And I thought I had a good memory!
I walked into the front office at Heritage High School Tuesday and was delighted to find one of my favorite people sitting there waiting for me. Colonel Wheeler Davidson, who served our country with distinction in the United States Army for 21 years, had come to visit, and he was bearing gifts - or a gift at least. It was a book about the indomitable spirit of the great Winston Churchill, speaking of which, the world could certainly use a Churchill right about now.
Wheeler and I taught school together, at Clarkston High, back in the early 1980s. We were the last bastions of conservatism on a staff that was so liberal that one member was president of the national atheist league and wasn't even the furthest to the left - but that's another story for another day.
A few years ago Wheeler bestowed upon me one of the highest honors a citizen of the Georgia Bulldog Nation can achieve when he invited me to become a part of the Oak Tree Tailgate Gang, of which he is the self-appointed, non-elected and can't be fired chairman.
So now you know who Wheeler is and why he came to see me at school. But as we stood and chatted, it dawned on Wheeler that Ronald Bradley is now a member of the Heritage faculty and Wheeler wondered aloud where he might find Coach Bradley.
It seems that Wheeler had once served as a camp councilor at Camp Glisson, near Dahlonega, and Ronald Bradley had been one of his charges. We're talking ancient history here, y'all, because all this occurred at the end of Wheeler's senior year in high school and at the end of Coach Bradley's eighth-grade year. I don't know a lot, but I know that it has been a long time since Ronald Bradley was in the eighth grade.
So here's the deal. As we walked toward the gym, where I knew Coach would be, Wheeler explained to me that he hadn't actually seen him since that summer long ago, but had followed his career, first as an athlete at Avondale High School and later at the University of Georgia and finally as the most successful high school basketball coach in the history of this state - or world.
The colonel realized that the coach wouldn't remember him, but wanted to say hello anyway.
So, finally, here's the point. We found Coach Bradley and Wheeler introduced himself and Coach Bradley immediately said, "I remember you! You were my councilor at Camp Glisson. You were great! I've often wondered whatever happened to you!"
I will say again, "And I thought I had a good memory."
I just stood in the shadows and listened as these two great men, both of whom have impacted my own life in so many positive ways, stood and reminisced and I was really touched that each had made enough of an impression on the other to have outlasted time and space and distance, and I was reminded of admonishments my mother used to give me about how I should treat the people I encounter in life. The proof in my mother's prophesy was being played out before my very eyes.
Speaking of impressions and influence; I hope the people of Rockdale County are aware of how fortunate they are to have a resource like Ronald Bradley in their school system.
Coach Bradley was my coach, 40 years ago, and I have benefitted immeasurably from his tutelage. I quit telling people about the mania that was Newton County basketball years ago, because if you didn't live through it, you wouldn't believe it anyway. I have written about his records from time to time; the winning streaks, the championship teams, the impact he and his wife Jan have had on so many lives - including my own.
Coach has retired and resurfaced half-a-dozen times. I don't think his retirement will ever be permanent. At least I hope not. He has too much to offer. But this year he came to my school - Heritage High School - and quietly went about building a basketball team and molding lives.
The record? Try 19 wins against only 5 losses with one game left to play - and a sub-region championship already assured.
Not bad for eight months on the job. And the region tournament begins next week with a chance to advance to the state tournament and add a few more wins to an already gaudy record.
But the record is not the main thing. The influence is. When the games are over and the scores forgotten, the positive lessons his players have learned will still be with them, for a long, long time.
What a great day I had Tuesday! What a rare opportunity to be surrounded by greatness. Wheeler Davidson. Ronald Bradley. Winston Churchill. That's a pretty strong lineup.
And in case you are wondering - that last regular season game is at Alcovy High School, Friday night. Look for me if you come. I will be the good looking guy with catfish crumbs on his red shirt.
Darrell Huckaby is a local author and educator. He can be reached at dHuck08@bellsouth.net.