A Thing of Beauty Is A Joy Forever

Published: Thursday, March 20, 2014 at 08:56 AM.

            I squinted up at the big horse. Prince near ’bout blotted out the sun. He was a giant among stallions……even if I hadn’t a’been six years old. This horse was bigger than Trigger, Champion, Man o’ War and Hi Yo Silver combined! I admired the way Nicky Joe and Leon pulled him up to Nick’s granddaddy’s big front porch to mount him. 

            It was an early dream of mine to grab the mane and throw myself up on Prince. ’Course, I was whistling Dixie here. If my older brother and his best friend had to use the porch, I didn’t have a chance. Later that summer I casually mentioned to Nicky Joe that I’d like to ride his horse one da— The sentence was cut off in mid air as Nick grabbed me and flung me over his head up on Prince’s broad back! Did I mention they never used a bridle or saddle? Good gracious, I almost bumped my head on the sky! And I’m telling you, I hung on like Willie Shoemaker thundering down the home stretch. It was a trip for the ages…….I WAS RIDING THE BIG HORSE!

            I don’t remember a day in my life without Nicky Joe Stafford.

            He and Leon were five years older than me. It doesn’t sound like much now. But when they were twelve and I’m tagging along at half their size, with one tenth of their knowledge and zero of their “coolness and command”, it was light years! Neither ever realized how much I looked up to them. 

            I was, at times, a source of embarrassment to Leon. I would follow him to the baseball games. I was way too small to play, mostly just in the way. They’d choose up sides and as the captains called out their picks the players would gravitate to their team. I would be left standing alone. Nicky Joe, even if he wasn’t a captain, would speak up, “We’ll take Kesley, he can bat last and play right field.”

            Nicky Joe Stafford got me in the game!

            He talked more than anyone on the field. Shoot, he talked more than anyone I ever saw! He was always in motion. He laughed easy and freely. Everyone would be playing hard and enjoying the game. But Nick seemed to be having more fun than the rest of us. It was impossible not to like him. He was a whirlwind whether we were playing baseball, racing up Stonewall Street, shooting baskets in Paul David Campbell’s back yard or hanging out at the swimming pool.



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