Ram note: There is nothing in this world that irritates me more than having
to write an article a second time. It hasn't happened a lot but it has happened
several times since this web site was founded. Yesterday was one of those times.
I had written an article about our trip to Marion, Va. and the reunion between
Bill Hickman and David Barrett. I thought it was pretty good but when I sent it
to my web master in Raleigh, he informed me that the message was blank. I probed
everywhere I knew to look to try and find the article but it was not to be
found. I have concluded that the only way the article could have disappeared was
for me to have accidentally hit the "delete" button. Understanding things
related to the internet no better than I do, I would have thought that doing
this would have deleted the address also, but it obviously didn't. If this is
not the answer of what happened to the article, I am at a loss to explain it.
Maybe it's floating around out there somewhere in the cyber world
I remember my friend Roy Acuff once saying ( it is on the record he made with the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band), now fellas, let's get it right the first time. Don't think we'll get it right the next time around because every time we do it over, we lose a little something. I hope this is not the case with the article on the reunion but I fear that it is.
Reunion After More Than 30 Years
I think, sometimes, that I have had more than my share of perfect days. I haven't kept count of them so I can't give you the numbers and, yes, I know these days were not perfect. Nothing is. I have had some very good days though and last Wednesday was one of them.
I informed you earlier that I planned to travel to Marion, Va. along with Bill Hickman and his son Kurt to reunite Bill and David Barrett, a former UNC footballer, for the first time since the early 70s. So this past Wednesday, the three of us rose bright and early and set out for Marion. Bill lives in Leesburg which is in northern Virginia and he had traveled to Richmond the night before since the trip from Richmond to Marion is abut 5 hours.
Travel can be very tiring as those of you who are aging( that's all of you) well know.
We left around 6:00 a.m., had breakfast at Rowe's in Staunton, and continued on our way. The weather was perfect and the drive to Marion was spectacular. We arrived around noon and went immediately to David's Office. We identified ourselves to the receptionist and then we heard someone coming down the hall. We suspected it was David and it was. When Bill saw David, he went straight to him and said "You haven't changed a bit." David replied, "You haven't either." Now I know you would expect things like this to be said when a positive reunion occurs, but you need to have seen it to appreciate it. It was the way the words were spoken that created a lasting memory for Kurt and me.
David had changed a bit since the last time Bill saw him because David is now in a wheelchair as a result of an automobile accident in 1975. David was on his way for a job interview after graduating from UNC when a school bus ran him off the road somewhere in West Virginia. We knew that David had suffered serious injuries but none of us knew the extent to which he had recovered.
There was a little Tar Heel banter and then David told us that T-Bone and Tom Fletcher, a former member of the Carolina football coaching staff, were waiting for us at a restaurant in Chilhowie, Va. a short drive from Marion. We couldn't wait to get there. Bill had served on the same staff at UNC with Tom and none of us were aware that he was in the area. We knew David could drive, so Bill and David got into his pick up truck and Kurt and I got into the Heel Mobile for the short drive to Chilhowie. We watched with amazement as David got into his truck with no assistance and he even lifted the wheelchair and placed it into the truck without any help..
I was not prepared for the setting of the second meeting/reunion. The Town House Grill in Chilhowie was the where the locals had decided we would continue our "catching up" and they couldn't have made a better choice. Chilhowie is a small town and I never dreamed that there would be such a stylish restaurant within its confines. The building itself dates fro 1910 and the decor is what I would call "turn of the century." The menu would not take a back seat to restaurants in much larger cities and the service was exceptional. I talked with the waiter for some time while we were there and I asked how such a restaurant could survive in a locale with no more people than Chilhowie. He said they had operated in this location for around three years and that for the dinner (supper) meal, patrons would come from as far away as Knoxville, Tenn. which is more than 100 miles away. To give you some idea of the menu, how about, "Fillet mignon Espagnole, choice cut fillet with nape' of sauce espagnole...mkt black sesame seasoned tuna, pan seared sushi grade tuna, washibi cucumbers and Asian marinated noodles. Pretty fancy for a bunch of Carolina oriented boys who ordinarily look for the best BBQ in town.
The conversation was interesting. Everyone wanted to know what the other ones had been doing and I asked Bill to show his Super Bowl ring. Most people have heard of the rings and might have even seen a photograph of one, but few have actually seen one live and in person. It is impressive and Bill has three more to go with the one he was wearing.
T Bone, who served as David's guardian/coordinator when David was being recruited by Bill for UNC, took a couple of photographs and if I get copies, I will share them with you. T Bone, in retirement, now is heavily involved with the newspaper in Saltville,Va. officiates sporting events at the high school level, and for over 25 years was Mayor of Saltville. He looks like retirement agrees with him.
Tom Fletcher went with Bill Dooley to Virginia Tech for a short while and then moved on to Marshall University. He also was employed by Longwood as their Athletic Director with the understanding that he would become their football coach when the school fielded a planned team. The president of the university had not, however, shared these plans with the Longwood Faculty and when it was presented to the Faculty, they balked. Exit Tom. Things have a way of working themselves out though and Tom is now a school principal in St Paul's, Va. He didn't say so, but I rather suspect he is better off being in School Administration now than he would have been had he continued in coaching. He looked exactly as I remembered him from one meeting we had about 20 years ago.
Kurt and I tried to stay in the background. We knew we were witnessing something special and we didn't want to interfere. Kurt had been a small child in Chapel Hill when the memories were being discussed and he could relate to them better than I could. That doesn't mean I couldn't relate but mine was on a different level.
Around 2:30 it occurred to Bill, Kurt and I that we had better get on the road because we had about 5 more hours on the road before we would be back in Richmond. We said our goodbyes and headed our separate ways.
On the way back to Richmond, we talked about our reunion and we all felt it had been a tremendous success. Not all reunions between former players and coaches are in order but this one was right. Bill recognizes David as a very special person and the feeling is mutual on David's part. We didn't really know what to expect regarding David' physical situation but we all felt good about what we saw and heard.
We were especially pleased to hear that David worked at UNC for 4 years after the accident and marveled at the fact that since then, he has been employed in the same line of work for 26 years. The Alumni Directory lists him as the Deputy City Manager of the town of Marion.
In reflecting on the meeting, I remember something David told me the first time I talked with him by telephone. I told him I had thought of him many times since reading the newspaper acount of his accident and I had worried about the hand fate had dealt him. He replied in words to the effect that when life deals you a lemon, you have to make lemonade and I have tried to do that. It would certainly appear that David has done just that.