Growing up in southwest Georgia, I had the fortune of being friends with a closeknit bunch of guys all about my same age. At any given time, I may have referred to any one of six or seven boys as my best friend. Each held a different part in my social hierarchy, but no one was more important to me than the other.
One of those friends was Cal Prescott. I spent more time at his home my 11th- and 12th-grade years than I did my own. His family was my family. Mr. Louis, his father, the Gray Fox, was like a second father to me. He had a shock of white hair and loved to tease me. Ms. Ruth treated me as her own. Agnes Harvey worked there raising all those kids and was part of their family. Soon, I was part of her family.
Cal had an older brother, Russ, who picked on us and an even older brother, Kenny, who had already moved away, farming with a family of his own. But he always came over at lunch on Saturday to eat with the family. Picci was the only sister, and she was always meddling in all our affairs. We played ball together and chased women together and hunted together.
Cal had one blue eye and one brown eye, so Ricky Carlson bet him a hundred dollars he would be “retarded” before he turned 21. Why this would be so, no one knew, but it seemed possible, so we all said we’d wait and see. Never mind Carlson could not have drummed up $100 if he stole his Dad’s truck and sold it. The bet was on. It was especially intriguing because Cal was STAR student and got straight A’s. I would never find the answer to the bet.
It has been 40 years or more since the bet. I now have a 15-year-old Hurricane Boy, more man than boy, but still just the same, a boy. Last week he brought home an award plaque. I don’t usually spend too much time bragging on awards my kids get but this one was different. He was given the award by his school for the athlete who has an overall A average, plays at least two sports and had the highest SAT score of any athlete. He won it as a freshman. Quite an accomplishment. The name of the award is the Cal Prescott award.
Flash back to around 1980. I was attending Auburn University. Cal was going to Georgia, but taking part in a work study program with the FDIC and coming to Columbus. He called me on Thursday morning and asked me to come to Columbus that night, we’d go out on the town and then ride home together the next morning. I said I’d meet him. I planned on doing just that, but my last class announced a test the next day, so I called his motel and left a message at the desk I could not come but I would see him in Dawson the next day. I was wrong. He was killed the next morning in a car crash just outside of Parrott.
I held the small wooden plaque, the gold-printed Cal Prescott Award, in my hands, traced the name with my fingers, and thought about how life had come full circle. I hope somewhere above he smiled when he saw that my boy received it. He could have won the medal of honor and I would not have been more pleased. I clutched the little plaque and walked to a private place reserved only just for me. And I cried.