Al Gore and I both claim to be from Tennessee. I don’t know if that makes us “kindred spirits” or not. But he certainly cleared some things up and put my whole life in perspective with his comments this past week. Perhaps you saw him on national TV explaining that his candidate of choice was hampered in the presidential debate by the change to a higher altitude. It seems that high elevation can lead to breathing problems, slowing the flow of blood to the brain which can cause some halting thought patterns that naturally keeps you from presenting your “best game”.
Well, there you go!
We were up on the second floor of the old elementary school when I challenged Gene Fuller to a wrestling match. Gene didn’t even bother to move the chairs back a little. He stomped me right through the oak floor! It is still listed in the annals of the school as the shortest fight ever recorded in the building. Buddy pointed out to me at recess that Gene was two years older and twice as big as I was and what, pray tell, could I have possibly been thinking? I realize today, of course, I would have never issued the challenge had we been down on the oxygen filled first floor.
It was about that same time of my life I grabbed a couple of black walnuts off the ground, stuffed them in my pocket and climbed that giant walnut tree in Miss Boaz’s back yard. I shinnied way up toward the top and waited for some unsuspecting soul to wander along underneath. The innocent traveler turned out to be my older brother. I missed with my first shot, but the second one caught him on the right ear. I noticed two things immediately. The blow got his attention sure enough, but it didn’t knock him out. AND I was a sitting duck up here in this tree! To make matters worse, I couldn’t blame this one on anyone else and, as it was way down in the fall, most all the walnuts had dropped from the tree.
Leon had enough “ammunition” lying around to ward of a Hun attack. He found the range with about his third throw, and let me tell you, he commenced to lay down a bombardment that would have made Robert E. Lee proud! He pounded me until the sun went down. I couldn’t dodge and hold on at the same time. He hit me on every part of my body. He was throwing so fast and furiously that he didn’t hear my surrender pleas! When I crawled to the house for supper I looked like I’d been playing bumper tag with a Mack truck.
Today, with the help of Al Gore, I realize that I wasn’t as stupid as I have thought all these years. I merely made a bad decision based on the lack of oxygen to the brain. If I had been on ground level, eye ball to eye ball with Leon, I would have never thought to attack him from an unprotected and un-defendable position!
We were on the third floor of the high school when Miss Polly Rucker asked me what I knew about William Shakespeare. It was the first day in her English class and I didn’t want to show my ignorance too early. “Well, Ma’am,” I figured with a name like Bill there must be a lot of them, “he can field his position, slide on either side, but he can’t hit a curve ball worth a hoot. He lives way out past the Cunningham’s on the Como Road.”
Miss Polly was still shaking her head when the bell rang for lunch. If that dear sweet soul who taught me so much in the ensuing years was alive today, I would call her this morning and explain the reason for my rather “off base” answer. It was the climb up the three flights of stairs that got me!
I was just down the hall from Miss Polly in study hall when I decided to ask Billie Jean to the homecoming dance. The high altitude clearly affected my thinking here. She was pretty enough and wore her hair just right. But she wouldn’t near ’bout quit talking and she was all fired up on Penguin “signature” jackets and madras shirts and she thought Bass Weegins with no socks was the footwear of the elite. I liked jeans, tee shirts and boots. She catered to Herman’s Hermits and the Beatles. I leaned more toward Merle Haggard and Jerry Lee Lewis. She also thought one trip to a homecoming dance betrothed us forever. She was talking home and marriage and a good money making future……
The only thing that saved me was the dance took place in the gym. At ground level!
Me and Yogi were enjoying the sights from up on the water tower the week before Halloween in 1963. Folks, that was the highest elevation we had in our little town! We’d lugged the paint cans all the way to the top and paused to take in the scene as we pondered all mighty hard on what to write across that big silver tank. Today, of course, I realize what went wrong here. We should have decided exactly what we were going to “paint on” before we started the climb. Clearly, as it turned out, Al Gore is correct. There was absolutely no oxygen leaking into our brains at the top of that tower!
Yogi came up with the idea. And when the town got sight of it in broad daylight, it caused a tad more excitement for the Halloween season than even we envisioned. I’m not saying who did the actual painting until I find out about the statute of limitations.