The Odessa Record -

Conversations with Paul reflect unique Hoppyness

 


If you’ve lived in Odessa for any length of time, then you know who Paul Hopp is. I’ve never heard anyone utter as much as one cross word about Paul. To know him is to love him, and if you don’t love him, you don’t know him.

With a passion for woodwork, Paul is normally covered in wood chips or blanketed in sawdust. He is also the kind of guy with a hand to lend, a grin on his face and a genuine smile for everybody. He will also readily hand out a good teasing and fully expects one in return. Instead of happiness, Paul has what I call hoppyness.

I was fortunate (or unfortunate in his terms) enough to meet Paul when waitressing my first year or so living in Odessa. The very first time I refilled his coffee cup he yanked his hand back, let out a yelp, then said “Ow, you burned me.” As I was on my sixth or seventh “I’m so sorry,” the biggest grin split his face, and he started chuckling. The chuckle of a true practical joker. Paul doesn’t laugh, he chuckles. Looking back now, I was so relieved, I don’t think it even occurred to me to be upset about the prank.

When heading out for work a few years ago I discovered three or four pumpkins on our porch. We had no idea where they had come from; after all we hadn’t bought any. After talking with a few customers I learned that there were several homes around town that had also reaped the benefits of magically appearing pumpkins, but no one knew where they had come from. A few days after their arrival I learned from Peggy Tracy that it was Paul who had played Santa at Halloween. When I asked him about them, his response was “Well, your porch looked like it needed them.”

One day he found out it was my birthday, and I remember him heading out the door of the restaurant saying “Don’t go anywhere, I’ll be right back.” When he returned, he handed me a necklace that was little green plastic coins from one of the casinos and told me, “Now you better be careful with that, it cost me a lot of money. I had to pay the Indians $40 for that thing.” I still have it hanging on my bedroom wall.

I’ve seen Paul’s talent for woodwork take shape in many different forms, an ice chest with a hinged lid that stands on legs making it waist high. A small cube of wood with a tag that reads: “2-step exercise plan, 1. Put block on floor, 2. Walk around block three times” or a wood, screen and mason jar bird-feeder that also looks like a lighthouse. I asked him to make me one of the bird-feeders because I wanted to give it to someone as a gift. When he brought it to me I asked him, “How much do I owe you?” All he did was shrug his shoulders and say, “How bout a million dollars?” He never has given me a true price, nor taken any money.

Over time, if you pay attention you will notice your conversations with Paul will have a certain Hoppness to them. He usually says the complete opposite of what he truly means. Typical exchanges between Paul and me are something like, “How you doing Sweet-Pea?” (my personal favorite), but in reality more like, me: “Hey there you old coot!” Him: “How you doing you old bat?” Or Paul saying something like, “If you weren’t so ugly I’d kiss you.” One of our most recent conversations was a pleasant surprise. I sidled up next to him and of course, in normal Paul fashion, he flinched. Then said “How’s the job going? You know, I read your articles.” I said, “You do? Then you tell me. How’s the job going?” He leveled his gaze at me and with a completely straight face said, “Horrible!” I just grinned from ear to ear and said, “Well, in that case, I hate it!” Then Paul did something I didnt expect. He made a straightforward statement. He looked at me and said, “You’re doing good kid! You’re doing real good.”

 

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