John M Donovan
Hat Tip #3: Don Morton
Don Morton was married to my cousin Mary Beth Trimmer but I’m pretty sure we would have been friends under any circumstances. He was easy to like, easy to talk to, and one of the most genuine, least pretentious people I’ve ever known. And even he though he married into the family (the TIpswords, the Kitty Wampus Gang) you’d have thought he was one of the patriarchs, a direct descendant of the first Tipsword himself.
Not every family gathers for an annual week-long reunion. Not every in-law would want to participate in such a thing. But I can verify—from playing softball and volleyball beside him and from just sitting around shooting the breeze with him—that Don loved that week as much as anyone.
Don worked for a Lexington, Kentucky company specializing in equine air transportation. I might never have stopped to think that some of the jets passing overhead might be carrying horses, but thanks to Don I now know that you can’t expect Derby winners and other high-stakes horses to take the bus to their next race. Here he is with a horse whose name I don’t know although he or she looks a lot like that other horse whose name I don’t know.
I mention this because for a number of years, Don would come to Des Moines to deliver a specialized piece of equipment to the airport prior to the arrival of some horses who would be running at Prairie Meadows. This usually happened about a week before the family reunion, so we would get together for dinner—along with my family and whomever he happened to bring on the trip with him, Mary Beth or their daughters—and have a pre-reunion reunion.
I always looked forward to it, and always loved that little extra Kentucky-Iowa connection.
Don liked my writing, but like I said I’m pretty sure we would have been friends under any circumstances. I appreciate his review of Trombone Answers: He said he thoroughly enjoyed it and that it took him back to when he was that age. At the minimum, that’s what I hoped that book would do for readers.
A few weeks ago Don sent me a picture on Snapchat. He had tubes in his nose, which surprised me because from what I understood he had battled back completely after being diagnosed with leukemia a few years ago. I asked what was up and he said he was in the hospital getting some things straightened out.
I had no doubt that those things, whatever they were, would get straightened out. I sent him a copy of Fluffball and inscribed it with the message that laughter is the fourth or fifth best medicine. But he died on the day after I dropped the book in the mail.
He was a good man. And there’s nothing quite like knowing you have friends you’d be friends with under any circumstances.