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Kenneth’s other boot returned with the help of friends

Swansea, SC (Paul Kirby) – It is said that one of the hardest things to do is to outlive your children. To the family of a popular Swansea High School student who died in a freak accident Friday, that became a reality his family is having to deal with today.

Chase “Kenneth” Cathey, 16, was killed in a tragic accident while simply going fishing with his best friend on a beautiful spring morning. Apparently in middle school, Kenneth went by his first name, Chase. As he grew into a young man, he liked Kenneth better. According to one of his teachers, the names were interchangeable and either fit a fine young man.

On Sunday morning, the editor of The Lexington Ledger woke to find a Facebook message from the surviving boy’s parents, the friend riding in the Jeep with Kenneth when the accident occurred. His parents wanted to thank the writer of the article for stopping rumors, speaking the truth, and talking of God’s part in all of this. They never knew that as I wrote that story Friday, I had tears running down my face dripping onto the keyboard. My thoughts were of my own son who was almost killed in a dirt bike accident last spring. I can’t imagine the Cathey’s pain. Who wouldn't cry?

They described their son as more than Kenneth’s friend, rather his brother. They said the pair were inseparable and had been for some time. Of course, Kenneth’s death devastated more than his family and closest friend, it shocked the entire close-knit communities of Swansea and Gaston.

When the accident occurred, Kenneth had on a pair of well-worn boots. These were apparently something he loved by the looks of them. Almost every country boy has a favorite hat, ripped blue jeans, an old worn t-shirt, and boots they’ve had for years. They’re scuffed and muddy, but they’re the footwear of choice for a real country boy. Kenneth’s special pair fit that bill, but sadly, when his personal effects were returned to his family, one of his boots was missing.

Swansea and Gaston are both small and word of the missing boot spread fast. Social media helped get the word around that his family would have some comfort if they had the missing boot. Almost immediately, young people traveled to the spot of the tragedy with one purpose in mind, find the other boot for Kenneth’s family.

The spot of the accident, a small pool of water near a pond’s spillway, was reddened by the clay that formed the dam. It was muddied by nature and the surrounding area’s soils. Finding anything in the muddy water wasn’t going to be easy. For two of Kenneth’s classmates, Austin Eden and Gabriel “Gabe” Jones, the poor visibility and the frigid temperature of the water didn’t deter them from looking for the boot. They wanted that for their friend who was gone from their sides, but not their hearts.

According to Emily Taylor, a Swansea High School teacher who was there when Austin and Gabe emerged from the murky water, the pair were determined to be successful. They searched for about an hour in the muck, mud, and cold water, feeling around with their feet and ducking their heads under the surface. Eventually, the boys’ efforts paid off and they found Kenneth’s missing boot. Another friend snapped some photos after Austin came up and said, “I got it!” The boys held it like a precious newborn child.

The boot was returned to the Cathey family before Kenneth’s final arrangements were through. Through Mrs. Taylor, Kenneth’s mother sent a word of thanks for recognizing the boys for what they did. Looking at the photos, you could see that Austin and Gabe didn’t find the boot for recognition, rather they did that as a tribute to their friend. Though the pair may not have riches or gold, they wanted to give something much more precious to the Cathey family, a well-worn leather boot.

Country boys are a different breed. I once was one myself. They would never show their love for each other outwardly, yet they do love each other greatly. They share laughter from a joke that only they get, or a funny, albeit risky stunt. They sit on the tailgates of trucks, burn wood in a barrel when it’s cold, and talk about girls when the ladies aren’t around. They play little league together, sometimes stay out a little late and face dad together, and yes, they drive jeeps across open fields to a pond, the best secret fishing hole around. Of course, they also stretch the truth a bit about how long or heavy their last catch really was. They’re a tribe, a breed of their own. They get into mischief, not trouble, and help cut firewood, drive a tractor, or bail hay because it’s fun, not for what it pays.

The next time you see a “Good Ole Country Boy,” know you are seeing a future farmer, soldier, builder or businessman. They make great daddies and pass their knowledge of fishing, hunting, and living onto their sons and daughters. They beam with pride when their daughter wants a pink shotgun and giggle a little if the first shot shoves her backward a bit. They don’t let her quit. The next shot, they have their hand on her back to hold her a little more steady.

The Cathey family has a whole community grieving with them. Their also praying for peace and comfort. Please Lord, give them all your grace as they mourn the loss of a great kid!

Austin’s shirt is green. Gabe is in the black shirt

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