Comes the lonely champion: Alton Jones

Don Barone
St. Johns River Showdown champ Alton Jones is going it alone this week at Okeechobee.

About the author

Don Barone

Don Barone

db has been in the reporting biz for over 30 years, won some Emmys and other awards, but is proudest of his four-decade marriage, his two kids and the fact he founded Tackle The Storm Foundation to help children.

"I can hear her heart beat for a thousand miles…"

Dateline: Alone

We are not made, to be alone.

If in the beginning, if there was only one of us, there would be none of us.

None.

It is us, together, who make this more than just a rock floating through space. Don't know how we got here, don't know where we are going, do know, though, we will not go alone.

You, me, everyone else – we are in this together; if you are human, you are me, and I am you.

But I write this, alone.

Alone in a Hampton Inn.

Heartbroken.

A thousand miles away, sits my bride of 38 years. I've been gone three weeks now; yet, in the middle of the night, I still wake up and gently reach for her hand. I still lay there for a minute hoping to hear her breathe.

I wake up every morning torn apart that when I turn on my left side I don't see her beautiful green eyes staring at me.

I can barely start the day without her morning smile.

My ears weep when they don't hear her singing in the morning shower.

My lungs can't breathe without inhaling her perfume.

So when I walked up to Alton Jones to congratulate him on last weeks win, I just asked, "So, you ready for this week?"

His answer reached down my throat and shook my soul. "db, this is the first time in 14 years that I've been to a tournament without my family, without my wife, Jimmye Sue. I miss her so much; I can't stop calling her."

I told Alton, let’s talk about it, do a story, but that I would be right back.

Then I walked out in the blistering Okeechobee, Florida heat and from the KOA blacktop I spoke softly into the phone, "Love you babe…"

And the only thing she will hear on her voicemail after that, will just be sniffles.

"…And the heavens open every time she smiles…"

"db…my career was in a nosedive when I was out here on the tour alone but as soon as my family started traveling with me, you could chart it – the graph would just show a line going up."

Alton and Jimmye Sue have been married for almost 27 years…half of that they have been together on the road with their family, "When my daughter Jamie was just 5 weeks old, we had her out on the road with us."

Both Alton Jones Jr. and other daughter Kristen Jones have pretty much grown up on the lakes of America

"Home to us is where we are; home is a family not a structure somewhere."

Hands down, there is no one on the planet closer to me than my wife, Barb. My life was a mess when I met her; life expectancy probably measured in years, not decades. I was a motorcycle riding gang member, mostly drunken bartender running numbers on the side.

I lived in a storm of danger; my father stopped talking to me because he said he could smell the violence on me.

And then, something sent Barb my way.

And then, something sent calm my way.

Years later, around our 10th anniversary, my father, visiting us in Fresno, Calif., and holding his first grandchild, my daughter Ashley, watched Barb walk into the kitchen of our tiny apartment and looked over to me on the couch and said simply this, "She's my angel, the angel I prayed would come save you."

"…and when I come to her that's where I belong…"

"db…sure Jimmye Sue runs the business, backs the trailer in when I'm in the boat, does all the errands, home schools the kids…but above that, above all that, she is my best friend."

It isn't easy for me to write the notes down as Alton talks.

"I need her, I bounce stuff…ideas …off her. And to see her and the kids on the dock when I pull in, it doesn't matter if I've had a bad day, to see them all standing there waving, smiling…makes the day good no matter what."

As soon as the tournament ends, Alton will climb in his truck and make the 22-hour drive home to Waco, Texas, to be with Jimmye Sue and his family. Then, in a couple of weeks, Alton and Jimmye Sue are taking some time, just the two of them, and "going to Denver for the NCAA Women's Final Four games. We try to do that every once in awhile…you know…nurture our marriage…nurture our friendship…."

Then Alton just started playing with his food, stopped eating it, just sort of moved the chicken wings around on his plate.

I said nothing, gave him his time.

"Going to be tough at launch tomorrow…."

More stirring of the uneaten chicken wings.

"I just, you know…miss her…"

Alton never finished the sentence. He just looked off past me. But I will finish it for him, because I feel it too.

"…so much."

"…yet I'm running to her like a river's song."

“Crazy Love”

Van Morrison

db

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