Big Muddy Golf, Gambling, Blockheads

Topeka Capital-Journal
March 22, 1993

NATCHEZ, Miss. – The problem with traveling is that there are too many tourists in the places tourists like to go. This city, for example, is a popular tourist spot, but it should not be confused with New Orleans, which is a tourist trap.

New Orleans relies on gluttony, a capital sin of which we are all guilty to some degree. Natchez, on the other hand, is a long-running contest over which will last the longest – the antebellum homes that abound here, or the hordes of old folks who flock in here to see them.

The homes always win. In fact, most of them look better today than when they were built, and they all have weathered far better than the visitors.

So, you may ask, what is an old weather-beaten Okie, who wouldn’t know an antebellum home from a new Holiday Inn, doing in Natchez? Simple. I am playing daddy to two heartless offspring who sometimes seem to think I’m Daddy Warbucks. Continue reading

Hole in One, Holes in Stories

Topeka Capital-Journal
Sept. 18, 1985

You probably aren’t going to believe a word of this, but it is all true:

It was in World War II, and I was taking the physical examination that led to the Navy. It happened that one of the guys in line with me was a friend named John McGraw. Not the baseball immortal, just a friend.

When the time came to give a urine sample, I was having a problem, but John obviously wasn’t. I asked him to take my little jar and fill it. He obliged. An hour later I was in the Navy.

A month later, I was at a naval training base and was called to the hospital. I was told to give a urine sample and to wait while they checked it. Later came the questions.

Did I have a family history of kidney trouble? Was I ever treated for blood in the urine? Sugar? Wet the bed? I played dumb because the doctor didn’t seem the type who would appreciate the truth. “I don’t understand this,” he said. “Come back in a week.” Continue reading

Remembering Ralph Cowell: Solid as a Rock

Topeka Capital-Journal – August 1999

In the parking lot, before we went into the Penwell-Gabel chapel in Highland Park for Ralph Cowell’s funeral, Tommy Tompkins was saying, “Ralph has a good tee time today, 11 o’clock on a Saturday morning in nice weather.” That was another way of saying he already was on that great golf course in the sky.

Inside, the Rev. Jerry Vaughn, of Berryton, told a story that linked Ralph’s lifelong occupation, professional window cleaning, with his lifelong passion, amateur golf.

There is artistry in using the squeegee, the main tool in window cleaning, just as there is with a golf club, and Ralph once explained the use of them by saying, “The object with both is to finish with the fewest possible strokes.” Not bad for funeral parlor humor.

Ralph was better than just pretty good with both. If he wasn’t the best window cleaner in town, he was close, and it’s a fact I never have heard anyone argue that he wasn’t. It’s also a fact I never have heard anyone argue that, in his day, he wasn’t one of the best golfers in town, too. Or one of the best on the AT&SF main line, for that matter.

When he could play, he really could play. He won some tournaments, and came close to winning some more. At the peak of his career, in the 1950s and 1960s, it was rare that someone hit the ball farther than he did. It was of his competitive faults that he often forgot the match to make the point he could hit the ball farther than you could. Continue reading