How is it that one walks- or runs- right into their nickname? I mean, is it predestined or a self-fulfilling prophecy? Well, let me tell you about how this very thing happened to my dad, and you decide.
He was born in Berry, Kentucky, a town that to this day reminds any outsider of Mayberry on The Andy Griffith Show. Growing up the town had one TV; it was located at the general store, but the kids were not enthralled by it. No, the children of Berry back in the 40’s were outside enjoying the fresh air, catch frogs and insects, h
aving picnics and sledding on their toboggans.
Dad may have come from a simple town, but he did not have a simple life. His father fought in the Battle of Midway during World War II while his mother went crazy with worry. Then, when his dad came home with what we now know as PTSD, he got lost in a whiskey bottle and never found his way out.
Dad’s mother got a divorce and moved to a nearby town to find a suitable husband. She left dad back in Berry with family there and
married the first creep that came along. Years went by and she finally sent for dad who didn’t get along with his “new dad.”
Dad was a natural athlete. He excelled at football, the 440 (which, as I unfortunately learned, is really a sprint), the hurdles, pole vaulting, baseball, and on and on. But, today, I want to talk football.
The scene is set at homecoming, and dad was King for the night. Football players didn’t play the first half of the game if they were in the homecoming court. After all, who wants nasty, sweaty pictures of their children in the local paper? For homecoming, the football team played a bunny team anyway to ensure a victory, so they could do without a few varsity players. Dad looked sharp in his white tuxedo with a carnation from Mom. The cheerleaders chanted
Rah rah ree
Kick ’em in the knee!
Rah rah rass
Kick ’em in the other knee!
The coach gave the signal; it was time for the team players to suit up. Court was adjourned. The crowd roared as the seniors took the field. The home team had played freshman and still run up the score on the opposing team. A customary play was to let the homecoming king make a touchdown if he was a football player. Dad was ready to play receiver- a new position for him. The players lined up. Hut 22. Hut 35. Hut hut. The ball was snapped into the quarterback’s hands. He flew a perfect spiral straight into dad’s mitts. Dad was known for his excellent sprinting. He caught it at the 10 yard line, jerked around, and took off full speed right into the end zo…goal post. In all the excitement, he had confused the 10 with the end zone. He laid unconscious on the field as his two front teeth stuck bloody with goo on the goal post.
When he finally came around, Mom, a sophomore majorette, had been allowed on the field along with the team doctor and a dentist. He was rushed to the dentist’s office where, somehow, his teeth were placed back in there sockets, surrounded by gold, and saved. Every time he smiled, I thought of the Golden Arches at McDonald’s and wanted fries.
They called him Buck from childhood up. I guess you grow into your name.