- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
- TAMPA BAY buccaneersENEMY lines WHAT A RIVAL COACH SAYSJune 28, 2012
- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
Bill and Dovie had eight children together, Jackie being the last. Dovie was 39 when he was born. She liked Duncan, and her instinct was to stay there and nest. Bill's instinct was to go to where the work was, to get out of the dust and into the sunshine. All the other kids either left with him or had staked out on their own. Only baby Jackie stayed behind with his mother.
After the divorce Dovie found work at JC Penney, and Jackie sold newspapers in downtown Duncan. Not yet five years old, he would sneak out late at night and return with ink staining his fingers, the sun just coming up. When he was a little older, he stacked pins at the bowling alley and mowed lawns. Even then he was particular about his clothes. He wouldn't wear just anything—not jeans, for example, unless he had hay to stack in the fields. When it rained, he took his shoes off, tucked them under his shirt and walked home barefoot. He had worked hard to pay for those shoes, and he didn't want to ruin the leather.
"I think my father would've loved to have known Jackie," his sister Geraldine Martin says. "He was a real fine man, but my mother wouldn't let him in Jackie's life. I suppose Jackie was her last grasp at our family. All her other children...well, they'd gone off with their daddy, having chosen him over her."
Jackie was nine when his mother decided to enroll in nursing school in Oklahoma City. They moved there together, but Jackie wasn't happy. One day he told her he was going back to Duncan. She said fine, and he got on a bus and went. It was midsummer. He returned to their old house and discovered that it had no electricity. He ended up spending nearly a month there by himself, the little man alone in the collection of dark rooms. He took meals at a friend's place or at Geraldine's.
Finally Dovie moved back. When she said she intended to remarry, Jackie, only 13, called his brother John in Biloxi, Miss. "I can't take it here anymore," he said. "I'm quitting school."
"You are not," John told him.
It took some doing, but John got Jackie to calm down. He told Jackie to finish out the school year in Duncan, then to call him back; they would discuss Jackie's future then. John was 18 years older, a war vet, a father of two sons and a daughter. He ran a farm with 5,000 laying hens. Klaredale Egg Factory, he called the enterprise. Six weeks after he persuaded Jackie to stay in school, the phone rang again.
"Where are you?" John said. Jackie sounded close.
"Here in Biloxi. At the bus station. Come and get me."
Later that summer Jackie went out for football at Biloxi High. During two-a-days he fed the chickens before reporting to practice in the morning. After practice he spread more feed and graded the eggs. As soon as the afternoon practice was over, he rushed home and helped package eggs for shipping. There were always a thousand chores, never enough rest. Some days all he did was shovel chicken droppings. He never complained about it, though. After his life in Duncan the toil and regimen seemed to suit him.