Joe Herron my GA Roomate Died on a Motorbike Had a Scholarship Auburn University
Joe was a 6′ 3″ tight end from Caterville GA High School. He could catch footballs, run fast, block big people and dunk a basketball off the dribble. Joe was more like the other half, of half way between hell and a college scholarship.
Well he didn’t really die, not then, at the exact moment I got the phone call about Joe being in an accident. Come quick and stuff. I hate accidents. Understanding the english word “accident” proved elusive in high-definition. What Happened? What?
Joe had no automobile and couldn’t tie a tie. At TMI we had to turn in our car keys and wear a tie and blazer Monday through Wednesday’s. There were only about 10 cars in the parking lot out of 50 some odd souls. Coach Dupes took my keys every Monday and for some reason I was good with that. Come to find out Coach had good reason. This was a high-strung and dangerous crew cooped up in a military barracks. We wanted to be free and wild.
When the carnival came to town all of us went to see the lights and tempt fate. Many of us played the carnival games of chance: Ball and Bucket Toss, Balloon And Dart, Basketball, Big Six wheel, Bingo, Birthday, Bottle Stand and Bulldozer. The carnies would offer double or nothing when we lost which many of us did. I lost over $100.00 in one of those carny games of chance. When it was all over about 10 of us had lost over 1500 hundred with one guy out 400.00 plus. We were sure we could beat the odds and win.
Coach Dupes got wind of the our exploits and rode over to see these guys and banned us from going back to the temporary playground. I don’t remember if he got any of our monies back, but it was a decent thing for a coach to do. Most coaches would chew us out for being stupid. Coach Dupes knew where we came from and cared about our happiness.
The group was motley to say the list. Schmitto showed up one day laughing so hard snot was burping from his nose. He had a cup filled with his poop and devious plan. Sweat Man was a short offensive guard who did a lot of eating, sweating , reading, writing and room cleaning. Schmitto was in route to sweat man’s refrigerator with cup in hand. Sweat man took a lot of ribbing and now the game was getting stinky. Schmitto had already left a tall trash can full of water leaning to tip when sweat man opened the door.
You think you’re a badass… right? Stop Schmitto from doing devious things.
Joe was a tight end who I lined up against all the time. I would think? None of our interactions other than the fun we had remain. People would come to see us all the time and we lived next to Jerry Butler and Frank Wright. Those two guys were a whole lot of fun. We played tonk and pitch grumbling about dressing up and running wind sprints. Coaches are obsessed with making practices tougher than the other coaches. The winning edge or something. More like the edge of existence here on earth.
About a month in coach “I forgot his name” came up to our second story, no ac, no nothing, no shit room. Frank was nowhere near passing the high school science class he needed to get into South Carolina. “Forgot his name, science teacher, coach of something” gave Joe and I the answers to Frank’s up and coming test. Said..
Look JoeBo, Do what you gotta do. Make Frank pass this test.
We Got This!
Frank is from South Carolina, he’s been turned off and could not give a rat’s ass. What are we gonna do now Joe? Tape the answers to his arm. Hell yeah! Tape the answers to his arm. Frank has all the answers on his arm and fails anyway.
There were a lot of college scouts that came to our ballgames. They were hoping to keep their big talent guy or cajole one of the commitment ball players to change schools. Maybe find a hidden talent? I have no idea what they are doing. Non are there for me.
App State talked to Joe so we switched backed between forest forever until we found the school. Man is this really far from Atlanta. We are dizzy on trees. A couple of folks showed us around and carried us out further into the woods where we drank beer and watched a fire burn.
Let’s get the …. otta here.
Giggle and we’re gone.
Oh man is this gonna hurt. Switch back over and back.
I dropped Joe off for the next to last time that weekend. He was in Catersville doing his thing and I was doing mine in Dalton. Joe called me on my parents home phone and he told me about how Auburn had offered him a full ride. I was so happy to hear such a big school would pick Joe up. Schmitto’s dad coached for Auburn and scouts had been by our practices and games. The Appalachian State folks were willing to offer me a scholarship if Joe would go along. Boy that didn’t work out for those guys and I’m so glad because Joe hit big. It was early summer 1981 and life was coming at us fast. Keep your head on a swivel they say in football.
I was working on my motorbike and mother said I had a call. She looked like something important. I got scared. I looked around as if I were afraid I was going to leave something here that I might need there. It was Coach Rex Dockery, head coach of Memphis State University and a friend of the late Bill Majors.
He was going to be coming through town or something, I can’t remember, and wanted to know if I could be there. Somehow a yes squeaked from my lips and the next thing I know he’s here. He talks strong, seems happy and told me a couple of stories about my dad and seeing me in papers or he had been checking on Bill’s boy. He offered me a grand prize of “of course I can’t offer you a scholarship, but you can WALK ON”. Then went into the small town mayor thing of how “I have potential, should not waste it and I have confidence in you”.
Another crummy Idea by a short red headed fire man this time.
At the time I didn’t recognize what was going on. Now I do. Coach Rex Dockery was blowing smoke up my butt. I fell for that shit hook n dagger.
“Bo…. There’s a call for you.” It’s Joe Herron’s mother or sister. Joe’s been in an accident. He was test driving a motorbike he wanted to buy when he let his friend, the girl, take him around a curve with a ditch on the outside. They tumbled and Joe’s weight killed the girl and broke Joe’s neck. He was 19 years old and alive in a coma. I don’t remember her name. I barely remember Joe’s. I didn’t go see him. Joe was in the hospital. It was close to reporting day. Joe never went to Auburn AL on a full ride.
Joe was dead to me that day. The Joe I ran with was a whimsical, optimistic, aggressive, slam dunk competitor, and best of all my friend for life. I didn’t wanna go see Joe all torn up. Joe is a corvette, a gazelle with soft hands and the heart of a scarecrow.
So after the Memphis Project, I went to see Joe. He was home, in state that could foster limited but real conversation. They used a system of alphabet lettered signals to speak live with Joe. They told me Joe was now 6 foot 5 and a half in his bed. Joe had grown 3 and a half inches lying in a bed about a year.
This ain’t Joe. Im scared and timid. We talk through with his folks about important memories that made Joe happy. It’s important to remember things after you’ve been sick. Finally we all agreed I should take Joe out in my 200sx and remember the life. Go see the Indian Mounds even. Me and Joe spent some hard days in those tight un air-conditioned dorm rooms. We made the best of the days we had in Sweetwater TN.
Nothing happened on our trip out to the Indian mounds that mattered. Joe was sure enough scattered and I was uncomfortable. We talked some shit we used to do and did a few. The haze did not sit well. Joe got all worked up. He’s big and now talks with less stealth in agitation. Where have you been with Joe? What’s wrong with him? What did you do? It’s Joe my best friend. It got really hot in there. I was only 18 going on bullet proof.
Where have ya’ll been? What took you so long. It’s dark! What have you and Joe been doing?
Joe talked like he knew me and could remembered this and that, but Joe didn’t remember anymore. He couldn’t walk on his own and his conversations were in repetition. It’s was a charade. I go see Joe and everything is better or closer to before. No it doesn’t work that way. Accidents are not good and most are avoidable.
Never again have a been back or heard a peep from JOE.
Joe Herron my Ga roommate Died on a Motorbike Had a Scholarship Auburn University