True Friends: Growing Up with Jon Miller
article by Dan Chason
Most of you have heard the term “best friend,” and when talking about them it may be said that “they would give you the shirt off of their back.” That is a very high compliment indeed, but very few people actually come through where the rubber meets the road. It is also said that if a man lives his whole life and maintains one true friend, he is blessed. I can honestly say that I am blessed, as I have been fortunate to have two very close friends who fit this mold. One has been my friend since high school, and the other since the mid 1990s. The latter I will disclose next month.
I first met Jon Miller at church camp. He was of the same denomination, and he and I soon landed together in the dining hall working for Rev. Everette Johnson, his pastor in West Monroe. My dad was his counterpart in Monroe and was my pastor, as well as my father. Jon and I had been relegated to dish washing for the 200 plus people, who came to the hot box of Pineville, Louisiana for 4 weeks out of their summer. There was summer camp for kids, youth camp for teenagers and then campmeeting for everyone. You do the math and count the dishes. But the time flew as Jon and I passed the time with our white aprons and paper hats melting off of us, while we made eyes at any female who would give our 15 year old eyes a look.
That relationship blossomed, and soon Jon and I were inseparable. We worked our summer jobs together at the A&P in West Monroe; Jon was the assistant produce manager (as he was far more organized and neat than me). I worked up front as a checker and bagger. Our days were spent at school, evenings at the store and come night time, you would find us on Bayou DeSiard, where Jon introduced me to night time bass fishing. You haven’t lived until you buy your first Ambassador 5000C and learned to throw it at night. Not only did I pull out a half mile of line from back lashes, I had to endure Jon’s laughter at my expense.
Bayou DeSiard is probably the most overlooked lake in our area. There are only two public boat launches on it and the various roads and levees prohibit free access to all of it. That didn’t stop Jon and me as we launched our twelve footer with a foot controlled Motor Guide off of roads, bridges and ditches just to get to new waters. Our favorite lure was a worm. A Mister Twister purple worm with a curl tail or the old faithful color of motor oil. I wish that I have pictures of the fish that we caught. Good times and great memories.
Jon was not one to get into trouble. He was the steady “good son,” and I was the direct opposite. I think his mother sensed that, as she kept a close eye on where we went and how long we were absent. Jon has two brothers and two sisters that were and are about as good a people as you could ever meet. We spent many an evening playing basketball at Jon’s house. All three Miller boys (especially Bobby) were gifted athletes. Then there was Moses, their dad. Mr. Jack Miller worked for the Motorola dealer in Monroe. He was a small statured man with a brilliant mind. The boys and I called him “Moses” in a loving, respectful manner as to recognize his sharp mind and wisdom. Moses was very quiet, meticulous and could fix just about anything. He would bring out an old wooden chair and watch us play basketball and just smile. You would think he was watching the NBA pros. But Moses wanted to be a part of his kids’ life and that was one way he did just that.
Mrs. Doris Miller was a Registered Nurse in the Surgical Unit of the local hospital. A gifted cook and calm soul, she carried a level of respect with her children and with me that was unsurpassed. She rarely raised her voice, but when she cut those blue eyes at you, it felt like the Maker Himself was calling you to the bar of judgment.
I remember one hunting trip that I will never forget with the Miller boys. We had been invited to go on a deer hunt with a friend near Ruston. Anyway, the Miller boys rarely hunted. So Bobby, Gerald, Jon and I loaded up in the Honda Civic (don’t know where we thought we would put a deer if we killed one) and off we went. Our plan was simple. There was a big thicket bordering a power line. Bobby and our host would ease through the thicket while Gerald, Jon and I lay in wait on the power line for the deer to appear. None of us had ever killed a deer, and it was a doe day. I was fired up. Jon and Gerald had the “real” deer rifle that I believe was used at the Alamo. It was a Winchester lever action with open sights. I had one step up on them with my British .303 I had picked up in a pawn shop. We were ready as we belly crawled up to a little rise overlooking the lane and waited. We laid there flat on the ground, whispering and waiting.
After lying on the ground for a good two hours, Gerald looked over at Jon and said he was hungry. Jon, the produce man pulled a ripe red apple and handed it to him. Remember now, we have two “drivers” in the woods and when I tell you it was dead still, it was quiet with a capital “Q.” When Gerald crunched down on his apple, it sounded like a rifle had went off. I started laughing, Jon started laughing until we were all crying. I won’t say it went over well with Bobby and our host as they came out to the power line, cut up, muddy and sweating, only to look at us with utter disgust.
These types of memories cannot be made anywhere but in the outdoors. Jon and I later ended up as roommates in college. He graduated, I didn’t. He is now a CPA and still today, we share great memories of The Andy Griffith Show that we watched daily and of old stories that we can laugh about to this day. I named my son Jon Andrew Chason after my friend Jon Miller. A pretty good fisherman, a great man, grandfather, father, husband and son. And a co-conspirator who helped me to understand at a young age, what a true friend means.