It is the nature of American youth, not to fully appreciate the elderly. This is a defect of American culture and should not be so. In India, just the opposite is true. The elderly are revered and put on a pedestal.
As publisher, I have been blessed to know some real giants out there. Men and women who accomplished amazing feats that would blow your mind, if you took the time to listen. Their glory days may be past, but back in the day, they rocked!
One such giant, Jim Palmer called me the other day requesting I write about two Northsiders who swam the Mississippi, Bouncer Robertson and Wade Creekmore, who both are members of the Fins Up Club, a small Ole Miss booster group that eats lunch at the Piccadilly cafeteria. One member of the club wrote this description:
You might observe at lunch on a Thursday, six or seven older gentlemen, some with red and blue attire. If you guess they were Ole Miss rebels you would be guessing correctly. They would be the executive committee of the Jackson Fins Up club. They have been eating lunch together for several years.
Like most octogenarians, their recall is not what it used to be. They started numbering stories and jokes. So, instead of telling how Billy Yelverton chased him almost to Batesville again, Bouncer Robertson would simply say, “number 37.” Instead of telling how the A’burn supporter offered him a hundred dollar bill again, while sitting in his car in front of Billy Ray Adams' house, Billy Ray simply says, “number 22.”
Robert Mims gave Wade Creekmore a breakdown on the numbers of jokes and stories. At the next lunch Sam Farrington said, “number 15.” No one laughed and Wade leaned over to Robert and said, “I thought that was a funny joke. Why didn't anyone laugh.” Robert said, “some people can tell jokes and some can't.” Jimmy Palmer has challenged Johnny Gainey for a six-yard run “if he can hide Johnny's stick.” John Black and Bob Drummond just shake their heads at all of this.
We do find out very unusual things about each other. For example, two of our six or seven old fellows have swum across the Mississippi River. Wade Creekmore and Bouncer Robertson have each accomplished this swim across the Mississippi River.
Wade Creekmore’s swim was later in life, in his 60s or so, accompanied by another accomplished swimmer with a boat floating along. Wade has always been a super athlete and it was a piece of cake.
Bouncer Robertson’s swim is not so well planned and he’s probably lucky to be alive. Bouncer describes it as follows:
You've asked me to tell you about the time I swam across the Mississippi River in Vicksburg to a gambling boat that was anchored in the swamp on the Louisiana side of the river. Some friends of mine who were all from Jackson, and all of us were going to Ole Miss, were home one Saturday night to hear The Red Tops. They were one of our favorite bands at that time and were from Vicksburg and were playing at the gambling boat on the Louisiana side of the river across from Vicksburg. There were six of us: Billy "Oaf" Gill known as "Oaf" because he was so clumsy, Donald Baker "Mouse" Patterson called "Mouse" because he had a face like a mouse, Hunter Brown "Snake" Daniels called "Snake" because he had two eye teeth that looked like fangs, Finis "Rabbit" Williams called "Rabbit" because he had a round little face that made him look like a rabbit, Bumond "Boo" Noble whose nickname was "Boo" because it was short for Bumond, and me, who was nicknamed "Bouncer" because of my days fighting in the Golden Gloves. By the way, we all had nicknames back then.
When we arrived at Vicksburg, we all went down to the edge of the Mississippi River where a barge loaded people to go across to the gambling boat. We had a great time listening to The Red Tops, and in the process of gambling, I left to go back to Vicksburg absolutely broke.
We rode the barge back across to Vicksburg. When we got back to Vicksburg, I said, "for $5.00 I will swim back across, but I don't have a bathing suit." With that Bumond, whose car we were in, said, "don't worry Bouncer I've got one in the trunk" so I was hooked. I put on the bathing suit, and they took me up the river before I got in the water to swim across. When I got about halfway across the river, I realized that I had not started far enough upstream because the current was strong. I realized that I had to do some real swimming or I would drift past the gambling boat and wind up in the Louisiana swamp. I was fighting the current and swimming as hard as I could. Exhausted, I was able to catch on the very end of the boat. As I neared the boat I noticed a man standing on the stern of the gambling boat smoking a cigarette. I could see it light up as he took a puff. As I started pulling myself up on the boat the old man with the cigarette said, "nice swim, sonny." I don't know what I would have done if I had missed the boat and landed in the swamp. I guess I would have had to swim back and no telling where I would have wound up. I rode the barge back across to Vicksburg. Later on, I wondered how the guys in the car and I would ever find each other. The guys did manage to pool their resources together to pay me my $5.00.
Bouncer could easily have drowned that night. But he didn’t. Instead, he went on to live a long and successful life. Life is like that.
Billy Ray Adams, Robert Mims, Sam Farrington, Wade Creekmore, Bouncer Robertson, Johnny Gainey, Jim Palmer