Thursday, February 28, 2013

A Memory

I remember the first time that I interacted with a guy named Bill Harrison. He was a senior at Richardson High School and I was a Sophomore. I was walking between the buildings at lunch hour and for some reason my attention turned to a ground floor class of Seniors.  What happened next had nothing to do with the class going on, but was a defining moment.
At the time the seniors were selling candy to fund some activity. Although he was supposed to be studying,  the person I would come to know as a friend saw me looking in his direction.
The seniors seemed so much older and more mature than me and my class, and although it was a big school and I was the new kid who knew no one... I was somewhat aware of this guy.  He was nice looking clean cut, and extremely well spoken. He held the attention of everyone. even the teachers when he wanted to.  He didn't dominate a conversation nor was he "always on" he knew how to use his abilities of the spoken word appropriately and to me they seemed like gifts from the muse. Bill was the senior I wanted to be. 
As Bill saw me through the window in the courtyard he made some pantomime motions that got my attention.  He held up the box of candy and without a word spoken he proceeded to give me one of the greatest silent sales pitches I would ever experience.  Later that day between classes I bought that box of candy.
The next semester I ended up in a speech class with Bill.  That is when I got to see his  skills at work.  We all waited for Bill's speech, even Mrs. Gray the teacher.  I remember one of his stories about climbing a mountain in Mexico in search of a legendary giant green bird that was said to have swooped down from the sky to carry away the still beating heart of an Aztec human sacrifice.  I will never forget the level of detail in his story down to the "groove in the mountain a gentle flow of water had carved into the granite over the eons."
Toward the end of the year Mrs. Gray encouraged me to run for the Student Council. I was reluctant until Bill said he would be my campaign manager. The job of campaign manager was mainly the task of introducing the candidate to the student body in a quick speech. That is something that Bill could do in his sleep. It was a beautiful speech that I remember to this day.  It was the first time in the history of RHS that a Sophomore won a position on the student council.
There was no doubt that graduating senior Bill Harrison, my friend, hero and mentor, would accomplish great things. 
Bill went off to college and I didn't have much contact with him after that. Two years later when I was a senior I tried to believe that I was as mature and accomplished as my friend Bill. It didn't seem to ring true. The shoes were just too big for me to even try to walk in. I couldn't command the best table at the lunch room, or hold a class in rapped attention with a story.  That is when we got the news.
After visiting his girlfriend at the University of Oklahoma, they found Bill Harrison's car on the Oklahoma side of the Red River Bridge. First, there was hope that he had thumbed a ride with someone after running out of gas and was having another adventure.  But the car was full of gas and running fine. A day or so later they found his body down stream. 
He died from the fall off the high bridge. The officials ruled it a suicide, none of us who knew him thought that was right. There were rumors that Bill had told a guy at the girlfriends college to leave her alone.  His parents chose not to challenge the ruling of suicide.  No one understood why.
I choose not to think so much about how he died but how he lived.  I speculate on what he might have accomplished if he had made it to his 21st birthday. For me he is back on that Mexican mountain keeping company with a giant green bird, because that is where legends live.
As you were,


P. Grecian said...

No wonder you got that Tony. You take more than your performance talents onstage. You also take a great gift for storytelling. That was wonderful. Bill would be proud.

Cheryl said...

I simply cannot add to what P. Grecian said. Wow.

Kenny Croes said...

wonderful story, well told. went straight to my heart.