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Holli Deal Bragg - Cherish your friends always
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            A friend of mine has a cell phone that plays a song instead of ringing. The song, "Who Your Friends Are,"  is by country star Tracy Lawrence and every time I hear her phone ring, the song stays in my head for hours.

            Isn't that aggravating - even when you like the song?

            She and I were talking about the song the other morning and both of us agreed the song carries a strong message.

            Just who are your friends, anyway?

            As children, we always talk about our "best friends." But as children, we are fickle. We don't really understand friendship and something silly can end a "friendship" in a heartbeat.

            But as we get older, friendship takes on a new meaning. The definition may still be cloudy and we may never examine it, but what makes a friend is as varied as the kinds of friends we have.

            By definition, you can only have one "best" friend. But there should be another descriptive name for the kind of friends who, like in Lawrence's song, " Never stop to think 'what's in it for me' or 'it's way too far' - They just show on up with their big old heart ...."

            Take my friend Kathy. We've been friends for well over 20 years now, and she lives on the extreme opposite end of the county from me. We rarely see each other and keep contact by occasional e-mail or phone call, but I know - and she knows - that if one of us ever needed the other, it's a done deal.

            She was the matron of honor at my wedding and is the sister I never had. We share a great deal in common, but ... she doesn't ride horses. The one time I got her in the saddle was the last, she said.

            But I have another friend who, while she has only been around a few years, who does love  horses.

            We have so much fun together doing things that none of our other friends care for - like driving a few hours to a horse sale, knowing we have no extra cash to spend but just want to enjoy the atmosphere and see how horse prices are doing.

            We ride together, rescue horses and donkeys and dogs and cats together, and neither of us thinks twice about loading a newborn calf into the back of her Ford Escort or one of our trucks and taking it home.

            We always have adventures and understand each other's eccentricities.  We accept each other's faults and even laugh about them. That's friendship.

            I met yet another horsey friend a year ago. She responded to an invitation to a trail ride/fun day and we've been friends ever since. She has helped me rescue, too. We e-mail each other almost daily and have found that we share a great deal of values and opinions. She has been there for me when I needed a friend, and I've tried to return the favor. What makes her different from my other "horsey" friend is that she is closer to my age and we share the same spiritual beliefs.

            Thinking about the song made me start thinking about how different  my friends are and how each of them appeal to different parts of my personality.

            Fortunately I'm old enough to have learned how to weed out the fake friends and keep the real ones. I can relate to Lawrence's song lyrics: " Everybody wants to slap your back, wants to shake your hand, when you're up on top of that mountain ... But let one of those rocks give way then you slide back down look up and see who's around then ..."

            I know people who would not give me the time of day back when I worked at a convenience store, a local retail store, a home day care, a nursing home ... but now that I have my name in the paper and occasionally my picture, they want to come around.

            Hey, I'm still the same girl who sold you lottery tickets back in the 80's. I am still the same person, and having a fun job and limited privacy in my life doesn't make me any different than I was back then. Don't try to chum up to me now, hoping I'll put your picture in the paper or mention your name in a column, because I don't have time for fair-weather friends.

            I am blessed with plenty of real ones, like those who remembered my birthday a few weeks ago with flowers, and those who visited me in the hospital a month before that.

            Like the ones who allowed me to use their property for my family reunion, or the pal who let me use her horse trailer and whose horse I have kept and ridden for several months now just because I like her.

            Like the ones who listen when I have problems, and who trust me when they have problems and need to talk.

            Like the friend whose cell phone ring tone stays on my mind for hours every time I hear it. She and I have had some pretty serious confrontations through the years, have been through ups and downs and sometimes sideways, but are still there when we need each other.

            As life progresses, you find out who your friends are. Pay attention.
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