It's been my good fortune to meet many extraordinary folks in my long, often misspent life, but I doubt if any were more extraordinary than Billy Cannon.

His history is too well known in these parts to need recapping, but a couple of personal memories stand out:

When Richard Nixon was vice president, he was a guest at a student journalists' conference in Indianapolis, and I was in the receiving line to greet him.

Socially awkward, he was shuffling down the line mumbling pleasantries when he spotted "LSU" on my name tag, stopped and brightened.

"LSU — Billy Cannon, Chinese Bandits!" he exclaimed. He told me he had recently presented the Heisman Trophy to Billy. "Great athlete!" he gushed.

The other students in line were puzzled, wondering what the heck the vice president and I had to chat about…

Almost every time I ran into Billy, he'd recall our Istrouma High days, and the time I got kicked out of a CYO dance for doing the dirty bop.

I didn't recall the incident, but he enjoyed telling the story so much I eventually stopped denying it.

Billy's highs and lows, and his final redemption, were so spectacular that more than anyone I've ever known, he deserved to be called "larger than life." 

The imposter

Stories of inept singers reminded Mary Sue Meador of this:

"Our son, Randy, wanted to join the Dalton Elementary school choir, but was told by the music teacher, Ms. Chambliss, he could not.

"He almost cried when telling me, so I asked my husband Bob, the principal, to intercede. Ms. Chambliss relented, but I feel she asked him to just move his lips as if singing.

"I did not learn he could not carry a proper tune until our pastor, Jim Bain of Istrouma Baptist Church, permitted Randy and his wife, Catherine, a music major, to sing a duet in church.

"I wanted to phone Ms. Chambliss and thank her for keeping him out of her beautiful choir at Dalton."

Striking gold

Lea's Lunchroom in Lecompte serves breakfast dishes and plate lunches, but it's famous for ham sandwiches and heavenly pies.

I've often told how I ordered a hamburger and got instead a lecture from Mr. Lea himself about the specialties. I shut up and had a ham sandwich.

Keith Horcasitas, of Baton Rouge, tells us that while Mr. Lea is gone, his spirit lives on:

"After visiting a family member in the area, I went to get some chocolate pie from Lea's.

"As I was munching on my pie, I overheard this conversation between the waitress and an elderly couple next to me:

"Waitress: 'What can I help you with today, darling?'

"Male Customer: 'I'll take a burger and some fries, please, m'am…'

"Waitress: 'Sir, I'm sorry, we don't have golden arches; we don't serve that here. But we do serve great golden ham and pie!'"

Fairy tales

Joel d'Aquin Thibodeaux tells this story of inflation and poverty:

"My cousin Linda told me her grandson lost two baby teeth, put them under his pillow and got $5 for each from the Tooth Fairy.

"I told her the most I ever got was a quarter per tooth, back in the 1950s. I asked my husband Ron, 'Isn't that about how much you used to get for a tooth?'

"He said, 'All I ever got under my pillow were IOUs!'"

Special People Dept.

—Margie Welsh, of Central, celebrates her 100th birthday on Tuesday, May 22. A 60-year survivor of breast cancer, she was Baton Rouge's 2010 Susan G. Komen Queen.

—Lillian D. Brown, of Norwood, celebrates her 91st birthday on Tuesday, May 22.

How windy was it?

T-Bob Taylor, known, if not celebrated, for telling the corniest jokes in Panama City Beach, Florida, says our Friday tale about eggs and weather reminded him of this groaner:

"The problem in Panama City Beach recently is the wind. The wind has been blowing so hard my hens keep laying the same eggs over and over and over and…"

Louisiana Haiku

A dark roast morning

Old French drip pot slow but sure

One cup wakes the dead

Write Smiley at Smiley@theadvocate.com. He can also be reached by mail at P.O. Box 588, Baton Rouge, LA 70821. Follow Smiley Anders on Twitter, @SmileyAndersAdv.