A Boy Called “Bird Legs”
by Mike McNair, as submitted by Mary Ellen (Blevins) Stepanich
Mike McNair is the boyhood friend and neighbor of my brother, Dr. William Blevins. Mike, a retired teacher, now lives in Wisconsin and writes for an online journal. He sent the following article about his parents and my folks for me to share when I participated in Laura Orsini’s “Blog Challenge” last year.
Mom never was much of an outdoors person, but during the late 1960s, when she was in her fifties, she and Dad bought one of those huge, heavy canvas tents, stocked up on supplies, and took up camping. Indiana’s Turkey Run State Park north of Terre Haute, a little over 100 miles from their Fort Branch home, was one of their favorite destinations.
During one stay at Turkey Run, a troop of young Boy Scouts were camping nearby, and took a liking to my folks and their longtime friends, Bud and Edna Blevins, who were camping with them. The boys hung out with the adults the entire weekend and even put on a skit Saturday evening and sat around their campfire for most of the night. Larry, a good-natured boy some of the others called “Bird Legs,” struck Mom as an especially nice boy. She often talked about the weekend the Scout troop “adopted” them, and the boy she loved to talk about the most was Larry.
Fifteen years later, Bud and Edna stopped by my folks’ home for a visit. Bud pointed to a large picture in the sports section of the Evansville Courier on the coffee table; it showed Larry Bird, then a famous Boston Celtic forward, taking a jump shot. “I’d say our little Bird Legs has made it big.”
Mom glanced at the picture and nodded. “He certainly has.” She wasn’t a sports fan, but she knew who Larry Bird was, and she knew he was much more than just a basketball superstar. He was the man that the good-natured boy called Bird Legs had become.
I was reminded of my parent’s encounter with young Larry when I read a Jeff Eisenberg article that told of Indiana State University’s plans to erect a 15-foot bronze statue of Larry Bird, their most famous basketball player, on the Terre Haute campus. Sculptor Bill Wolfe decided to make it taller than the twelve-foot statue of longtime rival Magic Johnson that was erected at Michigan State.
Bud and Mom were right. That nice boy called Bird Legs has, indeed, made it big. A three-time NBA Most Valuable Player, he’s the only person in NBA history to be named Most Valuable Player, Coach of the Year, and Executive of the Year. And he’ll always be exactly three feet taller than Magic Johnson.
Dr. Stepanich is a retired professor of organizational behavior. She told her students at Purdue, “I’m very organized, but my behavior’s a bit wonky.” Her publications include academic journal articles; stories in Good Old Days magazine; a memoir, D is for Dysfunctional … and Doo-Wop; a novel, The Doo-Wops and the B-Flat Murder; and an award-winning radio play, Voices From the Front. Mary Ellen blogs on her website at MaryEllenStepanich.com, and can be reached via e-mail at DrStep@cox.net.