Turkey legs was six-five in the ninth grade and possessed a beautiful bass voice. He went from squeaky to basso in one summer. In the eighth grade when the teachers called the roll, Turkey legs sounded like a girl. In the ninth, he answered “here” in such a profoundly adult way, all eyes turned to see the owner of those astonishing vocal cords.
Because he was so gangly, the coach would not accept him as a football player, so he became a water boy. In fact, his water boy duties gained him the nickname of Turkey legs. I wish you could have seen him dashing out to the field with the water bucket, his free arm all akimbo and his legs twirling like a cartoon character. He is the only water boy I remember who got cheered regularly. Back on the sidelines, he would often bow to the crowd with a courtly maneuver.
Well, Turkey legs got a Cushman scooter the summer before the 10th grade. He needed transportation because his wonderfully resonant voice had gained him a job as an afternoon DJ on one of local radio stations. So, the primary purpose of the scooter was to get him back and forth to work. The secondary purpose was much more important. It was that of visiting friends over in my part of town. In my neighborhood, we all looked forward to his visits since he had become a celebrity from performing at ball games and saying witty and inane things on the radio.
His scooter had a maladjusted muffler and we could hear him coming a mile away. Perhaps we would be sitting under someone’s carport in the heat of the day playing Uncle Wiggly or listening to Big John and Sparky on the radio. Someone would tilt his head and say, “Listen, I hear Turkey legs.” And sure enough, he would roll into the driveway a short time later. He always seemed to intuit where we would be gathered and when he joined us, he was the center of attention.
Turkey legs could draw, too. He could whip out a sketch of Elvis or Sarge in Beetle Bailey at the drop of a hat. He did this with no sense of pride whatsoever. He just wanted to entertain, use his gifts to please his friends. I had a bit of artistic talent, too, so people running for office at the school would enlist Turkey legs and me to make posters for them. I tried to match his creativity and speed in poster making, but never did. He was just naturally clever and so impatient by nature that his talents had to keep up with his need for speed.
This need for speed resulted in an accident during our 10th grade year. I was riding on the back of the scooter when Turkey legs ran the thing broadside into an automobile which ran a red light. The jolt threw Turkey legs onto the car and me onto the handlebars. We weren’t hurt, but I wish you could have seen his performance as he scolded the adult for running the red light in his most manly voice.
Turkey legs now owns his own advertising company in a major Southern city and we e-mail from time to time. He comments on this column occasionally and the little caricature of myself I sketched that appears above it in The Bee.
Daniel G. Ford