It was the summer of 1980, and I was lying on the couch, enjoying the air conditioning, and reading The Drunken Boat; when three loud knocks shocked me out of my aesthetic reverie. It was the knock knock knock of authority, and it rattled the old mobile home from floor to ceiling. I quickly scanned the room for any drug paraphernalia, and satisfied that everything was cool, – I went to answer the door fully expecting the cops.
It wouldn’t be unusual for the constabulary to be knocking on our door. The trailer park we lived in, wasn’t one of nicer ones around. Most of the mobile homes were from the 50s and 60s, – they even allowed RVs and converted school buses there. We were college students, but most of our neighbors effortlessly lived up to the epithet : “white trash”.
But when I opened the door, there stood my childhood hero, Dan Gable. Two time Olympic Gold Medal Winner, and now Head Coach of The University of Iowa Wrestling Team. Dan Gable.
Drenched in sweat, wearing a tee shirt, gym trunks, and running shoes; he stood there with his chest heaving up and down, but not breathing hard. I craned my head out the door to see if there was a car parked in our spot, but there was none.
“Did you run out here”?
I stepped back, to let him in out of the heat.
He stood there dripping sweat in our living room, taking in the decor; which was a cross between cowboy bunkhouse and opium den. I was still high from the bong hits I’d had before breakfast, – but I managed to answer.
“Garvin went to Texas to work construction” …
…”got a job building bridges, – said it would be a good work out, and he’d be making a lot of money.”
“What are you doing”?
“Saying cool, and reading poetry”.
“Is that for a class”?
He nodded his head, and let out a heavy sigh.
“You gotta a pen and a piece of paper”?
I pointed to the pocket notebook and the tin can full of pens next to the phone in the kitchen.
Craig Garvin was one of the toughest guys I knew. A lot of young nimrods have that one one friend they’ve nicknamed “Tazz” – (short for Tasmanian Devil). Well, we didn’t call Garv that, but I have to say he resembled the Looney Tunes character in appearance, and in his ability to destroy anything that stood in his way . We had worked a railroad deconstruction job the summer before; Me, Garv, and Greg Glidwell. Every day of that job, new guys would join our little crew, but none of them made it past lunch. It was torturous, hard work, but we made swinging sledge hammers 8 to 10 hours a day fun …
… Garvin must have gotten a “walk on” spot on the wrestling team, and not told anyone.
Dan Gable scratched something on the note pad, then ripped the page out, crumpled it up, and threw it in the trash. He took another long look around the living room, and then dashed off a few words on the note pad, nodded his head, ripped the note out, and handed it me.
“There, – give that to Craig Garvin the next time you see him” – and he left.
I looked down, and read the note:
He ain’t got a spare,
and he ain’t got a jack.
Garv don’t care about nothin’
and he ain’t comin’ back!
It was signed, Coach Dan Gable
Probably not one of the highlight’s in his life, but even though I haven’t seen him in over 35 years; I’m sure Craig Garvin is doing fine.
As far as Dan Gable? He’s retired, and possibly spends his days fishing or writing poetry.