My friend Bill.
Five years ago, give or take a day or so, my friend Leif was killed in an industrial accident. I wrote a poem then, inspired by a photograph taken at Lonely Mountain Defender, when his friends build him an effigy Longship, and his wife brought us his ashes and we gave him a proper Scandinavian Funeral. Yesterday I was reminded that five years had gone by. On Facebook, I changed my profile pic to best photo of him I have, which prompted a friend to message me privately and ask about him. I wrote, and more words came out than I thought I had left. Not wanting to waste them, I'll transcribe it here.
Duke Leif Ivarsson. Mundanely Bill Hammond. We came up together, he started a few years after I did. I started in Carlsbad, he started in Santa Fe. He was a few years older than me.
We were hammer and anvil in dozens of tournaments, finishing 1-2 more times than I can count, mostly with him taking the #1 spot.
When the Outlands became a Kingdom, he would have been the first Knight, but he wasn't a paid member, and thus was 3rd or 4th. We were very close friends, we drank together, we confided in each other, we helped each other, We were close. He had squires, and friends, but none like us.
Do you have a favorite story about him?
This next part is weird, but when we saw each other, we kissed on the mouth, not like lovers, but like more. Men without shame, men for whom friendship went so deep there could be no embarrassment.
I get that.
You, and very few others, would.
There was a time, after a Crown Lists, which he eliminated me in the semis, and he went on to win, that someone watched the video tape of, and rumours went out that he had cheated me. The story few from one end of the kingdom to the other. He called me and asked me how I felt, asked if I wanted him to vacate the victory. I told him he'd won, fair and square, that I threw a shot, he said it didn't land, and he was my friend, and that's all that mattered, the video could go fuck itself.
We agreed to watch the tape together. He said if I wanted him to, after watching the tape, he'd still resign the Victory. I said "Not a prayer", but we still watched, alone, drinking beer. There was the shot, I thrust over his shield, his head snapped back, and he said "I didn't feel it." We watched it frame by frame, and it was clear that he had seen something, my knee bend, a lean, something, and had on instinct, thrown himself backward as the thrust came in, and I'd never touched him. He'd made the right call, but was willing to give away a Crown for friendship.
At his Coronation, I asked to speak, and I laid light shame at the feet of anyone who had spoken against his clean victory, thanked for their faith in me, but declared he'd won fair and square, and that he was my undisputed King. That cemented our friendship forever.
Five years ago, he was working in a factory in Arizona, and through some stupid as fuck accident, he got too close to a running conveyor belt, which tore his arm off, at the shoulder. He bled out on the floor in a couple of minutes.
If you look around on Facebook, there's a photograph of him, leading the army at Pennsic. Running ahead of his troops. This he did at my advice. He came to me after one of his Coronations and said "He man, I'm getting a lot of bullshit from the peers about the War, telling me how to run things, blah blah blah. I just want to go fight. What would you do?" I said "Fuck them all. No army likes to be driven into battle, they want to be lead. Hire a good General to give us strategy. Let him run the show, while you LEAD THE TROOPS." And that's what he did.
He was a great fighter, a great man, and a great friend.
Love it man.
Thank you for sharing.
Wish I had known him.
You'd've liked him. He was tough, kind, and good.
Definitely sounds like my kind of guy
This conversation I just had with Brion of Bellatrix, another great man. That he asked me about this opened doors I'd long since closed, behind which are the best kind of painful memories.
I miss Bill every day.