I pulled out an old photo album containing pictures I took on a group trip to Venezuela with Gibbs 20 years ago. I wanted to see again the one where he got up and spontaneously started playing the drums with a group of musicians and singers at the resort in Canaima. Then I thought about the airplane ride (727) into Canaima, where Gibbs got so excited because we had some crazy Venezuelan pilot that he had told us stories about in Caracas. We had taken his stories about this guy with a grain of salt, but, just as Gibbs had foretold, this pilot flew us right by Angel Falls within spitting distance, then right over the top of a tupuy - so close that when he did an extremely sharp 180 degree turn-around you could’ve seen a monkey waving in the trees below. The banking turn was so sharp I was afraid the wings would touch the trees and some passengers even got sick. After the turn, the crazy pilot dropped the plane into a nosedive off the edge of the tupuy, pulling up right over the top of the jungle below, then flying the plane a scant few feet above the surface of the Orinoco River. Looking out the cabin windows we could see the jungle trees on either side. During this whole escapade Gibbs was up in the cockpit watching and talking to the pilot. He buzzed Canaima a couple times, then finally set the plane down, and we all agreed with Gibbs that some day he was going to scatter a planeload of tourists across the top of one of those tupuys.
It was with profound sadness that I received the news of Gibbs’ death. It is hard to comprehend how someone so much larger than life could ever be gone. It brought up many feelings, such as guilt for not staying in touch over recent years, and sorrow that it’s now too late to call him up and visit, as I’ve thought of doing so many times over the intervening years since we used to socialize at Maggie Mae’s and the Kerrville Folk Festival. It also brought a flood of memories of great, enjoyable times spent in his captivating company. The memories are so close, so vivid that I feel his presence even now. I hear that laugh of his; I see the twinkle in his eyes. I’m not sure I’ve ever met someone so full of the energy of and passion for life as Gibbs. His stamina was legendary in terms of all that he did and all the pursuits and projects he simultaneously juggled. It was never, ever boring, and always a treat and an educational experience to be around him. What a unique, fascinating person he was; even in his name. I miss him and will always remember him well.