Memories of my brother, Jim

I was the oldest of four brothers. Jim was next, just a year younger than me. Because he was nearest to me in age, it was natural that I became closer to him than to my other brothers. We always shared a room. We played together, grew up together. Even as adults we continued sharing a place up until the time I got married.

We moved a lot when we were young, and as a result we never had the opportunity to develop close relationships outside the family. So for much of my life, Jim was not only my brother, he was my best friend -- sometimes my only friend.

As we grew older we shared many adventures. We both loved the outdoors and as teenagers we took up backpacking, bicycling and hiking. Jim was with me on every backpacking trip I ever took, including two trips through the Anza-Borrego desert. One summer we hiked and hitchhiked from Mt. Lassen in northern California, down through Yosemite and back to southern California. In Yosemite we spent most of a night fighting off a bear that wanted our food.

In later years we took several road trips together. In 1986 we took a trip to see the narrow gauge trains in Colorado, accompanied by our friend John. In 1987 Jim joined me on my first Nevada ghost town trip, in my brand new Isuzu Trooper. Although work and family obligations prevented him from going on any of my major trips after that, he did manage to take a few shorter trips with me to the Mojave desert and Arizona, until he moved to Montana in 1994. Since then I'd always held out hope that someday we might be able to share one more adventure.

Above and right: The only photos I have of Jim on our original 1987 Nevada trip.

In 1977 Jim had a very bad accident while riding a motorcycle he'd just bought two weeks before. He had a fractured pelvis, compound fractures on both legs, a crushed foot, and a huge chunk missing from the middle of his lower left leg. The doctors kept trying to talk him into letting them amputate, but he refused. He underwent several surgeries and some very painful procedures, spent weeks in the hospital and at least three years in a cast, but he kept his leg.

When he first got out of the hospital he was in a solid cast from hip to toe. Eventually they switched him to a two-piece cast with hinge at the knee, and almost immediately he started riding his bicycle!  I always admired the way he didn't let things hold him back from doing what he wanted.

He had begun experimenting with silversmithing in the mid-70s. While recuperating from the accident, he spent what little savings he had to buy some material and began creating several pieces to sell. Sadly, nearly all his work was stolen while on consignment. Although he tinkered with silversmithing off and on, he didn't get back into it in a big way until several years later. (I think this was roughly around the time he and Maggi first got together.) Before long he was doing jewelry full time.

I've always been very proud of Jim's work. His art is just stunning -- so beautiful it takes your breath away. His creativity was boundless. He could turn anything into a work of art. I've said it before and I'll say it again: Of the two of us, I feel that he was the true artist.

For a while I was able to visit him and Maggi in Montana about every other year. The last time was in 2002. Then Cris' health issues, and resulting medical bills, reduced my already limited travel opportunities. The last time I saw Jim was when he came to visit us in 2010. (The last time I saw Maggi was in 2012, when she was helping my sister care for our dad.)

Jim and Maggi left this world on February 27, 2016. Today, March 20, 2016 would have been Jim's 60th birthday.

I miss him so much.

Left: Jim and Maggi in 2000.

Below: Jim, Ray, and Mark in 2010.