Michael has a BA in History & American Studies and an MSc in American History from the University of Edinburgh. He comes from a proud military family and has spent most of his career as an educator in the Middle East and Asia. His passion is travel, and he seizes any opportunity to share his experiences in the most immersive way possible, whether at sea or on the land.

Bobby Morrow | Dallas Description | Epilogue | Fort Worth Description | Joe Don Looney | Wahoo McDaniel

    Steroids and champagne make a combustible mix in the meekest of men. In an individual such as Joe Don Looney, already equipped with destructive capacities rarely presented in human form, the act of swilling impressive volumes of free, wedding reception Moet straight from the bottle signaled a bad storm.

    Wreckage. Debris. What a mess. What a disaster. I am not talking Wichita Falls after the massive tornado in 1979, but rather this poor *&^%$#@'s face after Joe Don performed his patented war dance in a Fort Worth saloon in 1967. Not finished for the evening, Looney then drove to the apartment of a friend and threw his new RCA color TV set into the swimming pool.

    "Well, sometimes I just can't help myself," Looney told me the next morning. "It's that %*&&#* Indian blood, you know. Indians don't have some organ that most people have--the spleen or something. In most Indians, the organ disappeared because they ate so much grass and roots and stuff. That's why they can't tolerate the booze."

    I later presented that hypothesis to a noted health professional who informed me that Looney's disclosure was revolutionary, and that news of the absent spleen among the aborigine might create a sensation in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Since all of science, like history and art, is bull*&%$, my fascination with that conversation lay simply in the fact that I didn't realize at the time the Joe Don Looney was, in part, an Indian.

    During his years as a headline topic in the sports section, Looney confounded coaches with an attitude that ranged from indifferent to outwardly defiant. These traits blossomed even into high school, when Looney declined to participate in the finals of the 220 yard dash in the city track meet. His failure to compete would cost his team, Paschal High School, the district championship.

    "What's the matter, Joe? Did you pull a muscle?" asked his coach.

    "Nah," Looney responded. "I'm just a little depressed."

    Later, on a larger stage, the head coach of the Detroit Lions, summoned Looney from the bench. "Go in there and the tell the quarterback to run that fake end-around play," the coach said.

    "&%#* you," replied Looney. "If you want a messenger boy, call Western Union."

    Looking back, Looney wasn't demonstrating a natural inclination to defy authority. Looney's refusal to conform to the standard role of the American athlete was simply a reflection of his contempt for the white man. But that sad fraternity of broken men who had been called upon to "coach" Joe Don and failed--each of these guys would be quick to concede that Looney was the best natural athlete they'd encountered during a lifetime in the perspiring arts.

    So, during my remaining years as a journalist who became type-cast as a sportswriter, anytime I heard of anybody of the Caucasian persuasion endowed with "special, God-given talent," I know right away that that person is part Indian. This is particular true of the ones who show stamina that registers high on the super-human scale, and a willingness to continue the competition in the parking lot, if necessary, after the game is over.

    And when I read of the exploits of the characters who emerge throughout the narratives assembled with, I realize that these are the natural ancestors of the individuals I've been writing about for Sports Illustrated. As these guys begin to age (that's when I start writing about them--after their prime, because everything I write is a retrospective)--the more their true heritage seems to emerge.

    A story and photograph of sprinter Bobby Morrow appears on this web site. There are people with long memories who still insist that Morrow, who won three gold medals at the Melbourne Olympic games in 1956, was the best competitive sprinter who ever lived. When I interviewed Morrow at his home in San Benito, Texas in 1999, I asked him his "ancestry."

    "Arkansas," he said.

    "Well, no, I mean like, English or German or whatever," I said.

    "Oh," replied Morrow. "I don't know. But everybody said I got my running ability from my mother's side, and she was part Indian."

    That's what I wanted to hear him say. Check out that photo of Morrow, now that he is well-past Social Security age. Give Bobby Morrow a head band and a feather, and he could have ridden along-side the Lone Ranger.

    Which brings us to Wahoo McDaniel, who, as his chosen name implies, was pleased and proud of his Native American heritage. When I flew to North Carolina in 2001 to interview Wahoo, the man was in dire need of a kidney transplant. His condition may have been complicated by the fact that he used to chug-a-lug motor oil as a party stunt. So Wahoo was a sick man.

    A week after my visit, the photographer who was assigned to shoot Wahoo's portrait called me with an amazing story. "I was in my rental car, following Wahoo, who was in his truck, to the golf course where we were going to shoot the photo. But I cut someone off, and generated a kind of road rage incident," the photographer said.

    "One thing led to another, and this guy was coming after me with an axe handle. That's when Wahoo appeared out of nowhere, and--I don't know if he hit the guy or shoved him, it happened fast--anyway, Wahoo, deposited the guy with the axe handle onto the pavement.

    "So my would-be assailant went back to his truck and was in the cab, messing with a pistol, when Wahoo went back to his truck, got his 9 mm. out, and then told the guy that if he didn't drive off right then and there, that Wahoo would--and these were his words--blow a hole in his chest the size of a *&#!%&* bowling ball.

    "For a man his age, and in poor health like that, to come to my aid like he did, I thought that was kind of flattering," the photographer asserted.

    Had the photographer familiarized himself with the personalities who appear on Fort Tours, he might not have been quite so amazed at the impromptu exploits of Wahoo McDaniel. The Ghosts of the Cross Timbers walk with us yet.   

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