The Legend of Birdie Franklin

—The Legend Of Birdie Franklin—

There is always one guy in High School who can do anything he sets his mind to.
For us, that was “Birdie Franklin.”

Birdie was about five years older than me and was Tony’s friend, making him my friend.
Since Tony let me hang out with him, his friends were my friends. Even if they didn’t want to be…

“Birdie” was the most athletic person in school. (In my mind, at least.)
He was one of Tony’s best friends and even moved to Virginia with us for a while and was like a brother to me.

In school, Birdie could do it all.
Baseball, Basketball, Football; Birdie could play it all.
Heck, I once saw Birdie hit a tennis ball over seven apartment buildings with a tennis racket.
In his defense, he told the guys that he wanted to play baseball that day and not tennis…

And tough! Whew, Tough. Birdie was the toughest guy I knew.

We used to own one pair of boxing gloves. Yes, one pair.
So, when we wanted to box each other, which boys do when growing up, each boxer could only use one glove. So, then, we would put our other arm behind our back.
It was a sight to watch us box one another.
When Birdie swung and made contact, the match was over.
I was glad he was my, I mean, Tony’s, friend.

I remember having a pillow fight in the basement with Birdie one day.
We lived in Virginia then, and I accidentally took a cheap shot and hit Birdie pretty good with my pillow. Yes, it was accidental. It happens.
We had a rule, though—no cheap shots.
Birdie screamed, “Stand up and take your lick’ ‘Lynn.'”

See, if you took a cheap shot, you had to stand there and let the other fella’ take a free shot back at you. …And it was my turn to stand there and take whatever Birdie could dish out.
I remember I closed my eyes, which I don’t recommend.

I also remember it was a Thursday afternoon when he took his free shot at me. Wednesday, when I finally woke up, my head was still hurting. Good times.
I don’t think I ever took a cheap shot at Birdie ever again.

When Birdie lived with us in Virginia, he and Tony were already out of High School and over 21 years old.
Tony and Birdie did everything together. From Golfing to Snow Skiing to Clubbing. They did everything together. Mostly, though, they chased the ladies at the clubs.

I do remember one time that I had to go back to ‘Bama for some doctor appointments. Of course, when you’re born with a disability, you keep your doctors. I know many people who travel from out of state to see the doctors at UAB, and I traveled from Virginia to Alabama to keep seeing my doctors.

I was to take the Amtrak train, and Birdie said he would ride with me on the train.
See, mom didn’t feel so scared letting me get on a train if Birdie went with me.

We lived in Harrisonburg, Virginia and the Amtrak left out of Charlottesville, Virginia.
The train trip to Birmingham, Alabama, was over two days.
The train first went to Atlanta, and then you changed trains in Atlanta to get to Birmingham. —You probably thought that you only had to change in Atlanta when flying on an airliner… Nope… Everybody has to change in Atlanta…Everybody…

I was excited to be riding the rails with ol’ Birdie. I looked up to him.
“Tough Guy ‘Birdie'” I used to think of him as.

The train trip was excellent. If you haven’t seen the countryside from a train, I implore you to do so. Beautiful. Beau-Ti-Ful…

We played cards—five Card Draw and maybe even Rummy.
We ate in the dining car and passed the time looking out the windows.

The most memorable part for me was when the train pulled into the Birmingham Station.
We pulled right next to “The Ringling Brothers And Barnum And Bailey Circus” train. Yep. I didn’t know they had their own train until that moment.

Clowns were waving at us. Animals were in the animal’s car.
Some of the Clowns would even perform tricks while we watched from our train car.

I remember it like it was yesterday.

Ol’ Birdie sat next to me and sorta said to himself, but I could hear it, “awe, the circus… the circus is in town…”

“Look at that one over there,” Birdie said as he pointed to one of the clowns.

“Hey, look at that one.”

“I guess they’re gonna be in Birmingham at the BJCC,” Birdie said kinda to himself.

I couldn’t believe what I was seeing… Birdie was…, well…, like a kid.
I just watched as Birdie went from being “Tough Guy ‘Birdie'” to just “Birdie,” the “Kid” at Heart.

Then, I’ll never forget what ol’ Birdie said next as he watched one of the clowns juggling, “…I wonder if they sell beer at the circus…”

Birdie grew up to have a big family.
All of his kids look just like him.

I saw him not too long ago, and he still looks the same; Only Birdie could grow old, have a big family, and still, look the same.

I often think about the good times’ ol’ Birdie, Tony, and I had together growing up.
I think about them and smile.

Birdie is still a tough guy.
He spends a lot of time working out at the gym.

I know, though, that he is a kid at heart.

I love you “Birdie.”

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