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Senior Correspondent

“God willing and the creek don't rise," next April a group of men will celebrate the 50th anniversary of an event that has embraced two generations of fun-loving golfers and tennis players from all over a large part of the United States. From Chicago, Texas, Missouri, Florida and all lands in between, as many as 94 men have gathered every spring to hash over old times while competing in tennis and golf.

As one of the four men who started this little crusade and the only one left who participates, it has fallen on me to relate a few of the misadventures of this group. As visitors to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina well know, the weather in April can be very warm on most occasions, but can also be quite cold. One year you're out in shorts and the next year, you're driving your tee into the frozen ground with your driver. But partying seems to remain constant and invariably, someone asks, “What's the rule about throwing up before you tee off?”

A family grave yard adjoined a course we once played and one of our stalwarts drove his ball into the small plot, checked the name on a nearby headstone and announced to his team that he was getting ready to bounce one off the deceased, “old Bill's”, noggin and onto the green. He did just that and sank a long putt for par. Another time, one of our players “got heavily into the cups” while on the course and when he was finally removed from the property, he was strapped into the cart's bag compartment, his spikes throwing sparks on the concrete as he was peacefully dragged  off the grounds and to his car. Thanks goodness, he came equipped with a designated driver!

For many years, a genial storyteller from Roanoke, Virginia, Freddie “Fog” Gallagher was in the group and a story he was required to tell each year at the cocktail party bears repeating.

Freddie and a neighbor had been invited on a duck hunting trip to Currituck Sound in eastern North Carolina and Freddie, facing his first duck hunt, fell out in a London Fog jacket,  Bass “Weejun” loafers and little else to combat the cold of a winter's morning on open water. On arrival, he and his friend were boated to a blind about 100 yards off shore, handed a gun and a box of shells each and told to start firing when the “shooting hour” arrived and starting signal was given. In ten minutes, Freddie was about frozen stiff and faced with no way to get back to the bank and shelter. Summoning up all of his salesman's skills, he pointed out the importance of friends sticking together in crucial situations and finally convinced his friend, who was equipped with waders, to carry him to shore, as the water was only about two feet deep. The friend finally got into the water, reluctantly took Freddie on his back and started toward shore. After about 10 steps with Freddie slowly slipping down his rescuers' back toward the icy water, he heard an announcement that froze him even further as the friend announced, “Freddie, you're gonna' have to get off!” It was at this point that Freddie gave the greatest cheerleading job of his life and convinced his friend that if he would just give a “hunch," Freddie could get much higher on his shoulders and thus much easier to carry. On a signal, the friend got low in the water and hunched upward as Freddie tried to climb higher on his back. Unfortunately, the friend slipped and they both hit the frigid water, wide open. Freddie claims to this day that they both actually took about three steps on top of the icy water before they went under.

They finally waded to shore, and more dead than alive, staggered to Freddie's car and starting getting out of their soaked clothes. At this time, Freddie happened to remember a bottle of old “bust head” bourbon under the seat and once they got the heater going settled back to take a warming, and perhaps lifesaving, bracer. Of course, as the car warmed up, the windows became fogged. About this time there came a knock on the glass and Freddie wiped the fog from the window with his wet shirt and discovered an old farmer staring in the window. All the old man saw on this cold weekend morning was two happy, naked men, sitting on the front seat with a bottle of bourbon between them. As Freddie tried to get the door open and explain, the old farmer went walking off into the mist, shaking his head and muttering under his breath.

Gallagher, with his mournful voice, was required to tell this story every year and did so without cracking a smile while his audience rolled on the floor. I think some people showed up for the event, only after checking to be sure Freddie was going to be there.

There was never a dull moment when Gallagher was in attendance. He even reported a week late one year, and called me suggesting that maybe all the boys would come back, since he was already checked in. When he asked what I wanted him to do, I could only suggest that he get in his car, return to Lynchburg and be on time next year.

Over the 49 years, as one would imagine, some very interesting stories have developed, and ”short-sheeting”, “mooning” and even basic fisticuffs have been a part of the festivities, but I can't think of anything that was as popular as that magic moment when Freddie “Fog” had the floor and a captive audience.

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