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Memories Of Cawood
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Memories Of Cawood
This a short about a legendary sports broadcaster in the state of Ky, It was an attempt of remembering him and the generation he belonged to in Appalachia.
[874 words]
Cylis Lapedimore
[February 2002]
Eden's Temptation (Poetry) - [46 words] [Erotic]
Memories Of Cawood
Cylis Lapedimore

I first met Cawood in the early eighties. He was visiting the UK medical center and I was a patient. The nurses on the children’s wing gathered everybody into a huge room for a “special” guest visitor. A balding man with a hawk like nose walked into the room carrying a cup of coffee. Every child in the room erupted in a collective sigh of discontent as he stood before us. The old man in the royal blue sports coat wasn’t our parents, a clown, or any other form of childhood entertainment that was to be expected.

He was graying old man that couldn’t make balloon animals and we just didn’t like him.

“Hello everybody! I’m Cawood Ledford,” he informed us as the sighs turned into cheers at the sound of that voice. That voice was in our homes on each winter’s night UK played. It was like a cadence of an auctioneer, brisk yet understandable.

It was free of an Appalachian accent until his temper flared. When angry, in Cawood, you heard a coal miner’s son that the entire state of Kentucky could identify with.

Cawood was the leader of the big blue legion of Kentucky basketball and more important, he was a welcomed member of each child’s family.

Cawood told stories that day; most normal people would tell fairy tales to small children. Cawood wasn’t a normal man. He told tales of the Goose that lit Duke up for forty-five points in the 78 championship, Rupp’s Runts, and of Coach Hall’s Twin Towers.

It was an afternoon filled with stories that I will never forget.

Cable TV soon made its way up the mountains to my hometown and most people opted for ESPN instead of radio. Traditionalists like grandpa and me refused to cast aside Cawood in favor of new technology. The Sears and Roebuck battery powered radio we listened to Cawood’s broadcast on added to our defiance of these foreign new ways.

Later we compromised with the changing times and began watching the games, however; the sound was always muted and Cawood’s voice called the game in our home.

I was at the official announcement of his retirement in 1992, and like everybody else in the room wept because the old days had ended. Fittingly the last broadcast Cawood did over the radio was the perfect 1992 Duke/Kentucky regional final in Philadelphia.

The legend of sports radio broadcasting ended his career with the greatest game ever played in the NCAA tournament history, as it should be.

I met Cawood again in 1999 at a book signing and this time that booming voice was merely a whisper. The years of chain smoking had caught up with him. Cawood the leader of the BIG BLUE nation and the cadence caller of many marches on the road the final four was in the grips of cancer.

Cawood died and fans mourned his death like it was their own grandfather. He was offered several jobs in television broadcasting and refused each one and the money that came with them.

He remained loyal to his passion, home, and himself. That loyalty was returned to him throughout his life and death. A testament to this loyalty was the 100,000 people that attended multiple memorial services held for him in Rupp Arena and the court that will named for him this year.

I remember Cawood for more than basketball. I remember him as an intricate part of a past generation that belonged to my grandfather. This generation in Appalachia wore homemade clothes, mined coal, and lived the Great Depression. This generation fought tyranny, liked Ike, and hated Reds. It was a generation whose window to the outside world was radio and television was still an impractical novelty.

The generation I belong to abandoned the mountains for better lives in urban areas. We traded our grandfather’s mining shovels for the time cards of factories and offices filled cubicles.

We are a generation that seeks faster online speeds and attempt to digitize everything we encounter.

We are also a generation that embraced a forgotten icon of a dying entertainment median that belonged to our grandfathers. In a way Cawood was part of the tie that binds us to our families and the old ways of Kentucky. He was someone special that all generations agreed on and embraced.

Cawood has been immortalized in Broadcast and Basketball Hall of Fames. He was an educator, author, and a Marine during WWII. He was a husband to his wife Francis and a fixture of his beloved state. The story Cawood’s life is a Kentucky original that writers like Jesse Stewart couldn’t have penned. He was the industry standard without the aide of modern devices and techniques. He was a personality and not a celebrity the sports channels use to create ratings.

Technology may advance the way we live but it will do little for our souls. Cawood was good for the soul because he genuinely cared about people and was uniquely Kentuckian. The legendary broadcaster established scholarships and was a ready spokesman to needy charities. He was revered as simply Cawood by generations of his home state. I liked, admired, and remember him even though, as far as I know, he never could make balloon animals.


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© 2001 Cylis Lapedimore
February 2002

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