The Legend of Bobby Banter

Hartford City Travel Blog

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Taken from my memories, some of my facts could be wrong.

Small towns throughout American are scattered with stories about great individuals, be it intellectually or atheltically, who could have done more if it were not for circumstances beyond their control.  For me, this person from my memories in Hartford City was Bobby Banter.  Bobby had a speech impediment that stayed with him throughout his life.  Unfortunately, people made fun of him but never to his face because Bobby was one tough customer.  Aditionally, most people thought he was slow, Bobby did not always display his intellectual abilities because it is a lot easier if people do not think you are smart. 

I first met Bobby when I was in 2nd grade and he was in 4th.  We both had summer school together.  My 2nd grade teacher wanted to hold me back a year and I refused because I did not want to be in a diferent class than all of my friends.  Frankly, I along with the rest of the class was convinced that teacher was witch.  She was old and mean -- the type of teacher who made you afraid to make mistakes which in turn made me make more mistakes.  When anyone from my class was in a car that drove past her home at night, we could all magically see her fly on her broom against the darken sky.  My mother and teacher compromised and agreed on me attending summer school.  Bobby always threaten to beat me up during that time.  I think that it was in part that I was always the one assigned to help him with his work.  There can be nothing worse than a 4th grader receiving help from a second grader.

In high school, Bobby was a stud athlete.  He played football, basketball and baseball.  The problem was he was only about 5'7 although he was built like bulldozer.  There were three things that I remember most about him as an athlete.  The first was during football practice.  Bobby was played Guard.  I was on the scout defense, the scrubs who run the other teams play during practice to prepare the starters for the game.  My position was defensive tackle.  I was told if the OT went inside and the opposite guard pulled to merely fall into a ball on the ground to plug the gap so the running back could not get through.  Sure enough, that play happened and I saw Bobby heading at me full-steam.  I fell on the ground into a ball, and Bobby flew over me and our ragtime bunch of scrubs stuffed the starting Offense.  Instead of getting recognized for what was a great play on my part, the coaches tore into Bobby.  They ran the play several times, but knowing that play was coming made it easier for me to fall onto the ground before getting hit.  It got to the point where everyone knew that Bobby would continue to request to run that play until he hit me, so like a fool I let him hit me.  I have been in several intense car accidents in my life, some where I was lucky to come out of them alive, but I have never been hit as hard as Bobby hit that day.  He knocked the wind out of me, cracked my neck, tweaked my back and made me see stars for at least 10 minutes afterwards.

My second memory was during the finals of the baseball sectional.  The visiting team was from Jay County.  They had a hot pitcher who threw in the mid-80s.  There were pro scouts from the Cubs, Royals, Tigers, and the Reds in attendance for the game just to watch this guy throw.  The game was very tight and in the bottom of the final inning with Jay Couny up 5-3.  My alma mater, Blackford, got two runners on first and second and up stepped Bobby.  The pitch was a fastball in the high-80s right over the heart of the plate.  As soon as everyone heard the crack of the bat, the ball was gone.  It soared high over the floodlights and deep into the forest behind the field.  It would have hit the upper deck of many major league stadium.  One of the student managers from the baseball team spent several hours the next day combing the woods for the ball but never found it. Some people believe it was firmly lodged in a tree.  The opposing pitcher went on to pitch in the Royal's farm system.

In the late 70s and early 80s, traveling attractions were still common in small town America.  My third memory of Bobby was from this traveling wrestling show that featured a brown bear that stood over 7 feet tall (over 220 cms) and the promoter offered anyone who could pin the bear within 3 minutes a cash prize of $500.  The bear was muzzled and had its nails clipped. but still a brown bear is very strong.  Rumor had it that no one had ever pinned the bear.  Bobby pinned it in under 30 seconds.  I would not have believed it if I had not seen it myself.

I got to know Bobby as a person in the summer of '83.  It turned out we had a lot of common, but after that I do not know where he went.  Chances are only a few of the current residents remember his feats, which is sad.  I hope that he did not turn out like so many high school jocks spending the rest of their days in a smoky bar recounting what could have been or even worst slowly sinking into the grayness of middle age.  As for me, I am claiming that he moved to Alaska to live off of the land and wrestle polar bears full time.

Every town needs a legend.
fluturas says:
Pretty cool...maybe im gonna meet him, since im gonna move in Fairbanks!
Posted on: Dec 01, 2007
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