"The plane's not at all crowded. Suppose I take you back into the tourist section. I can take out the seat dividers and you can stretch out across three seats. I'll get you some blankets and pillows. It will be almost like a berth."
Sam looked at her and managed a wan smile. "Well," he said, "ain't you a nice little girl." He padded after her as she led the way to the tourist section.
Copilot Rhodes came back from the flight deck and sat down again. After a bit, the stewardess came back. She looked vaguely troubled.
"That poor Mr. Snead," she said. "He must be awfully tired. He keeps talking about snakes."
Copilot Rhodes looked at me in alarm. "Is Snead a hard-drinking man?"
I had to laugh out loud. "No, no, no," I said. "He drinks very little. What he was saying was that some day he's going to take things so easy he won't even take a lick at a snake."
"Yes," said the stewardess, "that's what he said."
I explained what that meant in the mountain country of Virginia and West Virginia, and both the stewardess and the copilot seemed greatly relieved.
But Sam never did get to sleep. He tossed and turned all the way to Los Angeles and he moaned and groaned all during the long ride from the airport to the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel. When we checked in, I calculated that Sam had been up close to 24 hours (not counting the sleep he lost at the Logan Motel in Boston) and had flown about 2,700 miles on three airlines and had played 15 holes of his match with Arnold Palmer. He might have spared himself a little by using a golf cart, but Sam won't ever use a cart during an exhibition. "Wouldn't look right," he says, "for me to be ridin' while people who paid $5 to watch are walkin'."
As I watched the bellboy, loaded down with Sam's luggage and his golf bag, lead him away, the horrible thought struck me that perhaps, at last, this was the end of the trail for Ol' Slammin' Sam. He was due to face the cameras at the Lakeside Golf Club in a few hours, and remembering the hectic pace of the past 24, I just didn't see how he could possibly make it. I didn't know Sam.