Harold Meyers Kimball; aka Harry, Hal, Crash Kimball, Dad, Pumpa and yes even Pumpina. It wasn’t until recently that I was made aware that my brother Greg had invented the name Pumpa when he was just learning to speak. I have known him as Pumpa for all of my life, and had assumed that everybody else did as well.
There is some majesty and grandiosity in the name Pumpa. The mere mention of the name invokes so many memories that it is hard to know where to begin. One of my earliest memories of Pumpa was lighting off fireworks in our backyard in Dixon. Of course, these were not garden variety fireworks, he was a Kimball after all! Let me put it this way; they had to bury a 3 inch diameter metal pipe into the ground to launch these suckers. The launching of each mortar was a test of dexterity, resolve and guts. Add what I’m sure was a few brewskies into the mix, and it made for quite an entertaining show!
Each mortar was different; the “regular” mortars had long wicks that would hang out of the pipe. Pumpa would drop the mortar into the pipe while holding onto the fuse then he would light it once it hit bottom. I remember he always ducked a bit while quickly distancing himself from the launcher as if it increased his chances of surviving if something went wrong. Seconds seemed like minutes as the spark slowly crawled up the side of the pipe and then inside. Greg and I would cringe in anticipation of the launch… BOOM and we would arch back to look at the dazzling lights in the sky. Some mortars had shorter fuses which would sometimes require two people to manage, one to hold the fuse and drop it as soon as the other had lit it. As soon as it did light, it always seemed to surprise them both as they scampered away in the opposite direction quickly followed by… BOOM! Occasionally all the fuss over lighting it was followed by silence with Greg and I still cringing, waiting for the tell-tale sound. When seconds did actually turn to minutes Pumpa would declare “we’ve got a dud!” To which Yaya and Mom would immediately respond with “now be careful!!” This was fascinating to us as we never knew what to expect, and there was the imminent risk of somebody getting hurt! Pumpa would approach with much trepidation. He would tap the pipe with his foot as if to encourage it to come out. Ultimately it would require a splash of whatever liquid was handy, usually beer, to quench our fears of a late launcher. But it was always on to the next, no matter the danger of the one prior. The show stopped only when the mortars ran out, or when the neighbors complained that their roof was on fire – seriously.
Pumpa was very much like those mortars, full of enough potential energy to light up the sky with a show of dazzling beauty. Sometimes his fuse was short while other times we would leave disappointed or frustrated. But we would always return for more because this Kimball could sure put on a spectacular show; filling our nights with expertly told ghost stories, our minds with poetry recounted from memory, our eyes with the art which he loved so dearly, our souls with never ending charity, and our hearts with his unconditional love. Pumpa embodied the all the majesty and grandiosity that his name suggests.
These last months that we were fortunate enough to spend with him were his grand finale, far greater than anything he was able to accomplish before. Each day was a test of dexterity, resolve and guts and he faced it all without ever complaining. The spectators came from far and wide, every one of them touched by Pumpa’s life. Every day he would fill our skies with beauty, leaving us with a finale that we will never forget.
Pumpa, rest easy now as your light will be part of the night sky for eternity.