• John McGary, Woodford Sun Staff 16

Here's Johnny - A parade – and a dog named Gus

By all accounts, Saturday’s jaunt down Main Street was the best-attended Versailles Christmas Parade anyone can remember, including Mayor Brian Traugott, who’s been going to them since he was a child.

Versailles City Council member and perennial organizer Mike Coleman said 90 floats and other participants took part. However, he didn’t want to venture a guess as to how many people were watching them.

“So many that everyone is afraid to give an estimate,” Coleman texted in response to my query Monday.

For me, the parade was worth every post-parade hobble by a reporter/photographer/columnist with a right knee that is on its last leg.

I began, like most all the participants, at the Kentucky Community and Technical College System (KCTCS) headquarters. This year, I was working with a new camera, and I thought it safe to get a few shots before the parade began moving.

At the award-winning St. Leo School’s float, I met a young lady who seemed all too young to be the mother of Jesus, but, like everyone else, she happily indulged my pre-parade photography. Moving towards the starting lane at the intersection of North Main and Frankfort streets, I ran or nearly bumped into at least a dozen people I’ve met or interviewed or photographed.

One of those was Joe Graviss, the former McDonald’s owner and present candidate for a state house seat. On Saturday, Joe, walking by himself, was Float 13A.

Among the many highlights were the marriage proposal by public address system of J.T. Marshall and Jenny Cummins (she said yes), music and marching by the Woodford County High School and K-State bands, dozens of Mustangs and motorcycles, and, of course, Mr. and Mrs. Claus.

Santa kept waving in front of his face, but I finally got a decent photo of the oversized elf.

The weather was beautiful and the company even better.More than any one thing, however, it was … well, one thing that impressed: the community spirit displayed by every organizer, participant and attendee – even the yellow police tape breakers.

I saw a lot of smiles Saturday, and if a mirror had been handy, one of them would have been mine.

Goodbye, Gus

A few weeks ago I heard about the passing of Versailles Police Department K9 Officer Gus, but didn’t have the time then to see if his human partner would be interested in speaking about his loss.

Then, late last week, I received a call from a gentleman whose name I can’t recall (it was a bad note-taking day, apparently) who thought if Gus’s handler would speak to me, we’d have a great story.

He was right – or rather, if the story as you read it in this week’s Sun (see front page) isn’t great, it has entirely to do with the writer and not a thing to do with Officer John

Costigan or Gus himself.

Aside from a late-morning court appearance, Monday was to be a day off for Costigan, but he came in early to talk about his partner and pal. After we shook hands, he handed me a page-and-a-half document he wrote about Gus and a few sheets about the disease that suddenly took him.

Because his home computer wasn’t working, Costigan typed the single-spaced piece about Gus on his phone. I can’t imagine how long it took – I’d still be at it, I think. Costigan was a Marine before becoming a police officer, so he may give me a whuppin’ for writing about some of the ways he showed his love for Gus.

Ah well – sometimes we suffer for our art.

Sometimes, maybe always, we suffer for our love, too. I know it’s obnoxious to quote yourself, but bear with me …

In a June column about the Relay For Life, I wrote, “The moment we begin to love someone, we start a process that will one day, one way or another, lead to loss. Among other things, what the Relay For Life is about is remembering that terrible bargain is worth every misty moment.”

I recently had another pseudo-deep thought that I shared with Costigan – that when we lose someone, when we think about the goodbye, we should also remember all the hellos.

He raised an eyebrow and told me to look at a gift from a neighbor, a wooden cross bearing the inscription, “You were our favorite hello and our hardest goodbye …”

The old saying about a dog being man’s best friend should be amended, I think.

Sometimes a man is a dog’s best friend.

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