In Memoriam

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In 1992 a catchy Gatorade commercial convinced me along with millions of others that we very much wanted to "be like Mike." Thirty years earlier, in the noisy hallways of Ragsdale High School, it was more accurate to say that I wanted to "be like Caldwell."

His "senior statistics" in our yearbook ran on for almost a dozen lines, including incredibly diverse accomplishments like school bus driver, drum major (we only had one: it was Caldwell), class officer (we only had one senior class president: it was Caldwell) jv basketball (we only had one really bad player: it was Caldwell), catcher and head cheerleader for our undefeated baseball team, junior marshal (one of only six guys), and safety patrol. Okay, I didn't know we had a safety patrol, and with Caldwell's presence I don't know if they were for safety or against it! But I do know that at a time when I was wondering if I could find a date for Saturday night, Caldwell was touring the East Coast with The Invictas, enjoying the music that was so much a part of his life...and that didn't even get a mention in his "statistics"!

His biography after Ragsdale was even more mind boggling--full of great musicians, service to country, movie stars, loyalty to Ragsdale and the friends he made there-- and even presidents...stuff that you would have thought would simply be "make believe"--until you remembered that it was Caldwell we were talking about.

There was never anything "quiet" about him, and he loudly and joyfully got away with saying things that none of the rest of us had the nerve to even try! I still remember the ridiculous story he told one unsuspecting teacher about a school bus incident involving himself and his imaginary little brother Jack that left all the guys trying not to laugh and all the girls trying not to blush. And even now I remember his wonderful zinger when he announced to the school the news about Mrs. Gandy's pregnancy and then added that for additional information everyone should contact me....

I even remember all those horrible throws to second base he made between innings--and all the perfect ones he made when it really mattered. I remember him being a true leader at a time when most of us were just followers in training...and I remember laughing when I saw that he had signed my yearbook "best wishes and rots of ruck."

More than a hundred years before our senior year a famous writer had said that the "mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation." It's too bad Thoreau didn't live long enough to meet Caldwell. But it is absolutely terrific that all of us did.

Al Munns