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HUCKABY: Finding my way to Bogart

I know where Bogart, Ga., is. I want to make that clear right up front.

In 1970, when I first came to the University of Georgia on a basketball scholarship — I was a manager; the Southeastern Conference hasn't changed that much — I had the rare privilege of spending a couple of hours with Bob Hope, who was in town to perform in what is now Stegeman Coliseum.

Miss America was with him, and honesty compels me to admit that I had a hard time paying attention to Mr. Hope. My job was to hang out and make sure he had everything he needed while he rehearsed for the evening's performance.

The great Squab Jones — an institution in his own right — came up to Bob Hope during the rehearsal and extended his hand. Hope asked Squab if he would like an autograph. "No sir," replied Squab. "I just came over to see if you wanted mine."

During our time together, Hope quizzed me about the area and asked me to give him the names of people and places that he could insert into his jokes to give the show a local flavor. I distinctly remember telling him that he should make a comment about Erk Russell, and I distinctly remember mentioning Bogart, which is just down the road from Athens.

That night when he introduced Miss America, Bob Hope said, "You smell lovely. What fragrance are you wearing?"

She replied, "Evening in Paris."

Then Hope took a whiff of his own underarms and said, "Afternoon in Bogart."

Now I told you all of that to tell you this. If you are a frequent reader of my column, you know that I like to poke fun at people from time to time — especially my lovely wife, Lisa, which probably isn't too smart on my part since she controls 75 percent of the money and 100 percent of the sex in my life. But the truth is, I poke more fun at myself than at anyone else, and last week, I pulled a real doozy.

Several months ago, the good people at the Bogart United Methodist Church invited me to come and break bread with them. The meal would be served promptly at 11:30 on a Saturday morning, which would leave me a little time to tell them a funny story or two. I wrote the engagement on my calendar, appointment book and day-timer. I knew I was going to Bogart, understand.

And it was going to work out well, too, because my daughter's high school dance team was going to be competing at Clarke Central High School that afternoon and Coach Mark Fox's basketball Bulldogs were going to be whipping the Tennessee Vols in the Stegasaurus that evening. I would be able to kill a whole passel of birds with one stone, so to speak.

So I got up Saturday morning, put on my red blazer and black shirt, and headed toward Athens. I punched the address of my destination into my GPS — which was a stupid thing to do because I already knew where I was going. I was given a couple of choices and I picked one. Then I put a Toby Keith CD in my player and zoned out — mindlessly following the directions of the seductive voice of the GPS. I arrived at my appointed destination at 11 o'clock — a full 30 minutes early.

I was so early, in fact, that I was the only one there. No problem. I just sat in my car and enjoyed the solitude. After 15 minutes had passed, however, and no one had shown up, I began to worry. At 11:30, when mine was still the only car in the lot, I called my mother-in-law and asked her to run next door, look on my calendar and confirm that I had the right date and time.

Five minutes passed and she called me back and said, "You are supposed to be at the Bogart Community Center at 11:30."

And I said, "Well, it is 11:35 and I am all alone at the — oops — Bishop Community Center.

And in case you are wondering, there wasn't anything happening at the Bishop Community Center last Saturday.

I immediately threw my GPS out the window and headed for Bogart. En route, I called the Oconee County sheriff's dispatcher to ask if they could have a deputy drop by and assure the good folks of Bogart that I was on my way. The lady who answered the phone insisted that Bogart isn't in Oconee County and so she couldn't help me, but the folks at the Bogart Library were happy to send someone over to explain my stupidity.

It all worked out. I arrived at noon, and they saved me some fried chicken. They all laughed at my stories and a good time was had by all.

And I don't care what Bob Hope said in 1970. I think Bogart, Ga., smells just fine.

Darrell Huckaby is an author and teacher in Rockdale County. E-mail him at dhuck08@bellsouth.net.