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As others have stated about themselves, I’m still in shock at the recent passing of Bartcop “hisself”—Terry Coppage.  According to his website, as posted by fellow Bartcopper “Chicago Jim”, Terry died Wednesday morning, March 5th, 2014 of complications due to Terry’s struggle with leukemia, pneumonia, and flu.  Thankfully, and hopefully truthfully, Jim posted that Terry died peacefully.  I certainly hope that’s true—and I thank Chicago Jim for his brief-but-timely posting, as well as that by “tarkangi” here at Daily Kos.  Many there called for a “proper diary”, by a “proper wordsmith”.  

I don’t know that I can lay claim to either, but my handle and my heart are in the right place; for better or worse, I’m compelled to give it a go....

When it happened, I was in a week-long training course at my work, where (don’t tell my boss!) I usually visited Bart’s site.  Because of the too-intense-for-many-breaks training and being installed on the front row (so anyone behind me could view my screen), I hadn't visited in a few days.  So on returning to my office Friday afternoon after completing my training and seeing off all my out-of-town classmates, I paid a briefer-than-expected visit…and literally had my breath taken away when I saw the news.  

Oh boy.

As anyone who looks will see, I don’t write many diaries.  In fact, this is only my second.  I’m much more comfortable reading, recommending, making snarky comments, and—once in a while—making more substantive ones on the semi-rare occasions that I think I have some detailed (often engineering- or historically-related) knowledge that might actually add to the discussion at-hand.  I also try to give words of encouragement to someone I perceive as being in need of it.  Though he didn't know it (at the time), that’s what Bart did for me….

I first ran across bartcop.com in the presidential primary season of Y2K, the ‘ravages’ of which we’d just narrowly ‘survived’ :)  (to use a favorite Bartcop emoticon).  Again, I was ensconced at my office and for whatever reason, the MyYahoo webpage I used as my startup website listed two seemingly-permanent political links, one for Bill Clinton and another for former-Speaker Newt Gingrich.  One day in early February of 2000, just after the New Hampshire primary, I absent-mindedly clicked on the link for Newt, just to see what would come up.  What came up first was “Rush Limba: Lying Nazi Whore”.  Intrigued, followed that link to find myself at Bartcop.com Issue #168 “HRC—Stronger than the New Steel”.  I liked what I saw and started browsing the previous issues.  In its immediate predecessor, #167, “New Hampster Smacks the Smirk”, I found this gem of a posted e-mail, quoting “Someone who knows Bush well”:

From: sabutai@ix.netcom.com
 "George Bush couldn't get a clue if he was in a field full of
 horny clues during the clue mating season and he smeared
 his body with clue musk and did the clue mating dance."
That did it for me; in the space of 15 minutes or so…to this very moment, I was hooked.  I quickly came to find out that Bart and I were in the same area—he and his beloved Missuz lived in Tulsa, which he referred to as Knuckledrag, or K-Drag for short; my family and I lived in Broken Arrow, just southeast of Tulsa, and I worked in downtown Tulsa.  As it turned out, I actually knew e-mailer ‘Sabutai’ as Dennis Clark, from our mutual involvement in local Democratic politics, including my own spectacularly unsuccessful run for the Oklahoma Legislature a year before.  

By the time I’d devoured all of Bart’s back issues over the next weeks, obviously quite a lot fewer than there are now, I’d come to wonder if Dennis was Bartcop.  My speculation was proved wrong at the end of that year—just days after the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) installed George W. Bush as pResident.  Dennis died from a plethora of chronic illnesses he’d been coping with for years…and Bartcop.com kept on appearing.

Terry lovingly honored Dennis with Issue #370, simply titled, “Sabutai”, and posted December 30, 2000.

(For those who don’t follow the link, the tribute begins with this…)

James Dennis "Sabutai" Clark - 1947-2000
 Dennis died today, shortly after midnight.

 I've never been the type to have a "best friend," but if I was,
 that best friend would be Dennis "Sabutai" Clark.
 I had never heard the name "Sabutai" until he bought my old computer and got online.
 Sabutai was one of Genghis Khan's top soldiers.

I met him in 1977.
When you have 23 years of memories, it's hard to know where to start….

It ended with this request from Bartcop to Dennis:
PS. Dude, do me one last favor:

 I'll watch the big game Wednesday with a shot of Chinaco standing by.
 If you can, try to cause a Florida State fumble in the fourth quarter
 so OU can win the game, and we'll share one last toast.

 ...bye, Dude

So when, just a few nights later, my family and I were gathered around the ‘electronic hearth’ (TV) to watch the 2001 NCAA National Championship Game at the Orange Bowl in Miami, I nearly passed out from incomprehensible laughter, when that’s what actually happened(!), as documented in Bartcop.com Volume 373 “Parry and Thrust”.  Bartcop’s small font “…thanks, Dude” (and subsequent “Thanks for the fumble, Dude.” sign-offs to the page) a poignant “cherry on the top” of Dennis’ farewell.  

I honestly questioned my agnosticism for weeks afterward.

Later, at Dennis’ memorial service, wherein I’d had to drive my old Saturn sedan over curbs to escape the traffic jam on I-44 that would 'Shirley' have made me late, I heard Dennis’ requested rock group Boston song, “A Man I’ll Never Be”, played.  I’d never before contemplated a rock song to be played at a funeral, but thanks to that day, that’s why you’ll hear Boston’s “Peace of Mind” if you live long enough to attend mine.

It was also there that I first laid eyes on Bartcop, though I didn’t know it until afterward.  I mentioned to another attendee, a mutual (and much respected) friend, Barbara, that I’d thought Bart might be there and I’d hoped to meet him.  She assured me that “Terry” (the first time I’d heard his real name used) was there and she described him and where he’d sat to me.  I realized he’d been the large, handsome, Kenny-Rogers-esque man with the silver mane (my description, not Barbara’s) who’d accompanied a woman I assumed was his wife to sit to the right and a few rows in front of me.  I waited anxiously for them outside the service and then again at a reception with Dennis’ mom at another location.  Alas, as Barbara also told me, Terry was a bit uncomfortable with being in the spotlight, so I missed him (and his wife) on that trip.

I kept on reading and began contributing to support the website.  My family and I had moved to the Oklahoma City area that summer when my job was relocated.  I occasionally had business to transact in Tulsa and so made a point of e-mailing Terry whenever I spent the night in ‘K-Drag’ to see if there was a chance we might get together for a visit, a drink, maybe even dinner. Finally, the planets aligned and we were able to schedule a get-together one evening when I stayed overnight for some multi-day company meetings.  We agreed to meet in south Tulsa, then go to sample (what else?) tequila at a local watering hole.  I went out to dinner with my co-workers after our workday was done, wolfing down my food and trying to appear interested in the goings-on there.

I hoped none of my co-workers would ask why I cut the evening with them short.  Somehow, I doubted the truth—“I’m meeting for drinks with a man I found on the internet!”—would have been too well-received!  Fortunately, I was able to excuse myself gracefully enough and Bart and I met.  We found our way to the tequila bar, where we tried three different types of añejo (aged one year or more) tequilas in his favorite way, comparing sips of the shots we’d split into two glasses, each in comparison to the others.  By then, I’d been enjoying at home the Chinaco and other añejo tequilas he recommended on the site, finding my favorite to be the one in my hand at the time.  

I was pleasantly surprised to find he seemed as nervous meeting me, as I’d been to meet him. I tried to be cool, but I’ll readily admit it—I was star-struck.  Having shared multiple e-mails (and with me being a decent contributor) we talked with the ease of old friends—about politics, of course—but also about my life (much of his was already an open book—er, webpage) and things in general. I tried not to be too much of a fanboy and also to assure him he didn't need to be ”on” or perform for me—he’d already given more-than-enough on his site.  I wanted mainly to convey my appreciation for him and his work (and for his wife’s support for his efforts) and how he’d been so important for making me feel like I wasn't crazy for supporting and working for the issues and people we supported and worked for.

The time flew by and we brought the evening to a close early enough that I was still able to function at work the next day.  But I resolved to meet again—and as often—as circumstances allowed.  Over the years, we got together only a few times, including for Ron’s and Goldie’s hamburgers, but he seemed to enjoy most the steaks at Tulsa’s Spudder, one of my favorite restaurants of all time (even earning a visit from Man v. Food's Adam Richman).  [A few years ago, I belatedly realized it was actually a converted Sirloin Stockade, a family-style chain of steakhouses made infamous (in Oklahoma, anyway) by the 1978 murders at one on the south side of Oklahoma City by Roger Dale Stafford and two accomplices (one, Stafford’s wife).]  

The food alone was enough reason to come, as was the historical oil & gas decorating motif. Together, they are a killer combination.  The restaurant drew its name from the “Wichita Falls Spudder”—an old cable-tool drilling rig.  An example sits in the yard outside the front door.  This old—but prolific—technology was eventually supplanted by rotary drilling in the 1950s.  In contrast to the usual guess of “spuds” as potatoes, “spudding” was (and as far as I know, still is) the industry term for beginning to drill a well.  There were dozens, if not hundreds, of old gasoline pump globes, tools, and other Tulsa-as-“Oil Capital of the World” artifacts, informative and artfully displayed.  Even the tables had print articles laminated into them (my favorite:  how Phillips 66 got its name).

Some other things come to my mind from over the years, including taking audio CDs he burned of his web “radio” show with me to my first (and only) Democratic National Convention in 2004 at Boston, when I was elected from Oklahoma as a delegate for John Kerry.  (We became a sensation as the “Kerry-Okies”!)  I attended many events around the convention and gave copies to NOW co-founder Gloria Steinem, former Texas governor Ann Richards, Clinton administration Secretary of Labor Robert Reich, and a reporter from the “Daily Planet” in Berkeley, CA among many others (and stuck Bartcop.com stickers at various locations around Beantown).  I proudly displayed my Bartcop.com stickers on the hat I always wore while on the convention floor and was thrilled when Bart gave me a shout-out in BC Radio Show #50 for my efforts.  While I always loved reading the trip reports as well as those from the various Bartfests, I am forever saddened that I was unable to attend any of the Fests.  

The last time I saw Bart/Terry, this past October, I brought along and introduced one of my brothers.  Terry graciously met him and proceeded to entertain two fans.  We met at the Spudder, in accord with Terry’s sheepish suggestion/request.  During dinner, I told him of a project I’d developed and my brother had helped me work on.  Terry was curious and encouraging; I’m sorry that I've taken too long to move it along and am still unable to reveal it—yet—but I’m quite certain he would love it and its implications:  economic, environmental, and political.

As word of Terry’s passing has spread, there has been an outpouring of support online, which I hope is being reciprocated toward Mrs. Bart.  Liberal bloggers and activists are stepping forward to acknowledge the respect we have for him and the path he and a very small list of others have blazed.  I am proud to join with others to contribute and make real that appreciation we feel for him and his wife.

To Mrs. Bart—who I've never met, beyond that fleeting crossing of paths at Dennis’ funeral—I am in awe of both her husband and her.  I've been married long enough to know that he could not have done what he did without her and I always felt the love he had for her that shone through on those semi-rare occasions when he wrote about her on the blog.  That he tried to protect her privacy even more than his own made me respect both of them even more.  At the risk of being too personal, it is my hope that he actually did treat her as well as his website showed he aspired to.  He certainly made me call myself to be my best.

I also always hoped to do something that would have earned his greatest accolade…a shot of Chinaco.  Maybe I still can.  Until then, we can all raise our glasses high to give him and the Missuz a shot.  Mrs. Bart, thank you for sharing him with us…and Bart…Terry, thank you for your powerful voice, which we are missing so much already.  May you rest in peace and may the rest of us continue our fight, following your example.

With greatest respect and powerful determination,

Bartcopfan

P.S.  Please share your thoughts, feelings, and memories of Bartcop for all to enjoy...and then let's get back to work, picking up and mightily swinging that Bartcop Hammer!

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