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Huffman column – Character? Yeah, that was Joel

It’s tough to know where to start when it comes to remembering Joel Scoggins.
Joel was … hmm … what’s the word? A “character”? Yeah, that probably describes him as well as anything.
Joel died Wednesday of colon cancer. He was 52. In high school, he was one of my best friends.
Joel was a big guy and matured faster than most of us. My father had a second-shift job back then and some days worked as a substitute teacher at the junior high I attended.
He was substituting one day and saw Joel smack a boy about half his size upside the head.
“You ought to be ashamed of yourself,” my father told him.
But Joel calmed down not long thereafter. When we were 14, Joel took his father’s Volkswagen Beetle for a joy ride. He was speeding, ran off the road and the car flipped.
Joel was thrown from the vehicle and through a tree. Doctors didn’t think he’d live. Numerous surgeries and months of rehab followed. Joel wore scars from the incident for the rest of his life.
But the accident also seemed to change Joel. After that, he was more docile (though I’m not sure the words “Joel Scoggins” and “docile” belong in the same sentence. As long as I knew him, Joel enjoyed having a good time).
In any event, he wasn’t as aggressive after the accident as he’d been prior to it.
The first car I owned was a ’55 Chevrolet. Joel and I drove to a junkyard one day looking for one of the many parts the car needed.
The junkyard owner walked me and Joel to the shop’s back door and pointed to a distant hill on which the shell of an old Chevy sat.
The owner forgot to mention he had a junkyard dog (the type Jim Croce used to sing about) chained behind an abandoned bus there on the property. The dog found us, or, more specifically, found Joel’s rear end when it bit a chunk out of him.
Joel ó understandably, that’s true ó let out a scream and ran. As I drove him to a doctor’s office, Joel hung his head out the car window and howled like a rabid animal.
At least he managed to keep a sense of humor about the situation.
By the time I reached high school, my father liked Joel, which is something I couldn’t say about a lot of my friends. Joel was visiting one afternoon when my father allowed that he and Joel’s mother had grown up together in the little town of Gibsonville.
Joel seemed to ponder this for a moment, then, feigning shyness, lowered his head and shuffled to my father’s side. He looked down at the floor, then up at my father a few times before finally whispering, “Dad.”
I may not be giving the scene justice. It was amusing.
Joel and I went to Myrtle Beach together following high school graduation. I ran into him a few times over the years, but like most classmates, we eventually went our separate ways.
Still, news of the passing of a dear friend is always a shock and I’m going to miss Joel. Though I’m pretty sure he was kidding about being my half-brother.
– – –
Contact Steve Huffman at 704-797-4222 or shuffman @salisburypost.com.

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