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This story was written many years ago in response to a fan fiction challenge involving death. The story was never finished, but I thought this section of it would be appropriate to share now.
The Funeral of Sheriff Rosco P. Coltrane
The low murmur of voices quieted in reverence as the minister neared the front of the sanctuary. People quickly took their seats. The minister laid his notes on the podium and surveyed the audience. He cleared his throat, shuffled the papers, and then began his funeral sermon.
“I am very heartened today to see so many familiar and even some unfamiliar faces here today to honor our fallen sheriff, Rosco Coltrane.”
The minister bowed his head for a moment, collecting his thoughts and glancing at his notes. Sniffles could be heard throughout the room during the momentary silence.
“While it is natural to grieve for Rosco, we must also celebrate. We must celebrate his life and we must celebrate his death. For in death, he has achieved eternal life. For the scriptures say, in Revelations 21:4, ‘death is the end of troubles, trials, pain, sorrow, and fear.’ We should rejoice for Rosco! Who here would not want eternal life, with no pain, no sorrow, none of the troubles that plague us in this life?”
Many audience members nodded in agreement. The minister walked towards the casket and gestured to it.
“This body here, many of you may think is your friend, your kin, the acquaintance you know as Rosco Coltrane. But it is not. It is just a vessel. His spirit has already gone to be with the Lord. A famous preacher once explained during a funeral sermon that the body being emptied of the soul is very much like a pecan. ‘All we have left is the empty shell, the nut is gone.’”
The mourners laughed despite their tears. Many of them thought to themselves just how true that assessment was. The minister shook his head, laughed, and then confessed softly “I’ve always loved that one.”
The minister’s smile faded slowly and he continued the sermon.
“In Ecclesiastes 12:7, the Bible tells us ‘Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it.’ And that’s where our brother Rosco’s spirit is now, with his Creator. Be comforted by that truth. Find joy in it, brothers and sisters. For all of us here shall find that joy and that truth some day ourselves.”
The minister made a wide sweeping gesture with his arm. “I think it can honestly be said that Rosco had an impact on every person here today. He also had an impact on Mrs. Baxley’s trash cans, Mr. Terwilliger’s fence, the Hazzard Theater, Rhuebottom’s General Store, most of the trees on Route 7-11, and Hazzard Pond.”
The church erupted in laughter again. Several folks shook their heads, admitting “Yeah, that’s Rosco alright.” The Dukes were especially amused, considering it was while Rosco chased them that most of those ‘impacts’ occurred.
“But seriously, none of you would be here today if Sheriff Coltrane hadn’t somehow touched your life, made an impact in it. He served this community many, many years as best he could. He wasn’t perfect,” the minister confessed. “But none of us are. We are all sinners who need the grace of God. But all is forgiven and made perfect, through Christ, for those that believe in Him.”
The minister talked for another fifteen minutes or so, touching on Rosco’s life and what heaven had in store for him. He ended the sermon with a request for the audience members.
“As we leave here today, I want all of you to think about Rosco, what he meant to you, what he meant to this community. While I was writing this sermon, I did a lot of just that. It’s very hard to sum up just who a person was, but I’ll give it my best try…”
“The Rosco I knew was quick to find the joy in life, loved to laugh… boy, did he love to laugh,” the minister smiled, as did most of the audience, silently recalling the sheriff’s trademark giggle. The minister glanced at Rosco’s friends and family, “He was fiercely loyal to those he loved.” The minister then turned his attention to the casket, “He was a person worth knowing. He was a kind and gentle soul that will be missed. We must say our last goodbyes, brother Rosco, but know that you won’t soon be forgotten.”
Remember Me With Laughter
a poem by James Best
When the autumn leaves are falling.
To cover the earth with gold.
As time runs out for the aged.
So little time left for the old.
Just to see one more Spring
Or to live for just one more fall
Would be a blessing.
That’s all this old man’s asking.
Just a few more months. That’s all.
A few more moments with loved ones.
To say how much I cared.
And talk of the fun and laughter
That we have always shared.
We’ll speak of all the loving times.
As we look back in the past.
But now must face the painful truth
That good times never last.
For soon now I must leave you
But my memory will not die.
For I shall always be, with you
If within your heart you’ll try
To just remember me with laughter,
That way you’ll never cry.
James Best, Sheriff Rosco P. Coltrane, has passed away. Rather than mourn his passing, I choose to celebrate his long, amazing life. And to do that, I’ve spent the day recalling all the fond memories I have of him, as I’m sure many of you have also done. I was fortunate to have a unique personal relationship with Jimmie. I have Craig Byrne to thank for that. He told Jimmie about this little website I ran dedicated to the Hazzard County Sheriff’s Department (which later became this site). Jimmie visited it, liked what he saw, and sent me an email on June 5, 1996. Yes, I marked the date. What fan wouldn’t?
It’s hard to condense a friendship down to a blog post, but I’ll do my best to share my best memories of the man. I first met Jimmie in person on the set of the first Dukes of Hazzard reunion, along with Craig Byrne. We were his guests. Upon seeing me, before he even spoke, Jimmie gave me a huge bear hug. He was a great hugger and that was the first of many I’d get over the years. Craig and I spent a most amazing and surreal day with “Rosco P. Coltrane” and the rest of the cast. Jimmie was a consummate professional and we got to see that first hand on the set. We also enjoyed several personal moments with him while we were there. I think one that stuck out the most for both of us was when “Rosco” stole Craig’s french fries at lunch in the WB commissary. In Craig’s words, “Holy $***! Rosco just stole my french fry.” It was hysterical. That’s a word I have used multiple times today when sharing stories about Jimmie with friends. Jimmie was hysterically funny. He loved making people laugh. He loved having a good time.
You’d think you couldn’t top a day on set with Jimmie as the best time ever, but you’d be wrong. My best memory of Jimmie involves a day fishing on the St. John’s River. As we left the marina, the livewell was seriously overflowing. I propped my feet up on the side of the boat, out of the growing puddle of water on the bottom, and tried to get Jimmie’s attention. “Hey, Jimmie? Uhh, Jimmie?” But with the engine noise and the fact he had hearing loss (from WWII), I had to start yelling. He finally turned around and it was a total “Rosco” moment. “Wooo gee!” It was hilarious. He fixed everything up and got the pump going to drain the livewell. He was laughing at me “Here we are sinking in gator infested waters and you’re all non-chalant.” “Well,” I told him, “I don’t have to outswim the gator. I only have to outswim you. I’m pretty sure I can do that.” We spent the day trading stories and jokes and not catching much in the way of fish at all. In fact, the only thing I caught was an old net attached to an anchor. Having nothing to show for our day, I decided we should pose with it as if it were a prize catch and Jimmie obliged.
Jimmie wasn’t funny all the time. He had a serious side as well. We had many private, serious moments, which I won’t talk about here, because, well, they were private. We discussed the mysteries of life, spiritual matters, medical issues, “what ifs”, and even death. He told me that some of the things he shared with me, he’d never told anyone else before. Because of that, I cherish these moments even more than the fun times. I remember spending many hours consoling him after the death of one of his beloved beagles. I calmed him down many times when he’d lose his cool. We shared a unique connection.
As I give Craig credit for my friendship with Jimmie, I have to give credit to Jimmie for bringing me together with my best friend, my husband. It was our mutual love of Rosco that brought us together and when my husband finally got to meet Jimmie, we told him just that.
There have been so many great memories swirling around in my head today, stories from Jimmie’s days in Hollywood, tales from WWII, personal moments. It’s hard to put them all down in one blog post. Perhaps, I shouldn’t even try. Perhaps I should just continue to share the good times as they occur to me. A lot of them are already documented on the site here.
Some short, sweet remembrances:
– Spending Jimmie’s 75th birthday with him at his home and seeing video greetings to him from Paul Newman and Burt Reynolds
– Watching Jimmie compete in a fast draw competition and coming in second with an unbelievable time of 4/10ths of a second. (He was about 70 at the time.)
– Playing Call of Duty together. When we played co-op and had to go up stairs in a building where we knew the enemy was, I’d always say “Age before beauty” and he’d counter with another funny line. Inevitably, he’d try chucking a grenade upstairs only to have it bounce back and kill us both. LOL!
– On the reunion set, on a break from a photo shoot, Jimmie did a hilarious bump and grind that had all of us nearly on the ground from laughter.
– During the second reunion, when Sonny was backing the car out of the camp site, he ran into the tent and nearly took it down. Without missing a beat or breaking character, Jimmie yelled “Enos! You dipstick!” The whole set erupted in laughter.
You’ll be missed by so many, Jimmie. Rest In Peace.
You can ready Jimmie’s obituary here.
This Christmas, Hallmark gives a nod to our favorite classic tv show, The Dukes of Hazzard, with a keepsake ornament of the General Lee. The size of the ornament is about 1:64 scale and features the General Lee jumping through a barrier resembling a barn door with “The Dukes of Hazzard” emblazoned across it. As you can see, the wood covers the flag, but the flag is there, we checked. We already have ours and will be putting it on the tree this weekend. You can get yours at Amazon.com.