Jonnie A. (AKA Quail)—
A Man of Peace
Soon after JFK’s assassination, I began to slip into what I now recognize as a deep and dark depression. In May that following year I lost my friend, Larry E., to a tragic drowning. I was then told by my father that I was going to work at the family business. There would be no baseball, hanging out at the pool, or riding my bike for endless hours around Pueblo. The work was very hard, as we cleaned carpets in two homes a day, and picked up 20 some area rugs. We brought those rugs back to the plant to scrub, and hang from a 25ft ceiling for forced air drying.
I worked 50 hours a week, which I am sure is some violation of child labor laws. It was mostly solitary work as I was a helper to an adult specialist. I had hours to think. I spent a lot of time thinking about death, listening to Country Music, as the men that worked for my dad and uncle loathed Rock and Roll. It was KPUB and never KDZA. The good news as I look back, is that it was the golden age of Country and I know all the songs. In August football started and I was freed from that summer of indentured servitude.
I headed off to my Sophomore year, never once telling anyone about the fear and sadness that lived inside of me. That year the East High Eagle football team was loaded with Senior talent. I was a clumsy but eager kid who lived in a body that looked far more grown up than I felt.
At East we had two Junior Highs funnel into one High School. I came from Heaton, which was brand new, very privileged, and other than the kids that were bussed in, it was 99% Anglo. Risley was the other Junior High. Those students were mostly blue collar, poor and it had many Hispanics. I now realize how fortunate I was to have had that experience. They had great teachers at East, and I learned a lot. Between going into 20 homes a day while working my summer job, and now schooling in a very diverse context, my world expanded.
I was scared and lonely but never said a word to anyone. I was nearly 6 feet tall and 190 pounds, which made be stick out as a Sophomore. It was probably the third week of school and I was in the cafeteria standing alone, and all of the sudden I was surrounded by three guys who began to bully me into a fight. I had no idea who they were or what I had done. Out of the corner of my eye I saw Johnny A., who was known as Quail, get up and move towards us.
Quail was our starting defensive end on a team that just beat Poudre from Ft. Collins 6-0, to take over #1 spot in the top high school foot ball rankings. Quail was a man among boys, a tremendous athlete and a fierce competitor. He put himself between the three of them and me. He looked at them and said “What’s your problem??? Leave him alone, he is my friend”. Mind you, he had never said a word to me on the practice field or locker room. He smiled at me and went back to his table.
What I share now I do with Quail’s recent permission. Fast forward to the early 2000’s. MK and I were visiting our many relations in Pueblo, and we went to a 7am AA meeting. There in the circle of recovering folk was Johnny A. His strength and gentleness of character oozed from him still. Many times we went to that meeting while my mom was still alive. Often we were met by Quail.
This Sunday is Peace Sunday in our Advent world and I have thought a lot about what peace is. When I think of how Quail intervened on my behalf, at a time in my life when I needed hope, sometimes peace is an action and not a state of being. The powerful act justly on behalf of those who are vulnerable. There is also a second peace and that is internal.
Quail’s health is not so good, but the peace that passes all understanding flows out of him. Thank You Johnny A., my brown skinned hero, you are a peaceful peacemaker who is obviously at peace with yourself and the world. I close with this prayer that Quail and I have shared in the circles of AA.
From St. Francis
Lord make Me an Instrument of Your Peace,
Where is there is hatred let me sow love.
Where there is injury, pardon.
Where there is doubt, faith.
Where there is despair, hope.
Where there is darkness, light.
Where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master, grant that I may
not so much seek to be consoled as to console,
To be loved, as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive,
It is in pardoning, that we are pardoned,
And it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life. Amen
Onward and Upward,