Being left in the dark can be somewhat dangerous. Then Vice-President George H. W. Bush once paid a visit to South Carolina in the mid-Eighties. I am sure he was on the mid-term campaign trail and for reasons which escape me, he stopped off in Greenville. I was aware of the upcoming elections but was not a very politically savvy person during those days, much more concerned with running an athletic program than concerned about who was attempting to run our country. Yes, I now understand my mistake. Somehow while I wasn’t paying attention we ended up with a choice between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.
During this political stop, my principal failed to inform me “George the runner” and his staff of Secret Service minions would be looking at Sirrine Stadium, home of the Greenville High Red Raiders, as a possible running site. My principal knew but failed to tell me or decided it was a good way to get rid of me. Considering our contentious relationship, and with 20/20 hindsight, I realize it was probably the latter.
During the summer our primary focus was on fields, growing grass; fertilizing it, watering it and then cutting it…repeatedly. On a Friday in mid-July in the mid-Eighties, I drove the school tractor to Sirrine to mow the field as we did three times a week in the summer. As I dismounted the old Ford, I dropped the keys to the gate and bent to pick them up. Straightening I discovered two young gentlemen standing in front of the gate who had not been there milliseconds before. Both were dressed in dark suits, ties, very polished shoes and dark wraparound sunglasses. (Think of the movie Men in Black but better looking than Tommy Lee Jones and much blonder than Will Smith) Considering the time of year, mid-July, the only part of their wardrobe that fit the time of day or the temperature was their sunglasses.
Taken by surprise I stammered “Can I help you?” Both were tall, blond, young and filled out their dark suits quite well. I also found it interesting that they were not sweating in the July sun. They were two fine specimens of the species known as the adult male and I wanted to be nice until the burly blond guy on the right replied to my question with a question, “Who are you?” A question answering a question equals a smart-ass response: “I asked first,” I reminded them. The blond, burly guy on the left smiled broadly and responded, “Our badges trump your question.” Mr. Burly opened his jacket and retrieved his Secret Service credentials flashing them for me to see. I also had a glimpse of a service automatic on his belt and a small automatic weapon hanging from his shoulder. Even with Mel Brooks’ “badges” quote from “Blazing Saddles” running through my head I decided that being a smart ass would not be “prudent” and quickly explained who I was and what I was doing. Burly blond guy on the right explained I would be doing something else until the next day, while burly blond guy on the left nodded his head before speaking into his sleeve and said, “Stand down, he is not a threat.”
With hair standing up on the back of my neck, I quickly left and after parking the tractor, drove to the Corner Pocket for a beer and a hot dog. That seemed like a good something else to do. “Barkeep! Hit me again!” I do wish I had asked if they could have gotten me George’s autograph.
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