The Little Mulberry has forever lost a one of a kind soul. Tooter Stepp. He left us suddenly on Saturday. Tooter entered the world on the Little Mulberry and departed here also. He worked for the Oark School for 36 years and I am proud to say my children had the privilege to ride his bus for almost 2. I laughed often with this man, as did many, many others. His booming voice and presence turned any face to a smile. I think I hugged his belly every time we met. Had I known last week, as he sat on my porch, it would be his last visit, I would have lingered, I should have.
We laid Tooter in the ground today. Too soon. I don’t believe the Evans Cemetery, a small burial ground down a one lane dirt road in the middle of the national forest, has ever held the gathering it did today. We estimate the attendance at 600. The school provided Tooter’s bus as a shuttle, to carry mourners to and from the cemetery, from a nearby field. Some attendees, eager to reach the graveside, began walking the half mile incline road to the cemetery, crossing the Little Mulberry and wetting their shoes and pants. One young man waded into the water and spent the afternoon building a dam of rocks for the walkers to cross on. All for our friend Tooter, I wasn’t surprised. It was all a testament to the light Tooter was to this community.
Thank you Lord, for including Tooter in my life. Thank you Lord, for bringing me to this beautiful place I call home.
Tooter, ready for a hog hunt last fall.
Tooter, showing us how to skin a hog at last year's pig roast.
Tooter, as we burned Art's field last winter.