SO WE DECIDED TO GO DOWN TO TRY AND GET AUTOGRAPHS

Even from high in the bleachers

he looked mammoth.

Broad shoulders and legs
strong, churning, crushing.
Eight years old
and I was hanging close to my Dad’s knee.
I knew the name. Cookie Gilchrist.
Before I knew all my prayers. Cookie Gilchrist.

Cookie ran for the Buffalo Bills
on this cold afternoon November of 64.
I sat riveted, watching my idol
steamroll over opposing linemen,
linebackers and the odd zebra or two.
Dad laughed as it was
“Cookie this”, and “Cookie that”
He knew a boy needed his heroes.

The Bills could have won without him,
but Gilchrist made it special.
“Thanks Dad” I remember saying,
“He’s my hero”
Dad smiled a smile
that continues to warm me to this day.
We grabbed our gear and headed out.

“This way, Sonny” he instructed.
And I followed in obedience.
Ramp, after tunnel, after stair
to a ramp. We found ourselves
in the lowest point in the “Rockpile”.
A swarm of screaming kids blocked the way.
Standing above the throng…
Cookie Gilchrist.

Dad leaned in and whispered to me
and I nodded in compliance.
In my loud eight year old voice
I called, “Mr. Gilchrist?”
He stopped. And glancing our way, he smiled.
Cookie pressed past the crowd
to the place where my father and I stood.

This mountain of a man
reached for my program.
He smiled even more broadly
and he plied his signature
onto the glossy crisp page.
In awe I stammered,
“Thank you very much, Mr. Gilchrist!

One last smile graced his face.
“No son, thank you!”
I came to understand
his gratitude as the years passed.
For in a simple gesture,
my father taught me a great lesson.
I learned respect.

I had the opportunity to thank my father
before he had died.
“No Sonny, thank you!” he said.
With that the lesson was completed.
A boy has to have his hero.

Carlton “Cookie” Gilchrist died today from a recurrence of Cancer. He was 75.

Walt

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5 thoughts on “SO WE DECIDED TO GO DOWN TO TRY AND GET AUTOGRAPHS

  1. Your dad knew what he was doing, Walt, in pointing you to heroes. Mr. Gilchrist was obviously a man who understood some important lessons in life. I'm sorry you lost a hero today. This is a wonderful tribute. RIP, Mr. Gilchrist.

  2. WONDERFUL, wonderful poem! Thank you for sharing these memories of yours, and tying it in so neatly. I love this one. You all should get a favorites button one here, so we can put all our favorite poems in one spot and read them all at once. 😀

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