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Smith: Munson longs for days of old

It was the first cold day of the fall, and I could have predicted Larry Munson’s opening comment.

“Be a good day for pheasant hunting, wouldn’t it?” he remarked as we sat and talked with former Georgia receiver Charley Whittemore by the fire in Munson’s den.

For most of his life, when the long-time Bulldog announcer wasn’t talking football or movies, he was given to pontificating about hunting and fishing, particularly the latter.

“I miss it,” he said. “It hurts like hell that I can’t fish anymore,” Munson said.

It was sad, knowing that just talking about his deep love of the water and not being able to pick up a rod and reel anymore was painful. You could see it in his eyes as he talked.

In a brief span of seconds, there was penetrating silence. I could imagine that, in his mind’s eye, he was recalling the times when he reeled in a big fish.

Munson seemed interested in talking fishing.

“Have you been anywhere lately? How did you do?”

When I explained that I had caught several trout late Monday afternoon on the Chattahoochee, near Helen, he nodded softly but remained quiet in thought.

We talked about the Vanderbilt game.

“I didn’t like some of the stuff I saw out there, we almost gave it away,” Munson said. “You think we are gonna beat Florida? Is this our year?”

Munson doesn’t get out much any more, but he is alert and inquisitive about the Bulldogs. He wonders if Georgia’s special teams are going to improve.

“If we win out, do you think we can beat the winner of the Alabama-LSU game?” Whittemore asked Munson.

After that, it was vintage Munson. He began to lament problems that plague Georgia and looked at Whittemore like he had lost his mind.

We reminisced about the past. We told him how much he was missed by the Bulldog Nation, which evoked a soft smile. He didn’t say so, but it was evident that he appreciates being remembered.

The visit was sobering. Age robs us all of our suppleness. It brings about pain — not just the physical, but the awareness that we can’t spring from our recliner and take a 2-mile walk around the neighborhood.

We can’t stand in the river and fly cast upstream and watch a tiny fly follow the current of the river until a 3-pound trout sucks it down and rewards us with one of the most refreshing experiences there is.

No longer can the outdoor loving native of Minnesota enjoy those outings. No longer can he sit on the edge of his seat in the radio booth and thrill us with unforgettable phrases.

“Run Lindsay run.”

“Look at the Sugar falling from the sky.”

“We just stepped on their face with a hobnail boot and crushed their nose.”

That voice, with strength and verve, delivering commentary that thrilled thousands, not just those in red and black, is soft and retreating now.

But his eyes twinkle when he remembers the past. He still enjoys a funny story.

We closed out our visit with a vignette that made him chuckle.

It had to do with Little Jimmy Dickens, whom I visited with backstage last weekend in Nashville. Still performing at 90, Little Jimmy, an old friend of Munson’s, told of visiting a doctor to check on his hearing loss.

The doctor took a look and exclaimed, “No wonder you can’t hear, there is a suppository in here.”

To which Little Jimmy replied, “Now Doc, I know where I put my hearing aid.”

Munson laughed generously at the story. I hope it made his day. It made mine to sit and talk with him.

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