I was wandering around Mound City, MO taking pics of anything of interest. I snapped an old movie theater with my Rolleiflex 2.8 and moved on. I was weaving through the residential areas when this strange little building, maybe it was once a salon, came into view. I turned the truck down the hill to get a shot.
I had to stand in the middle of the street to get the shot, but not much traffic runs through Mound City, MO on a Wednesday afternoon.
As I was shooting, I heard a noise, but couldn’t see anything, so I snapped my shots and wandered back to the truck to move along to the next point of interest.
That’s when I saw the “noise” standing on his porch watching me.
“Hello,” I greeted, and walked to the front of the truck, Rollei still in hand.
“I came outside because I thought I had a visitor,” the old gentleman said.
“You do,” I replied. “I’m Russell.”
“I’m Jim Broker,” he said back, as he moved to the edge of the porch to greet me.
“Love that hat,” I said, admiring his grey, well-worn fedora.
“That hat means a lot to me…it was my fathers.”
“I have one just like it. Dobbs?” I inquired.
Lifting it off his head and looking inside, he answered “Stetson.”
“Then I’d better wear mine,” I told him, as I reached in the truck for my summer, straw Stetson.
I went up to the porch and asked him if I could get his picture. He approved and stood there smiling.
We talked cameras and a bit about his past for a while before he asked if I wanted to buy this old motorcycle he doesn’t want anymore. “Only has 7,000 miles on it,” he told me. Apparently it was owned by a local farmer who didn’t want to ride horses, so he used this motorcycle to ride along his property to check his fences.
As we moved to the garage to see it, I got what would be the necessary facts about the guy, if I were doing a story. I don’t carry a notepad anymore, so I tried to remember as much as possible.
• He’s an evangelical preacher who has traveled the world preaching the “good word.
• He’s done some stringer work for various newspapers and magazines, taking the pics and writing the stories. Still publishes a small Christian magazine
• He was a detective, or police chief, or some such law enforcement officer at one time.
• He’s lived in Mound City his whole life.
• He’ll be 80 soon, “if the good Lord sees that I last that long.”
• He ran a 5K last year
• He was once a bodybuilder
As I listened and took a few more pics, he finally told me the REAL story...about where he is right now. His wife of 60 years had recently passed, and he just doesn’t have much interest in anything anymore.
I didn’t pry. I let him talk.
Conversation moved back to the motorcycle and the cameras he’s had over the years, and ones he still has. We moved out to the truck so he could see what I was bringing along on this trip. He got a kick out of my Yashica 44. I let him play with it and he snapped a couple of me against the truck.
Then another Jim showed up, and the two of them relived their youth for me. It was fun hearing one story after another. Stories ranging from class bullies in the school yard to tales of various locals.
Jim really got excited in telling me about the boxing match one night up at the school, as he pointed up the hill. He weighed in at 160 and had done some boxing around the area, but on this particular night the fight organizers asked him to fill in for another fighter would couldn’t make it. He didn’t want to do it, but they told him “you are our last hope.”
Showing up at the fight, he quickly learned he would be fighting Perry Foster, who not only weighed in at 260, but was strong, mean, and he could fight. Perry later became a truck driver and was killed in an accident on one of his runs.
“When Perry hit me, I was OUT,” Jim explained. “When I finally came to I heard ‘four … five … ‘ and I jumped back up. I went three rounds with him, but the ref finally lifted Perry’s arm and called it a win by TKO!”
I liked how he remembered his grandfather being right there beside the ring for the fight. “I wish he could have been in my corner, but they wouldn’t allow us to have managers back then,” Broker told me.
The other Jim chimed in “Perry’s dad had a peg leg,” laughing a bit as he demonstrated how it worked. “It was a real peg leg. I don’t know how he lost it, but his leg was cut off right here,” as he moved his hand back and forth just above the knee. “He had a cup and a long wooden peg going down. I don’t know how he lost it, but he had a peg leg.”
And there were more stories, too many to share. I was there for quite a while, feeling like this was exactly where I was supposed to be right then.
As we stood there chatting the time away, it was nice to see a glimmer in Broker’s eyes and hope, for a few minutes on a Wednesday afternoon in Mound City, MO, anyway, he was once again interested in things.