"A perfect day for cruising," he said.
Bay-be I'ma need you...
On such days, he said, he put the top down, and his baseball cap on and, with a kindred "cruiser" or two, went on missions of discovery. Often he took Route N south, down to the Missouri River where it bends in near Easley, 15 minutes out of Columbia.
"The river is beautiful there," he said. "I think it's the prettiest part of the state." Last year, he said, he took with him a former teammate who had been unable to get along with the coach, a player who "had always said what he thought," which didn't make for a lasting relationship. The player was transferring to a school in the East. They came to the river in a melancholy mood, with a fifth of Southern Comfort in a bag, "and we climbed the cliff overlooking the river. By the time we got up there we were so tired from the climb all we did was sit and drink and look at the river."
He said school was not so demanding that he couldn't find time for periodic flights to the river. The riverbank, in fact, was a congenial study hall—often he could get in three or four hours of uninterrupted reading there. "In the spring we take tents, and a few six-packs, and camp out. It'd be better if I had a Jeep—I'd love to have a Jeep. This thing takes a beating. Sometimes we take girls along. Sometimes we take shotguns and shoot. I've got a 12-gauge and a 20 my father left me. He and I used to go bird hunting. Quail, pheasant. I haven't been for a while."
It don't matta to me, if you take up with someone who's bettah than me...
He turned the Mustang into College Avenue and passed a panel truck, whipping the car out and in again with two fingers.
"I really miss my dad. I don't guess I'm over it. He was always so active. We used to go for walks, and talk. He would talk and I'd listen. I didn't realize how much sense he made until I was 16 or so. We were really close after that. He was only 59 when he died. Young."
He said his mother came to all the games, and when they were on the road she sat by the radio exerting influence with her rosary beads. "When Dad died, she was very strong about me staying in school. She's a great person. I owe her a lot. I don't know if I'll get to play in the pros, but if I could make some money I'd do it. It used to be a guy 6' 6" was an off-size, too big for guard, too small for forward, but now there's plenty my size playing pro. Swing men. And I'm white. They could use a few whites. It may be my biggest asset."
College Avenue skirts the eastern perimeter of the Missouri campus. Kennedy made a left on University, the bisecting artery, and slowed for the mid-morning traffic. He said playing for Missouri was something he wanted to do, not something he was charmed into. He had seen Norman Stewart, the Missouri coach, only once before he got to Columbia, "when he visited my parents."