LaGrange book sure wouldn’t fit in a tea shop

Published 7:18 pm Friday, May 18, 2018

few years ago, a publisher from South Carolina stumbled across our column and asked us to write a book about LaGrange and her heroes.

I immediately started putting the book together. I knew I had a book in me, and I couldn’t wait to write it. After all, LaGrange is a quaint little Southern town with a classic downtown square, Mr. LaFayette’s standing tall there by the colorful fountain. Why, it is such a sweet little place you could see her book lying on a table at your nearest tea shop right across from the statue.

I was very excited as I put pen to paper, but then something hit me: What if some elegant Southern belle opened the book and started to read over lunch. She’d turn red real fast, give a stern look to the proprietor, grab her parasol, and storm out of the tea shop with her lunch hardly touched.

You see, as much as I hate to say it, most of the LaGrange heroes I know fall a bit shy of “tea shop” material.

We had started with a story or two about the notorious Coca-Cola Mike. He has been “wrote up” regularly here since we started reporting tales here 20 years ago. I have been diligent in making sure I tell the true version of a particular story, not his. In fact, just recently he called and told me that he and the folks at church saw one of my former girlfriends at Jim Bob’s while they were eating out one night after church.

“She looked pretty good,” he said, then added with a chuckle, “I guess she kind of lucked out.”

With sly remarks like that, I can’t see how we could write “tea-shop” material about Coca-Cola in our book. You understand. So, right off the bat, the project was taking a bad turn.

But there was still hope for the book. After all, we could just leave the Coca-Cola sections out. Besides, who would want to read any vicious rumors that shed a bad light on the romantic life of such a nice guy?

So, we moved on. I knew those boys down at the Y would make for some good reading, so I turned to them. Everybody knows how upstanding fellas such as Ken Carter, Bubba Hill, and Sonny Cosper are. Why, they are vintage LaGrange, all of ‘em. It would be quite a story to tell you how all of those fellas could shoot from so deep in the gym that they had to knock a wall out of the gym to give them more room. They all were Steph Curry before Steph Curry ever put on a diaper.

But as soon as I wrote that, I realized that nobody would believe that and would just call it historical fiction or something. Jumping from a lack of romance to a lack to true facts might put the author’s credibility in question. You know good and well Steve Sauter would sit over on the sideline after losing 10 games in a row, read the book, then tell the world: “Nah, nobody ever knocked out a wall. That didn’t happen. Bowen made that up. They did have to pry open the back door one day to give Bubba more room, and he knocked down a shot just this side of the monkey bars; but nobody knocked out a wall. Nah, never happened.”

So, I shook my head again, regretful that the truth there still might compromise our credibility. And if there’s anything we can’t afford to lose any more of, it’s credibility.

Then it hit me: We could just double-down on our Doocy stories. We have plenty of material on him, because he’s one of the stars in our one and only novel that we wrote 30 years ago and that still sits up on the top shelf of my book case. I’m sure everybody knows that our stories about the character with the webbed hand, missing teeth, and attitude problem are true. Nobody could make up such outlandish stories.

Yes, it might be a little rough in places, and it certainly wouldn’t be a book mom or dad could read to little Sally at night. She’d surely have nightmares all night when she read about the man who scared me to death when I first met him. When he found out I was Squatlow’s brother, he threw his head back, opened his toothless mouth wide, and laughed a laugh that only comes out of a movie. No, we couldn’t tell those stories for children to read.

But Doocy did soften as it got later in the day and the hot Georgia sun started going down. That is when he would open shop and start offering free romantic advice, which – you may remember – we desperately needed back in the summer of 1973. But I knew we couldn’t tell those stories, either. Any story about that summer would have to include 6’ 2” Brian Light running this particular girl’s big, country “former” boyfriend off the job when he came out looking for me at lunchtime, or – worse yet – the sad end to the lack of romance of 1973.

No, that just wouldn’t do.

The bottom line is that it really is all a shame. You and I could have a very nice, lovely book about our beautiful city sitting right here on the coffee table as we write. We “could,” if not for all the LaGrange fellas we’ve mentioned here, along with a couple of the misinformed, heart-breaking girls we’ve referenced.

But, please, be patient: Give me about another 30 or 40 years to rehabilitate these LaGrange heroes. Then you’re bound to see our little LaGrange book lying elegantly on a table in your nearest tea shop.