grinning and motioning me to come on up to them. Those two men always picked a row on either side of me. I would have died of dehydration without them because we weren’t allowed water until we got to the end of our row. Interestingly, those big men were scared of a huge caterpillar that was called the Horned Tobacco worm, and the devil would inspire me to throw one on them occasionally. It’s a wonder that they didn’t stomp my little white butt into the sand.


When Tommy grew into a young man, he married Dorothy Williams. Dorothy became our second head cook, and I believe she could have made a doo-doo sandwich taste good.  Sadly Dorothy, too, passed away several years ago, and her sister, Retha, is now our head cook. As I was talking to his son, Michael, after the funeral, he commented that his Dad said that he was so grateful to my Dad because he introduced Tommy to bird dogs which became a love affair for Tommy for the rest of his life. Tommy was a hell of a dog trainer and handler, and was the top guide at Riverview for years and years. He was our most requested guide for many years. Many guests would change their reservations in order to have him as their guide.


He was my employee, but he was also my friend! I will miss him, and the Riverview family and our little community will miss him also.


May God bless each of you and your families!