I am sitting in Pew Number Four, Fourth Row From The Back, at Blue Mountain Baptist Church.
The Rev. Truman Norred has just called down God’s blessings on the congregation and is bringing us up to date on whose homebound, in nursing homes, and maybe he’s got some things to say about Carpenters for Christ, of which he is a big doer. He is also welcoming our visitors by name.
It is then that I look again at the back of the church bulletin and read:
“What are you going to be when you grow up?”
Well, I’ve been giving that some thought for the past few days, even walked down the hall a few times to look at an old black and white photo of a really good looking kid of like six years old. He is astride a small pony, is wearing a big cowboy hat, has a six-shooter in each hand.
Yeah, I remember that was exactly what I wanted to be when I grew up. Ride the range with Jesse James and drive herds of Longhorn cattle north along the Chisholm Trail to Abilene, Kan., . . or somewhere like that.
I lost that little dream in the middle of a dark night somewhere in Cleburne County. A mean-tempered old strawberry roan owned by an uncle had escaped and was three farms away. I was dispatched to ride him home. Twice he threw me into a briar patch.
To heck with cowboy and horse. I was 15 and haven’t been on a horse since.
But even before that, the dream had changed.
I had an Marine uncle in the South Pacific fighting the Japanese. I had two uncles in Europe fighting the Germans. I dreamed of being a soldier who would personally kill Hitler, then I’d move to the Marines and take care of Tojo.
My uncles won the war before I could get there so I decided I’d become a major league baseball player. I’d join Ted Williams in leading the Boston Red Sox to like 20 straight World Series titles.
Slow bat, slow feet, weak arm took care of that.
So how did I wind up in journalism, a word with which I was not familiar.
The beginning was at the old Smokehouse poolroom over a game of nine-ball with a buddy who was copy boy at The Anniston Star. I mentioned I wanted to get married and the lady insisted on a steady paycheck.
Verbatim . . .
Buddy: “Well, I’m moving into the back shop to be a printer. You could maybe get my job.”
Me: “Well, let’s finish this nine-ball and we’ll go see. I’ve got you two games to one.”
I got the job and moved to the typewriter when the sports editor left for Miami. Again, verbatim, this from owner and publisher Col. Harry M. Ayers who stopped by my desk one morning . .
Colonel: “Son, you think you could handle our sports job if you had to?”
Me: “I sure can, Colonel, sure can.”
Colonel: “Well, it may become necessary, son, it may become necessary.”
That wasn’t what you’d call a ringing endorsement, but I got the job, held it for 19 years. Then got lucky and was moved into what it is I do now.
Somewhere in there was another dream. On trips to Atlanta before I-20, I drove through Carrollton, Ga., home of West Georgia College.
I love history, the campus was lovely, and I often dreamed of going back to school and becoming a teacher there. I’d wear a sweater with elbow patches, horn-rimmed glasses, and smoke a pipe.
And I still don’t have any idea of what I want to be when I grow up.
But that’s no problem since the blonde frequently asks me:
“George, why don’t you just grow up.?”
George Smith can be reached at 256-239-5286 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org