The late bloomer

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My father was known as a late bloomer. After his twin sister was born and the midwife was about to leave, Grandma let out a muffled yell. The midwife scrambled to her side and said, “Looks like there is another one coming!”

My daddy was so small that he was put in a shoe box and put into the warming drawer in the bottom of the wood cook stove. It was the perfect incubator for a 3-pound baby boy.

His twin sister was a role-pokey, little girl. She took her first steps at eight months and never looked back. While little Reynolds looked on, his twin sister, Ruenette, blossomed into a very active child.

Daddy’s brothers and sisters were in the back field picking cotton when the news reached their ears: little Reynolds had taken his first steps.

He was 2-years-old and the family had accepted the fact that he never would walk, but he had surprised them all.

After taking those first steps, he couldn’t be stopped. He was a speed demon on his tricycle and often tumbled head-first off the steep front porch while his daddy admonished him to slow down.

At 13-years-old, he became deeply invested in high school basketball. His daddy installed a makeshift basketball goal over the barn door, and he practiced daily for hours at a time.

While his brothers grew into strong, robust 6-footers and hefty 200-pounders, scrappy little Reynolds remained small in stature. Although he was the runt of the litter, he had the biggest heart and greatest determination to rise above his modest expectations at birth.

Daddy often told me that he probably would have never graduated from school if he hadn’t loved basketball so much. Back then, many young farm boys finished school at the end of the 11th grade, but Daddy loved the game of basketball so much that he stayed on for another year.

He became captain of his team and the pretty girls flocked to his side, which was an added bonus. Although he looked like a midget among those tall specimens of manhood, Daddy held his own with sparks of quickness and agility. He seemed to go through his opponents’ long legs as he headed to the basket for an uncontested lay-up.

At the time of his high school days, Garfield High School didn’t have an indoor court, so the girls basketball team played in their short bloomer outfits while the boys played in baggy shorts on an outdoor court, rain or shine.

After dad finished high school, his basketball shoes came off and his dancing shoes were put on. His interest turned to Saturday night frolics with stringed instruments and thundering drums that vibrated throughout the night.

His many partners included Sallie Belle Samples, Maybell Moxley, Bertha Bailey, and many others. His love of music and dancing also got him involved with calling sets for the weekly square dances.

To borrow a phrase from the late humorist Will Rogers, “I never met a man I didn’t like,” also referred to my dad’s motto of, “Never meeting a woman he didn’t like.”

Dad was a late bloomer but when he went “full-steam ahead,” he couldn’t be stopped. He didn’t get married until he was 30, and he had his last child at age 60. The grandchildren and great-grandchildren kept coming, which definitely carries a message, “It is better late than never.”

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