Damon Rarey, what a fantastic gift to my life, the best of friends. Damon and I were classmates. I came to Westerville in 1958, our ninth grade year. I don't remember the first time I met Damon, I suppose it was in Mr. Jones's Science class, where I liked to cut up as a attempt to be liked by all these new people. I remember Damon's step-brother, Jeff Kratoville was one of my earliest acquaintances and so maybe a link was established there. It seems like Damon has always been my friend. It doesn't make sense, thinking about it, that I was somehow surprised to find that Damon affected so many people, the way he did me. He had the most genuine way to of connecting with people. I have experienced no one better at it. I recently told another classmate that talking to Damon made me feel like my IQ had gone up ten points.
We always had long discussions. Often, say after football practice or some school activity, I would walk to Damon's house with him and hang out in his third floor room. Damon loved books and had scads of paperbacks on shelves in his room. He introduced me to many authors. I was led to Steinbeck by him and read everything of his I could get my hands on, and Catcher in the Rye was one of our sacred writs. This continued throughout our life. Damon was always leading me to great literature and movies. He loved movies and loved to quote lines from them, especially westerns, like One Eyed Jacks. We spent much time as teenagers talking philosophy and trying to solve all the worlds problems, and I often thought we had figured it all out. He was definitely so much more gifted and intelligent than I, but he had a way of always listening and understanding that made you feel very much equal. And his mother, Betty Lou, was just the same. I thought she was such a pretty lady, she always reminded me of Anne Bancroft. She had her hands full in those days, I'm sure, taking care of the household that included Damon, Courtney, Jason, Timothy and Matthew, but always supportive of Damon's friends and even defending them to outraged parents, when we had gotten into trouble.
Damon was a part of my teenage life that was adventuresome and fun. We loved to skip school with our buddies and go to the swimming hole at Alum Creek. A rope suspended from a branch of a willow out over the water gave us plenty of Tarzan like exercise.
We hitch hiked...everywhere. We hitched to Sandusky to see my brother and visit Cedar Point and chase after cute teenage girls. Damon loved girls. And I think girls loved Damon. We didn't find much romance, but we sure did think and talk about it. We hitched all over Columbus. I remember hitching down Cooke Rd. and we were walking by Watterson High School and saw that a play had been scheduled for that night and we just spontaneously went in and watched. Damon could find culture hitch hiking. He led me to it, otherwise I would have missed it.
We read these books and we fantasized about doing the things we read. I think this is what led us to hitch hike the United States after we graduated. I'm sure my parents thought they would never see us again, but we had parental blessings and we were on our way. We were deposited at the outskirts of Columbus by our mutual good friend, John Miller and we were on our way in the summer of '62. We traveled to New York City first and stayed with Damon's uncle Art, who owned a restaurant in Queens, and then to shorten the story of long trip, I'll say we went to West Virginia and stayed in the boondocks with a childhood friend of my dad's, then south to New Orleans and west to excursions into Mexico and on to California. In all we traveled thousands of miles and had great experiences and laughs, all on $100 each, of which we had bought $30 worth of switch blade knives in Tijuana, Mex. We stayed in YMCA's, slept along the road, even on top of clothes dryers in a Laundromat in the desert. We did really learn to "live off the fat of the land, George" (line from Of Mice and Men) and it was one of the all time great experiences I could only attempt with the greatest of friends.
I could go on forever about the impact and beauty that Damon's presence in my life has made and I miss him very much but I am so thankful for the wonderful gift in my life that ol' Rarey has made. I love you Damon.
Jerry Behling April 25, 2003