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One day Barber yelled for help on the practice tee. Crenshaw said, "Darn, X, you're swinging too fast." Barber shook his head and said, "Now I'm gonna play a little game. I'm gonna act like I'm a big cat and that ball there is a little ol' bird. And I'm gonna sneak up on that bird and whop off his head with my club." Sure enough, the other players started asking Barber: "Whop that little bird today, X?"
On a stop in Japan, Barber, the veteran world traveler, smugly assigned himself the role of interpreter. After all, he had been in the Air Force. X used sign language. At dinner he sometimes wound up with an entree of ice cream and iced tea—mixed together. "Will you look at this?" Barber would say. "Will you look at this?"
There have been several chapters in Barber's life, and the cement that holds him together is his marriage to Karen, who, in 1970, was a 26-year-old Houston divorcee. She brought along with her three small sons, Casey, Doug and Brad, now 22, 20 and 18, respectively. One night on the telephone, after they had been dating for some time, Barber said to Karen out of the blue, "We need to get married."
"Why, we don't have to do that," she said, surprised. Barber wasn't proposing as much as he was changing identities.
"Let's do it," he said. The day after the ceremony, he left for the Western Open.
Two more sons—Larry, now 12, and Richard, who's 10 and a fast talker, like Dad—subsequently joined the family. Five boys, plus X. What a load! Karen, like Susie Mae and Kitty, is a strong woman. She handled it all right. When X is out on the tour, she keeps the home fires burning.
The family settled in Sherman, a town 60 miles north of Dallas, named after Colonel Sidney Sherman, who's credited with hollering "Remember the Alamo!" To Barber, the other big thing Sherman has going for it is that it isn't too far from Texarkana. Plus, he has a bunch of friends there from his days in the service. Blip! Just like that—blip!—he bought a house there.
The Barbers live in a quiet neighborhood dotted with backyard basketball goals. They have two of them, including a short one so the smaller kids can slam-dunk. Two of the older boys, Casey and Doug, have moved out, but Brad, Larry and Richard keep things hopping. Two seconds after Richard has been introduced to a stranger, he asks him, "Want to see me hit a golf ball out of the creek?" The kids all love X, but they give him the needle. They call him "Mildred," a nickname he picked up in college.
"Daddy, what'd you shoot today?" Richard asks his dad after a nine-hole practice round.
Barber sort of swells with a touch of pride. "I shot two under," he says.