Sunday, February 26, 2012

R.I.P. Milton Anderson

Milt and Ernie, By Kim Sallaway
As soon as I get this ton of bricks that just landed on me pushed aside, I want to tell you about my good friend Milt Anderson. Milt passed away, I don’t even know when at this point. I just found out. I’ve been busy in my own little world. I should have known that something happened when I opened my email and found the photo, that you see, from Kim Sallaway. I went to read Kym Kemp’s blog this morning and saw her announcement of Milt’s passing.

Milt was a man of this earth. Anyone that knew Milt would tell you that if there is a “Father Nature” it was Milt. Milt only ate natural foods and he made his living working the earth, gardening, pruning and taking care of plants. Born of the earth, and now back to it. Milt is truly home now.

Milt was a man of contrasts. Other than the obvious that he was a black man living in a mostly white world, he was a good man living in a sometimes bad world. Milt didn’t like cheaters and came pretty close to hating a thief. Just a short time before he had a stroke he came into our store. As he was coming in, a man was leaving. Milt came to the counter and told the clerk working there that the man that had just left was a thief, and he was pretty sure that had stolen something. The clerk ignored him. Just then I walked in the back door and saw that Milt was agitated. Having known Milt for a very long time I have often been amazed by his uncanny ability to spot a cheater. We went back through the security videos, and sure enough the man had stolen a radio, tucked it under his shirt and left. We called to cops and showed them the video. Milt had followed the thief and took the cops to him.

We always have a pizza party for the employees when they catch a thief, we had our party and I tried to get milt to join us. I had even arraigned for an organic pizza for him. But, typical of Milt, he would have no part of it. He said that he was “glad to do it” and that I “didn’t owe him a thing for doing what was right”. And that he just “didn’t like to see his friends get ripped off.”

I can think of a thousand “Milt stories” through the years. He always made me feel like a special friend, as most everybody that knew him would say the same thing. I often wondered what I did to deserve being Milt’s friend. One story that I will tell is about how I learned to be a little more careful about being racially sensitive. A friend of Milts walked up to him and said: “Hello Milt. I haven’t seen you in a long time. I thought maybe they hanged you or something”.

Having been raised in a redneck world, I had often heard that expression between white folks. I really had not thought about the racial connotations that the expression had. Milt took it pretty much in stride but he said: “I know you didn’t mean anything by that, but I’ve seen my people hanged so I’d appreciate it if you didn’t say things like that around me”. It made me realize what a whitebread easy world that I had been raised in. Can you imagine seeing your folks hanged?

Another time Milt and I were sitting on a couple of chairs on the stage at the local Harley Run. I saw three or four Harley riders wearing KKK tee-shirts leaning against the fence leering at Milt. It started to worry me. I asked Milt: “Do those people bother you?” he said: “Nope, But if they come back stage, I’ll escort them clear out of the run”. I got to thinking about it, and he was probably right. With all the friends that Milt has, the KKK boys would have been in serious trouble if they had started anything.

A man of contrast, Milt was a working man in a lazy man's world of welfare recipients and lazy bums. I don’t think that I ever saw Milt that he wasn’t working. Even at the town parties, he was working for the security people. I asked him one time, in one of our numerous conversations. “Why is it that you are always working? Don’t you ever feel like just kicking back a little, and taking a rest?” He told me: “Yep, one time when I was a kid, I told my father that I didn’t feel like doing my chores. My father said that’s okay son, I’ll do your chores today, you just go ahead and enjoy yourself”. Milt said that supertime came and he went to the table. There was no plate set for him. He asked his dad why he didn’t have a plate. His dad told him: “You didn’t want to do your chores today, so I did them for you. I did your chores, so I get to eat your dinner. If you do your chores tomorrow, you can eat with the rest us that do their chores”. "You’ll soon find out in the real world, if you want to eat, you have to earn it”, Milt says that he has worked every day since then.

Milt was not a wealthy man, he was happy if he had food on the table. That is evidenced by all of the fruit trees that he kept picked. Milts wealth was in his friends. In friends, he was the wealthiest man in Garberville. Do you know anybody that had more friends? Milt wasn’t any kind of an activist, he didn’t cross barriers. He just lead a good life and the barriers crumbled around him.

Most of my grief is probably because I didn’t visit Milt in Eureka as often as I should have. After he had his stroke, I had heard that he was in terrible shape. I agonized about what I should do. Finally his son, Milton Anderson Jr. “Toadie” to Milt, came in the store and gave me an update. I found that he was able to have visitors. I told my wife that we were going to go up and visit him. We went up to see him. He was very matter of fact with me. He said that, “I Told Toadie that haven’t seen Ernie. He must not of heard yet or he would have been here”.

He said that he'd had a “Little stroke and that he was getting better real fast. He was going to get some physical therapy and he would be up and about again, in no time at all”. He showed me where the side of his face was all numb. He pinched it a few times, as if to show it who was boss. He said that it “is coming back real good, already it feels like a bee sting”.

I don’t know where the rest of you folks find the strength to not cry. But I was cheerful and upbeat for Milt and I was able to not cry…. Until now

Please click on the following link to Kym Kemp's Blog: For more comment on Milt.



felix said...

I am very very sorry to hear this. Milt was always there as long as I can remember.
You're right Ernie, he was a very special guy who will be missed by many many people.
R.I.P. Milton.

Ben said...

A fine tribute, Ernie...

Ernie Branscomb said...

Thanks Ben, He was a fine man.

Kym said...

Oh, Ernie, darn it. I knew Milton was a good man by the way he treated me. But the sweet stories I've read of him in the last few days have touched me even more than I had expected.

Ernie Branscomb said...

Kym, there are more sweet stories out than you can every imagine. It wasn't a quirk that Milt had so many friends. He was kind.

Like I have often said, most of the smartest and wisest people that I have known in my life were always the simplest. Down to earth wise and simple.

maryellen said...

I came to your blog to follow up on Milt stories by his friends. I loved what you shared about Milt. It's good to hear about the kindness of others and how they affected the lives of many. I will also miss Milt even though I didn't know him near as well as most that have shared. I will miss him in the community.

Maryellen McKee

spyrock said...

i have a milt like person living in my parents house. he is known as pastor warren. he always says god bless. he has kidney failure, so he has these boxes of kidney cleaning solution that i wind up with. i take these boxes to the city free dump every year. i don't have to. but i do. some people don't like black people. i try to like those people anyway. not because i want to change them, but because that's the way i change the world.

Jack Tollefson said...

olThanks for sharing this. I never met Milt, but I know Milt II pretty well and have witnessed Milt II's love and compassion for Milt. These stories reveal why.

Jack Tollefson
Tacoma, WA

Anonymous said...

the more i know about frank asbill the more i like him. he seems to have a great regard for half breed indians of which there were many in those days and he even likes black people. i can't get over how everyone cussed back then, even the indian wives and how all the little babies cussed as well. but they all seemed to love each other to death. it was sort of my story, i learned all my cusswords from uncle delbert as soon as i was able to walk but if i used them i got the switch or the belt or my mouth washed out with soap. but only the death of his wife stop uncle delbert from cussing.
my whole city slicker world view of the last of the west has been modified.

spyrock said...

that was spyrock