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"And friends, when you don't use homogenized fertilizer, when you let somebody talk you into picking up something cheaper, then some of your crops are drinkin' blue John....
"Hoo-eee," Jerry went on to tell the farmers, in reference to the co-op's ownership of shares in Mississippi Chemical, "aren't you glad you own the biggest and finest urea plant in the world?" Then he told them he was going to appear in Monroe and Shreveport, La. with country singing stars Tammy Wynette, George Jones and Freddie Hart. "And I sure do hope y'all'll come. And if you do, just get up and holler "Fertilizer!' and I'll know who you are."
As close as he stays to the fertilizer scene, however, he keeps in even better touch with sports. This is true even though he no longer takes active part in any sport at all, except for an occasional special coon hunt at the behest of somebody like Nelson Bunker Hunt, son of H.L. (referred to by Clower as "the old he-coon himself"). He doesn't play church softball even, and when somebody at the office tried to get him and the Mrs. to go camping, Homerline said, "The payments on this house are too high for me to go out and sleep on the riverbank."
"My wife wants me to take up golf," says Clower, "but I'm too much of a competitor. I'm afraid I'd grit my teeth and want to whup everybody."
"Jerry played golf once," says Don McGraw, a vice-president at Mississippi Chemical. "The first tee on the course we play is on top of a hill. He said he'd be afraid to hit a ball from there, he might hit it over the green and over the fence and over the highway and into the cement factory, about half a mile away.
"Well, we finally got him out there, and his tee shot hit the inside wall of the carport of the pro's house, which was 50 yards away. That's the last shot I've ever seen him take. He does play Ping-Pong once in a while. As I recall, he has quick hands, and they're big, and he hits the ball with his hands more than he does with the paddle."
Almost everybody at Mississippi Chemical can tell a good story, but Charles Jackson, one of the best, admits that nobody is in a class with Clower. "He puts all his energy into 'em. I can't mock that lynx or that chain saw the way he can. He's the most exuberant man I've ever seen."
Clower, in other words, tells stories as hard as he used to play tackle, and with considerably more recognition. "Every time Darrell Royal sees me," he notes proudly, "he says 'Jay-ree!' " Tommy Yearout of Auburn used to play the record of the John Eubanks story before a game to psych himself up. The Mississippi State secondary has been known to use phrases from that story as pass-coverage signals. Clower says that last season as he watched a Houston Astro game on TV he was startled to hear a fan yelling, "Knock 'im out, Johnnnn!" when Johnny Edwards came to bat.
But then Jerry knew a good many sports people before he became a recording artist. Among the athletes he knew in college are Alex Grammas and Joe Fortunato. In his travels he has dropped in on the Mississippi State athletic department faithfully enough that his friends include virtually everybody who has coached or played there in the last 10 years. And it was his longtime position as confidant and counselor to his town's high school athletes, not his show biz stature, that caused such a strong reaction when Yazoo City native Jerry Moses was catching for the Angels, and Clower showed up unannounced in the Anaheim stands before a game.
"Jerry was warming up a pitcher. As soon as he saw it was me, he throwed his catcher's mitt one way and the ball the other way, jumped up on the railing, grabbed me around the neck and started screaming. The pitcher looks lost. He is just standing there. He ain't got no ball, he ain't got no catcher."