One of My Men

Gloria called  just after 8:00 p.m. PDT tonight. Mike Dixon’s number appeared on the screen of my phone. i was thinking Mike was going to give me an assessment of Vanderbilt football, basketball, or baseball when i answered.

When i heard Gloria’s quavering voice i knew before she told me that Mike died suddenly today. She told me she just wanted to be sure i heard this from her.

i don’t think i have my emotions in check enough to express my feelings about this news. Mike and i played sports either against each other or with each other from about 1956, perhaps earlier, until we spent our time on golf courses every time i came back home. And when we were there in June, we had lunch with Mike and Gloria at Five Oaks, laying out plans for when we would  come back home next.

i will be coming back for Mike, but it won’t be to play golf.

We began at Castle Heights the same year, 1958. I was an incoming freshman. Mike and Jimmy Hatcher transferred from Lebanon High School to Heights that fall as sophomores.

Mike and i played baseball together at Heights, against each other in Little League and the Babe Ruth League, and together in an uncountable backyard versions of the game, including whiffle ball adaptations where we had to use the stances of our favorite Pittsburgh Pirate players, then again for Lebanon’s American Legion team.

We were huge Pirate fans, and the story our celebration of their 1961 World Series win has been documented here before.

We played basketball on Height’s junior varsity, and somewhere around a half-million hours of pickup games at most gyms in Lebanon. At Heights, we would have others join us on in the Heights gym at lunch and after some sport practice or military drill for more pickup games. And more times than i can count, he and i would play one-on-one in that gym until Ms. Fahey, who lived in the apartment in the front of the gym, would kick us out and we would both get our just due for being late for supper at home.

We were teammates on the rather remarkable Texas Boot Company fast pitch softball team in our high school summers. And i followed him as sports editor of the Heights’ award winning newspaper, The Cavalier. We continued our discussion of sports journalism until just last week.

i will not expand on my stories about Mike here. I’m just a bit too raw to go that deep right now.

i have many close friends back home. Mike was one of the closest. He, Jimmy Hatcher, Earl Major, Mike Gannaway, Jimmy Gamble, and Lee Dowdy were my closest running mates at Heights. They are gone. Lee Dowdy and i are still here. “Town boys” they called us.”

It is not a good evening.

Mike, i love you. You are a good man.


9 thoughts on “One of My Men

  1. Sorry to hear of your friend’s loss, although I never knew him. Also sorry to hear of Hatcher, Gannaway, Gamble, and Major passing. The lengthening years bring sorrow, but perhaps only because – and certainly heightened by the fact that we knew such joy in the past. You started as a Freshman the same year I did though – we graduated in 1962. A long time ago and the precise date doesn’t matter

  2. Good post, Jimmy. Sorry for the loss of your friends. I am experiencing the same loss of friends here in Lakeland, four in the last year. Only three standing and one has pancreatic cancer,and another crippled up from a tennis injury. This is one problem with growing older.

  3. Jim, I apologize for the delay in sending our condolences. Hoping you find strength from those around you to give you strength during this time of loss. Hugs, Evelyn

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