I love B.C. Crowell.
Unashamedly and unabashedly, I love him. I don't call him or go see him like I should, but I love him nonetheless, and always will. I have said many times, publically and in private, that he was my first hero - and he still is my hero. He was the first person I ever knew who was larger than life and full of what some people call charisma.
B.C. Crowell was Mr. Porterdale, as far as I was concerned, when I was a child growing up on the mill village. He was different than every other man I knew - not to demean anyone else, understand. But B.C. was just different - more distinguished. He had more polish. He was outgoing and enthusiastic and worldly. He could have gone anywhere and done anything and he chose to return to his hometown of Porterdale and serve the people who helped raise him.
B.C. especially served the children of Porterdale. He was my first P.E. teacher and my first coach, but he was so much more. He was my friend and my mentor; my role model and a shining example of what a Porterdale boy could grow up to be. He was, and is, an inspiration to me - every day of my life.
And Tuesday night, while driving to some place in distant North Georgia to make my seventh speech in seven nights, I heard that B.C. was in "bad shape" at Rockdale Hospital. I am not certain of his exact status as I write this, but the person who told me about it used the word critical, and critical is not a good word to hear about a person you love and cherish and revere.
As I drove through the dark night, a continuous loop of images began to run through my mind. Images of B.C., sitting next to Julius Johnson in the old Porterdale gym, laughing and talking and teasing the linthead children gathered around him, waiting to play ball.
Images of B.C. red-faced and intense, dressed in purple and gold, coaching the P.J.H.S. Eagles to yet another Newton County junior high championship. B.C., whistle around his neck, leading calisthenics as he warmed up the Baby Ram football team for another practice session.
B.C., supervising the eighth-graders as they packed brightly colored Christmas boxes full of fruit and nuts and hard candy. B.C., immaculately dressed in a dark pin-striped suit, reading Luke's gospel story at the community Christmas tree, sounding like God himself would probably sound if God decided to read the story aloud.
B.C., winking at me as I walked into my Eagle Scout Board of Review. I was as nervous as any human has ever been. Just having B.C. in the room made everything right.
I continued to drive and my mind continued to wander; the film loop continued to play in my head. There was B.C., who had apparently bet on the Dodgers, even though he once competed with Yogi Berra for a job as the New York Yankees catcher, holding a transistor radio to his ear, jumping up and down with glee as he announced that Mickey Mantle had made an error in the World Series.
B.C., in a white linen jacket, telling me how a pigeon had spotted him among 60,000 fans at Georgia Tech's Grant Field and "decorated" his brand new sports coat.
B.C., in a red blazer, holding court at a tailgate party in Athens. B.C., awarding the trophies to the winners of the golf tournament that bore his name. B.C., meeting with me in his capacity as mayor, handing me a citation for some project I had completed - and making me feel like a million dollars in the process. B.C., meeting with me in his capacity as personnel director, giving me advice about interviewing for potential employment after college - and making me feel like I could conquer the world.
B.C., warmly welcoming me into his home - Eagle's Nest - and regaling me with stories about Bobby Jones and Garland Pinholster and his own days at Oglethorpe University.
B.C., standing beside me, clasping my shoulder, as my father's body was being lowered into its grave. B.C., sitting beside me in a car on the Yellow River bridge, my hand on his shoulder, tears flowing down both our cheeks, as the Porterdale gymnasium burned to the ground. B.C., holding court at the Newton County recreation center, telling me how proud he was of long-time recreation director Tommy Hailey, a Porterdale boy who done good.
B.C. with his family, laughing and smiling and loving life. B.C., at the alter of the Presbyterian Church, leading the congregation in the Lord's Prayer. All those images and many more flooded my mind as I drove through the night.
The last I heard, B.C.'s condition was "serious." I'm not sure what that means, but I am sure of one thing. I love B.C. Crowell, and if I might paraphrase Chicago Bears running back Gale Sayers from the movie "Brian's Song," I want you to love him, too. And tonight when you hit your knees, please ask God to love him - and his family.
Darrell Huckaby is a local author and educator. He can be reached at dHuck08@bellsouth.net.