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© Copyright: 1996-2004. Lisa Philbrick
The Dukes of Hazzard
Remembering Ethan Josiah Duke
by: Lisa Philbrick
Rosco placed the yellow rose down at the base of the head stone and stepped back. He lost himself in memories of the past for a moment, his eyes clouding up a little bit. He held it together, knowing he couldn't return to town an emotional wreck. MaryAnne would have picked on it like sonar.
Suddenly, Rosco heard the sound of foot steps and he turned quick towards the direction of the walk. When he saw it was Jesse he suddenly felt embarassed and clutched his hat closer to his chest, caught like a trespasser on private property even though it was a public cemetary.
"Rosco?" Jesse queried as he stepped closer. "What are you doing here?"
Rosco looked down at the ground and then gestured with his head towards the grave stone when Jesse stopped beside him. "I'm visitin' your brother's grave, what does it look like I'm doin'?"
"Well, I can see that. But why?"
"Why?" Rosco said, looking at Jesse quick. "Well, why not? I've been doin' it for 24 years. You've never seen me before because I usually leave before you get here. I was running behind today, so I didn't get here as early as I wanted to." Rosco paused. "Don't make no difference why I'm here, you'd never understand. Your first thought of seeing me here was probably something like, 'Gee, can't even leave Dukes alone in death!'" It seemed as though Rosco was going to say more, but instead he just started to walk away, to leave Jesse alone.
"Rosco, wait." Jesse grabbed Rosco by the arm to stop him. Rosco stopped and looked at Jesse.
"You've been comin' here every year since Ethan died?" Jesse asked.
Rosco nodded. "Every year."
Jesse was quiet for a moment. "Rosco, I never knew."
"Well, of course not, nobody was supposed to know. Ethan was about the only Duke friend I had. Who'd believe that?"
"That's not true."
"Yes, it is, Jesse, and you know it."
"Rosco, it ain't true. Look, I know things have changed and we've tangled a lot since, and granted you drive me absolutely nuts sometimes, but what you're saying ain't true. We was all different people back then. And we was ALL friends, you know that."
Rosco sighed and looked at the head stone. Ethan Josiah Duke, 1930-1962. Lea Caithlin Duke, 1933-1962.
"Worse year of my life," Rosco said softly. "First MaryAnne's momma died and then Ethan and Lea." He looked at Jesse. "Daisy looks just like Lea now."
"I know," Jesse said. "And she's got Ethan's spirit."
Rosco nodded. He looked at his hat for a moment. He remembered finding Ethan's dark blue Chevy tilted into the ditch, after having been run off the road by a drunk driver, the same drunk driver Rosco had stopped earlier that day. Rosco had dumped the booze out on the side of the road and told the guy to go home and dry out. The man didn't. Two new bottles of liquor and three hours later, Ethan and Lea Duke were killed. After 24 years, Rosco wished he had arrested the person sooner, rather than later for Ethan and Lea's deaths had weighed heavy on his heart ever since.
After a moment, Rosco put his hat on. "I'll leave ya alone, Jesse. I know you don't need no audience right now."
"No, it's okay," Jesse said, promting Rosco to stop from turning to walk back to the gate. Jesse took a moment to place the flowers he'd bought down at the base of the headstone. He then took a step back and said, "You know, for 24 years I wondered where them yellow roses were coming from."
Rosco smiled a little. "Lea always liked yellow. I remember Ethan used to get her yellow roses for her birthday and their anniversary."
Jesse nodded. They were both quiet for a moment and then Jesse looked at Rosco.
"You never told me what happened that day."
Rosco swallowed. "I'd rather not. I've got my own guilt and blame to haunt me for the rest of my life, Jesse. I don't need any more."
"Hind sight's twenty-twenty, Rosco. You couldn't have predicted there'd be a drunk driver out."
"Yeah I could have," Rosco said, looking Jesse right in the eye. "I could have because I had pulled the same guy over ealier that day. If I had arrested him then, Ethan and Lea would still be here!" Rosco turned away from Jesse suddenly, hiding the motion of clenching his fist. "I dumped the booze out and told the guy to go home and dry out. I was so stupid to do that! I should have known that the first place he'd go is right back to the store to get more liquor." Rosco took his hat off again and closed his eyes, waiting for Jesse to lash out at him. He wouldn't blame him. I indirectly killed a Duke. After all I've done to them over the years, this takes the cake. Go ahead Jesse, hit me!
But Jesse didn't. Rosco flinched and opened his eyes when Jesse put a hand on his shoulder, and the Sheriff thought for sure a left hook was coming next, but the Duke patriach just looked at him sadly.
"Rosco, it wasn't your fault."
"Yes, it was, Jesse. It was my fault. It'll always be my fault! If you wanna hit me go ahead, I don't blame ya!"
"Rosco, I ain't gonna hit you. Although there have been times I've wanted to, now is not it." Jesse now had both hands on Rosco's shoulders. "The good Lord decides when it's time for someone to leave this world, not us."
"No, now listen to me. Ethan and Lea were good people and the Lord decided that they should be with Him instead of here with us. No one knows why, there are no answers to that. Rosco, if I had known all those years ago what you just told me now, I wouldn't have blamed you for their death and I don't blame you for their death now. I'm just sorry you've been blaming yourself for all these years. Believe me Rosco, it wasn't your fault."
Rosco closed his eyes and sighed. "Jesse, I don't know if I can forgive myself that easily." He opened his eyes. "I almost think I'd feel better if you'd be upset at me."
Jesse chuckled softly. "Rosco, I'm upset at you all the time for other things. But I have no reason to be upset with you over what happened to Ethan and Lea. And you shouldn't either." Jesse gave Rosco a friendly pat on his right shoulder and dropped his hands back to his sides. He glanced at his brother and sister-in-law's headstone. "Ethan wouldn't blame you either, you know."
Rosco paused, looking at the ground. "Maybe." Rosco then looked at Jesse but couldn't think of anything more to say.
"It's not your fault," Jesse told him.
Rosco nodded but he knew it would be a long time before he could ever
forgive himself for what happened. Slowly he put his hat back on one
last time, gave Jesse one last look and then turned and walked to the
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