Dink was a once in a lifetime friend. He could do things to a friendship that would test it beyond limits. I never went five minutes in his company without laughing. He was as much an comic entertainer as anyone you see now on TV or at a comedy club.
Dink first entered my life when I was a pre-teen boy. He and my Dad worked construction together in the sixties. Dink was a hard worker and knew his trade. I guess you could say his specialty was road boring. That’s where a big machine drills a hole underneath a highway where pipes can be installed when there’s no other practical way to dig across a street or highway. Roadboring is a dirty job. Typically mud and grease covers everything, including the workers.
Dink’s trademark look was nice starched and ironed jeans and a white shirt, with snaps, not buttons. He always wore expensive cowboy boots made from exotic leathers. I think ostrich was his favorite. They were about the most expensive. Of course various snake skins were also in his closet or on his feet at times. He topped everything off with a big nicely creased cowboy hat, always of the most expensive grade. Dink wore lots of gold and diamonds. Few modern day pimps could out shine Dink in his day. When it came to vehicles no one drove fancier pickups than Dink. He would leave a dealership in a brand new truck, drive directly to a hot rod shop to get loud pipes and fancy wheels put on it. This was even before guys really did that. We are talking the 60s and 70s.
Dink was a man of perhaps rugged good looks. Not to me, but to just about any waitress that ever walked up to his table. I never knew any man that drank more coffee and less alcohol that did construction. Most people that ever got to know him would have taken him to be a drunk. He had that appearance and that manner about him. He smoked Pall Mall cigarettes, the filterless kind and he smoked a lot of them. You seldom saw him without a cigarette in his hand or mouth.He was small in stature, perhaps 5’7″ and weighed in at 140, max.
When I mentioned earlier about the way he dressed, that was everyday. He would be right off in the bottom of an excavation with mud knee deep. When he would come back to the surface he would be cover from hat to boots with grease and mud. The next day he’d be right back dressed in his finest clothes, knowing what the day would hold for him.
Dink was a good 20 years older than me. By 1972 I had found my way into the world of underground utility construction in Austin, Texas. I was doing subcontract work for my cousin, Nelson Lewis that was well established in the business.
Along came Dink and he worked out a similar arraignment with Nelson to what I had. He, may Dad and Nelson had all worked together back in the earlier 60s, as I mentioned before. But when 1972 rolled around I was an adult by then and got to know him on a different level. We became friends and spent a lot of time together. According to my wife, we spent a way too much time together. She and I had only been married for a short time then.
Dink suggested we form a partnership and pool our work and our resources. I think he said “it’s not likely we’ll both be down on our luck at the same time, so we can be there for each other”.
Dink and I met for coffee early each morning, then we’d have lunch together most of the time and meet up for coffee a couple of other times each day. I can see where my wife may have thought we were spending too much time together.
I’ll never forget Dink had a friend he’d met in the coffee shop that had a business supply store. So he went to get us each business cards made. When he to pick them up a few days later, he handed me both boxes, so I could have a few of his and him a few of mine. I opened his box and his name Dink had become Pink. I was kidding him about just using them anyway. About that time we open mine and he said ok Rinnie, let’s just do that.
Needless to say we were delayed a few days getting our business cards to start handing out.
A most memorable time was when we were going to meet a man I’d know my whole life, originally from Smithwick. Duff McClish, was a heck of a good guy and your very personable insurance salesman type. On our way to meet him, Dink McDuff got me to repeat his name once more. The wheels were turning.
Duff stood up as we approached his table and stuck his hand out and said I’m Duff McClish, and Dink without missing a beat said I’m pleased to meet you I’m Clish McDuff. I’m not sure you can get the true effect of us sitting down and after a few minutes Duff, tell me again what your name is, to which he said my name is George McDuff, but everyone just calls me Clish. That was the humor of Dink McDuff.
After our business venture fell apart and he went on to pursue many other interests. He always had something interesting going on. He came to town one day and called so we could meet up. He was dating a real young gal from Louisiana. Her father and Dink were almost identically the same age. I met him once and thought they even favored.
His name was Bob. Bob worked for the Coast Guard and was pretty high up. He and Dink designed this apparatus so when a ship or a barge rammed into something or got rammed it was like a large diaper with cables to go around the vessel that would cover a hole or split and the outside would inflate forming a seal against the vessels hull. This would stop the leak until the oil or other liquid could be pumped off.
He had a small prototype built. It really was impressive. They had started the patent process and if I’d give him a certain amount of money I could have a stake in this thing. He had made a deal with this patent attorney that he would walk the thing through and do everything for $12,000 cash.
When Dink had a deal for you it was never anything like you had ever heard before. It wasn’t, you give me $12,000 and next year when this thing is going it will be worth $24,000. No it was give me $12,000 and by next year our profits will reach $46 million and you’ll get 20% of that. He and Bob would each have 40%. All I could figure out is 20% of $46 million was a lot of money.
How was this going to work? Several vessels in Louisiana had recently ruptured and it was an environmental disaster and the Coast Guard would require every type of floating anything to carry one of these diaper kits onboard. If they were allowed in US waters they would have to be equipped with this safety device.
He left Austin with $12,000 in cash. My cash.
After Dink left with the money I didn’t hear from him. Not for about 2 years. Probably the longest that I’d not heard from him in my adult life.
It’s pretty easy to figure when someone is dodging you. We had some common acquaintances so I’d have some idea what he was up to. I found out he was up in Irving Texas area. My royalty checks never had arrived for the boat diaper. Madeline and I needed to get away for the weekend. Irving seemed like a good way to head.
We got to up there and there was a Denny’s that I knew he hung out in, so I went there. I cornered the manager and after visiting a few minutes found out he hadn’t been around for a couple of months. But he had moved up to McKinney and bought a little farm. We headed to McKinney.
As we drove along I-75 north out of Dallas, Madeline and I talked about how unlikely it was we would find Dink. As we drove along we passed a Holiday Inn on the right. I said “that’s where Dink drinks coffee several times a day”. I said let’s go back there and get a room for the night, as it was getting late. That way we could head back home in the morning.
We walked in and as we waited at the check-in counter, I just said to the hostess of the restaurant standing nearby “has Dink been in today”?
She said, “he was here this morning and he should be back anytime now. He sits with that table of guys over there”. At the table were several rancher types that looked like they came there everyday before going out to feed last thing in the afternoon.
I got Madeline around to the room and walked back to the restaurant. I took the seat at a table that was facing the only seat left at the table of guys. Dink walked in moments later and sat down. You could tell that they are were waiting for Dink to come in to tell them stories and make them laugh.
He looked over and saw me. If he was surprised he didn’t really didn’t show it. He came over and joined me.
He explained how when he left Austin that day to see the patent attorney in Houston his truck, the prototype and his brief case with the money and all the paperwork had been stolen. He just couldn’t bare the thought of telling me. So he dodged me for a couple years. One more dream of his was down the drain.
This is the only photograph I have of Dink.