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The strongest boy in or out of school

I’ve written about Lee Kirkham a number of times over the last 25 years.  I was raised with Jerry, the only child of Lee and Dorothy, and I enjoyed being at their house as a boy. I have also greatly enjoyed hearing and telling stories about Lee and his tremendous strength.

Delaney Aydelott and I were down on the overflowed Bogue during the flood of ’61 helping to try to save cows from drowning.  Lee pulled an exhausted cow up on the bank and commenced to giving that critter artificial respiration.  He was bearing down on the chest of that cow, and for a spell there, looked like that mixed breed would pull through. I don’t know whether that cow died from drowning or from having her ribs busted when Lee laid his weight to her. Anyhow, it was a valiant effort, and I recollect all of us cheering him on.

Lee Kirkham never did get in any kind of a hurry when he commenced to talking, but I always enjoyed what he had to say, and how he said it. Wayne Pope told me a story I expect he heard his daddy, Bill, repeat from Mr. McClinton’s barber shop. A bunch of fellows were in there, the way we used to gather in barber shops, whether we needed a haircut of not. To rectly, here came Lee. He kinda bowed up his muscles, and somebody asked  him just how strong he really was. Lee reached over with his massive left hand to rub his big ol’ right bicep, and then he set about telling how strong he really was. I can near ‘bout hear him right now, looking around at everybody, kinda half way grinning and drawling, “When I wuz in school, I wuz the strongest boy in school. When I got outter school, I wuz the strongest boy outter school.”  Nuff said, and nobody doubted Lee atall.

‘Course, a real strong man is supposed to be an all-around athlete. I was not there, but I heard that Lee was out at Melvin Mashburn’s place doing some bulldozer work, and Mitchell Hale, Melvin’s son in law, had not long been back from playing college football. Fellows gathered there began to talk about running, and Lee chimed in with, “I’m not only strong, I’m a fast runner.” That was too much for Mitchell, so that former Red Devil challenged Lee to a race, which Mr. Kirkham accepted. He asked Mitchell where he wanted to race to, so Mitchell pointed out a little clump of bushes ‘bout 100 yards off through the field. I’m told Mitchell got down in his three point stance, and was pawing up the ground waiting for the “go” signal.  Ol’ Lee just sorta stood there, looking out at the bushes. Somebody hollered, “Get ready, get set, go!” With that, the college hero took off like a scalded dog, just a knocking bean stalks down, and not looking to the right or left.  Ol’ Lee straightened back up, shook his head, grinned, and turned to the other fellows; “That boy sho can run, can’t he?” Mitchell got to the finish line, and looked back to see how bad he had beat Mr. Kirkham.  He couldn’t figure out what everybody was laughing about, but folks still laugh about that hot dog race through the soybeans patch.

Now, Lee had a right smart of kin folks, but Dorothy was a Glass, and there sho nuff were a bunch of them in the county. Jerry had about the two best looking cousins you ever did see in Kitty and Madge Glass. I was the lifeguard at the Linden pool several years, and when either one of those Glass sisters walked by it would not have done for somebody to start drowning for me to spot and save.

‘Course, my great buddy, Moose, was a Glass. Funny story about his daddy, Cuz. The Linden football team was headed out on a flatbed truck to play Orville one Friday night. Cuz had never been out of the county at that time. The truck crossed over the Alabama River, and Cuz, seeing the sign, waived, and said, “Bye, Bye, Alabama.”

Well, anyhow, Lee and Dorothy have both gone up yonder, and their house place up in Old Town don’t look the same atall, but the really great thing about visiting with each other like this every week is that we realize the Lord knew what He was about when He gave us that memory bank, and we were blessed to be around these parts and these folks … way back yonder in days gone bye.

— Tom Boggs is a columnist for the Demopolis Times and a native of Marengo County. His column,“Days Gone Bye,”  appears weekly.

(This column originally appeared in the Wednesday, September 4 issue of the Demopolis Times.)