(I wrote the following to present to my best childhood friend, Tucker, at his 75th birthday party which I attended last week.)
Although neither of us remember, Tucker and I probably met each other sometime after I was 2 and he was 1, when we were both newcomers to Wiman Avenue.
I moved there, to the house next door to Tuck’s grandparents, sometime before I was 2. I think Tuck lived up the street at that time with his mom and dad and brother, Dan.
It was probably during the second summer that I lived on Wiman Avenue that Tuck and I became close friends and played together every day, but the time came when we were almost inseparable, and along with the Fero boys, who lived in the middle of the block, were constant playmates.
We ran through the street, played in the yards, and had lots of fun together.
When we went to McKinley Elementary School, we were a year apart so we were never in the same grade, but walked back and forth together (well, we never really walked) twice a day.
We may both remember the day that when we came home from school for lunch we ran all the way home, got right in front of our houses, and remembered that we had forgotten to go pick up my little brother, Dale, from his kindergarten class.
Tuck and I didn’t always live close together or go to the same schools while growing up. I always lived on Wiman and went to the neighborhood schools. Tuck moved around a bit, but we just about always got together – if not during the week – for our Saturday lunch of hot dogs and beans and movies at the Riviera.
I’m not sure that we realized it then, but the Riv was a special place. After all, as Tucker often pointed out, his father and grandfather, who were both masons by trade, helped make that ceiling up there with the little lights that twinkled and sparkled like stars.
Counting those stars often got us through another one of Roy Roger’s or Gene Autry’s songs.
Shoot ‘em up all the way home
I am sure that I remember – after watching Gene or Roy (or both) – our “shoot – ‘em – up, hide – behind – every-tree” chase all the way home every week.
When we weren’t outside we were doing the same thing in the house, running up and down the stairs and using Dale for the “bad guy” whether he liked it or not.
When we weren’t playing “Cowboys and Indians” we may have been playing “basketball” – our own version thereof – in our upstairs hallway. The hall leading to our bedrooms was about 4 feet wide and 10 feet long.
We fastened a basketball net to the top of a door at one end of the hall; the net was probably 7 feet from the floor – but that was about right because at that time of our lives, I may have been 4 feet tall with my high-heeled cowboy boots on, and Tuck was at least a foot taller.
We played what I guess was sort of one-on-one and a half basketball (one short guy against one tall guy) or we shot baskets with a ball a little bigger than a grapefruit.
As we grew up Tuck was very athletic and excelled at every sport he played – which was just about every sport. As kids growing up on Wiman Avenue, we all loved playing touch football every fall in the paved street in front of our homes. That was our “stadium.”
I learned at Tucker’s birthday party that at 75, Tucker plays in a softball league and apparently has a way to go. I asked him if he was the oldest player and he replied that there are several in their 80s.
The following is from a column I wrote for The Fulton Patriot in 1982: “The teams were chosen by the ‘captains,’ the first two kids home from school. The first player chosen was always Tucker Lindsay. He was the fastest. When you were sprawled out on that cold concrete after slipping on a wet leaf and Tucker galloped past you, his legs looked 6 feet long.”
“He’s really sick this time”
Sometime or other every best friend saves the other best friend’s life. I remember when I thought that Tucker had saved my life.
I didn’t like school much back then. It was a Friday afternoon in February and my mother had almost made it through a long week of listening to my sad tale of sore throats and “turble” stomach aches.
She still wasn’t buying them. It was Tucker who convinced her, “He’s really sick this time,” and I lost my appendix the next day.
Then there was the time that Tucker’s grandmother encouraged us to participate in a wrestling match with a prize for the winner. We tussled and scuffled until we weren’t speaking to each other – for a few minutes. The prize? A nickel.
Another tale often told centers around one of the times we were attempting to net fish from the nearby creek.
One late spring evening, four or five of us had linked our belts together and had lowered Tucker, net poised, down a high wall and into the creek. Spooked by oncoming headlights, one by one we let go of the belts, dropping Tucker into the shallow creek while we all ran away holding up our pants.
One year Tuck and I, for some reason, sat in on one tap dance lesson at McKinley School. Even though neither one of us decided that we were destined to follow in the dancing footsteps of Astaire or Kelly, and that one wasted afternoon was probably enough – we were able to put what we learned that afternoon into good use on Halloween.
Tuck’s grandmother, our next door neighbor, had a special understanding of Halloween. She thought that if she was going to be responsible for a treat we little goblins should be responsible for a ‘trick’ before we received a treat – a freshly baked cookie for now as well as “one for the road.” You had to take your turn in the spotlight.
That Halloween night in Mrs. Lindsay’s living room was where we put our one dancing lesson into good use. We tipped and we tapped, we clicked and we clacked, and I’m sure that Astaire and Kelly wouldn’t have received any more applause than we did – Mr. Lindsay even looked up from his sports page.
There are undoubtedly many other stories that have been told before and will be told again at future get-togethers, some with a few embellishments.
Do you remember the time . . . ?
It is many years, as we celebrate another birthday, since these two first friends have become best friends.
Happy birthday, Tuck.
… Roy Hodge