Talking About My Dear Friend, Donnie Clayton
These so-called "cool" guys couldn't
Images of "What's Cool," and what "Isn't Cool"
Writer's Note: This is a true story based on actual events that happened in my life from the years 1971 - 1972. No instances or events have been enhanced or exaggerated to heighten interest. What you read is what you read. And thanks! Kenneth
I would, at this time, be honored to introduce you to a close friend, Donald Clayton. Friends call him Donnie. Never Don. And never Clayton. And from our meeting in 1971, when our paths crossed, my life has never been the same. I doubt if it will ever be the same.our pathways of life crossed in 1971. I remember the meeting well. My high school, Hamilton High, beat some Tiger team from a nearby town called Fayette, I forget the score, but meeting Donnie Clayton, I have to admit, was "the" highlight of that night.
I know. I know. You've heard that over and over again. But I tell you eye-to-eye, Donald Clayton, without really any effort at all, or any strain or exertion, changed how I thought, talked, and if he had been given the power, the way I looked. Clayton was the proverbial "Mr. Popularity." the name his followers gave him. He was also, "Mr. Cool." That one fit him like a glove.
Donnie was always grinning, laughing and talking. To everyone, but mostly pretty girls. Everywhere you saw Donnie, you saw a pretty girl. Sometimes two. Majorettes, cheerleaders, flag girls, delinquent girls, even girls from a nearby junior college in Fulton, Mississippi who were older than Donnie. In a word, girls loved Donnie Clayton. At first sight. It was magic I tell you. No other friend whom I ran around with in my junior and senior high school days could keep up with Donnie. I give credit to my bud's, the "Childers brothers," James, Gary and Glenn (the guys who helped me convince Tiger Beat magazine that "we" were a rock band) who introduced me to Donnie on that crisp October Friday night as I left the football game I've already told you about.
Donnie had "that" certain invisible power, for lack of a better word, to attract most any girl he wanted. No, make that "every" girl he wanted. I should know. I've seen this man in action plenty of times. He never failed. Not once. I give you my word as a married man. All Donnie had to do, by way of "securing" a date with a pretty girl was walk up to her and say "hi."
Donnie didn't do much chasing. He didn't have to. The girls chased him. What a guy. My friend, Donnie Clayton with his perfect white teeth, full-head of hair and a laugh that would make Burt Reynolds in "Smoky and The Bandit," look at the ground in shame. The only flaw, if you could label it a flaw, was his love for (filtered, regular brand) Winston cigarettes.
My friends and I would sit around many Friday and Saturday nights at Jackson's Airport Drive-In, a den for "teens," when I was 17, discussing not "why," Donnie got all the girls, but "how" he did this weekend feat over and over without any work, trouble, or tension. If I described Clayton's mastery of getting girls as "easy," I swear the "English gods," would strike me down for mockery.
He was a sight to behold, I tell you. To see him work, talking a girl he just met into riding around with him and then getting something to eat was comparable to watching "the master," Leonardo da Vinci paint his masterpiece, Mona Lisa. Awe inspiring.
You could hear gasps of disbelief coming from his followers as he added one more phone number to his already-bulging brown (not black) book of girls' numbers. If Donnie had been a mind to, he could have raffled-off his "brown date book" and made thousands of dollars. But Donnie wasn't the selfish or greedy type. He felt there were enough girls to go around.
Now, without casting any dark shadows on Donnie Clayton's character, I have to tell you up front that Donnie, sometimes bent the laws of the universe pertaining to the male and female relationship. Okay. He told some "white" lies to gain access to a girl's address for "swinging by," as he was prone to say, to spend some "choice time," another catch-phrase that he didn't patent, with her on any given Friday night.
Those "white" lies contained him "being" a city health inspector one Saturday night in Hamilton. Now this was witnessed by many of his friends. An RV had parked (illegally, actually) at a gas station that was closed. But the family inside the illegally-parked RV had one gorgeous daughter, and that was reason enough for Donnie to delve into his "bag of charm tricks," to get to meet her.
Clayton, it was said by friends, knocked on the door of the RV. The owner, an elderly man, probably retired from the military or postal service came to the door and was greeted by, "sir, Don Clayton, Hamilton City Health Inspector. Gonna need to inspect your vehicle since it is parked within a municipality and see if you can remain parked here or not," Clayton said with a poker-face and didn't even have to flash his "fake" badge. Good thing. He didn't have one. The expensive leather jacket and his fast-talking talents did the trick for him.
Naturally, within minutes, the good-looking daughter introduced herself to Donnie. He played it cool. Ignored her obvious giggling at his manly-appearance, and the Brut cologne that he swore was his "secret weapon," to get girl's attention. Donnie never realized that it wasn't the Brut. It was him. Just him. But in a few minutes, Donnie, the always-good Samaritan, allowed the traveling family in the RV to stay overnight where they had parked. Some say that they saw the elderly man offer Donnie a twenty-dollar bill for his trouble. That report was never confirmed or denied.
Donnie had one mode of transportation: A blue, two-door, 1971 Ford Maverick. And with a truckload of accolades to the Ford Motor Company, this car had to be the best-made car on the road in this time frame. Donnie never "babied" his Maverick, but drove it the way he lived (then) hard. Donnie told me that on the coldest of winter mornings, his trusty Maverick never failed to start because he had promised a widow lady who lived next to him and his family that he would take her to church every Sunday morning. And he did. Donnie's heart was not able to be measured.
I loved Donnie Clayton. I still do. He is the godfather of my daughter. He was my obvious choice when my daughter was born. I never regretted my decision of asking him to fulfill this honored role.
Donnie and I went our separate ways in 1973. He went to some town near Hamilton to work in a Sears catalogue store. Of course, he was very successful in the fist two weeks of his employment. So much so that the owners of the establishment could take days, (not day) off and leave Donnie in charge. He was that intelligent.
Now in a stark comparison to most guys who lay claim to the "Mr. Popularity," and "Mr. Cool," titles, Donnie never once flaunted his bounding-success with the girls. And never did he let his popularity go to his head like I would have done if I had been given his "gifts" to attract lovely girls. Donnie was Donnie everywhere you saw him. Always the same. Doing the same thing he had done for years, just being Donnie.
One day Donnie and I met in Hamilton. We caught-up on the latest in our lives. Then he hit he with some devastating news. No, not a fatal disease. Nor was he facing bankruptcy. He was going to get married. Married? Wha . . .What? Yes, married. Donnie Clayton, the "prince of playboys," going to "tie the knot," truly a dark day in the world of single guys around our hometowns. I remember the night he entered matrimony because darkness covered the moon on that night. I sensed then that with Donnie taking on a new role, the role of a loving, devoted husband, truly his marriage was the end of a golden era.
But sure enough, Donnie did get married to a mutual friend, Teresa Self, of Hamilton. They were much happier than the fictitious couple, "Forrest Gump and Jenny." Their marriage was strong. Their lives were complete. It was amazing how he made the transition from single guy with access to any girl he wanted, to being the husband of just one girl. But Donnie accomplished that with ease.
Then a few years later, we met again somewhere in Hamilton. We again caught up on our lives and what news we had to share with each other. Donnie hit me with yet another devastating bit of news. Teresa had being seeing a doctor and he had ran some tests on her and found a malignant brain tumor, but Donnie and Teresa both were so positive and sure that this wasn't a big deal that even the idea of sure-death didn't take the smiled off of their faces.
A short time went by. Teresa passed. I was so worried about Donnie that I was physically sick from what might become of my best pal. No telling what he might do. Actually he didn't do anything that any loving husband wouldn't do under the circumstances. He grieved. He wept. He accepted the fact that his "love" had temporarily gone away, but he kept her spirit in his heart. And continued to live life the way that Teresa would want him to.
Today in 2012, he is nearing retirement from the City of Hamilton street department and still grinning, smiling and talking to anyone and everyone he meets. And "just" keeping company with a nice girl named, Sheryl. Also another mutual friend.
I really don't have a fitting tribute-of-an-ending for this piece. With all the years that I have been honored to know Donnie Clayton, I can truly tell you this without any fear of being corrected . . .
Some people, those special people we all know and have one in our lives, can't be defeated by any of life's storms. Donnie is one of them.