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Stuck for 800 words to fill his column one day in mid-July, Hank Schoolfield, sports editor of the Winston-Salem Journal, spun out a semi-plausible tale that he had heard at a banquet. As Schoolfield got it, a pastel Cadillac drove up to a North Carolina lake one simmery afternoon, then backed down to the water. Hitched behind the car was a chrome-crusted speedboat, and hitched behind the boat was an outsized outboard. When the boat was launched her two-man crew unlimbered a fat coil of rope and a pair of water skis. One man put on the skis, snugged one end of the rope around his forearm, and struck a statuesque pose at water's edge. His companion vaulted into the boat, made the free end of the rope fast to the stern and started the engine. "Is you ready, Ski King?" he sang out. "Let 'er go, Daddy-O!" responded the skier, his voice heavy with nonchalance.
The someone who told someone who told Schoolfield didn't recollect if the runabout was making 20 or 30 knots when the rope at Ski King's feet was fully paid out. He did remember that, as the rope twanged taut, Ski King's skis remained more or less fixed in their tracks while Ski King himself departed the edging sands and described a glorious parabola in the air. He remained aloft for about 50 feet, then sluiced headlong into the lake. Daddy-O, meanwhile, his thoughts fully absorbed in the shriek of his engine, looked straight ahead as Ski King alternately dipped and rose and sailed along behind, not at all unlike a porpoise following an ocean liner. When, at length, Daddy-O got the drift and eased off, Ski King was gorged with lake water and his forearm was bent.
Legends usually live after men, not with them, but in the days after Editor Schoolfield's column appeared the story was widely reprinted in the Southeast. On top of that, by mid-August, Ski King and Daddy-O were turning up in local versions all over the country. Golfer Mike Souchak, returning to his home in Chapel Hill after the summer's tour, said that he had the story from Bing Crosby, and that Crosby had seen it happen on California's Lake Tahoe. Another version emphatically located the scene at Lake of the Ozarks.
Now, Daddy-O and Ski King (he's Ski Cat in Cleveland) have got the only real tribute men or legends can know these days: their names have been immortalized at least temporarily in a pop recording. Erson Calvin Beatty, a part-time hillbilly composer and singer, has cleared his throat, Tennessee-Ernie-Ford fashion, and has told Ski King's story to a repetitive, practically tuneless rhythm accompanied in lyrics like these:
Daddy-O opened that throttle wide,
Poor Ski King was aflyin' low,
Daddy-O was adrivin' that boat,
So far in Detroit, Nashville, Boston, Minneapolis, Chicago and Atlanta, the recording has sold 65,000 copies, undoubtedly because of its resemblance to the local story making the rounds and sworn to. "Why," said Orville Campbell, president of Chapel Hill's Colonial Records, which made the recording, "after the record was out I got a long distance call from somewhere. The fellow said he had a $25 bet on that the story was true, so was it?" Businessman Campbell did not know and did not really care.
Competition in Texas
Texas now has a population of 8,000,000, all believers in rugged competition. Nothing is, therefore, more natural than that Dallas and Houston should now be bidding not for just one professional football team apiece but two.