Friday, January 09, 2009

I Shook a President's Hand, but Whose Hand Was It?

When I was a young girl growing up in Cheyenne, Wyoming, I remember my mother making me mad. She made me get my coat on and go to the Cheyenne Airport so I could shake Former President So-and-so's hand.

I remember driving out there, parking, and being miserably cold because as usual, the Wyoming wind was whipping. If you've ever been in Cheyenne, or Wyoming for that matter, you know that the wind blows all the time.

I was tired, I was cranky, and I was not in the mood to meet "some old guy." That president stuff was pretty boring to me. My mom was excited about it, and kept trying to impress upon me what a wonderful thing this was, and that some day I would thank her.

Thank you, Mom. You're right, it was a wonderful thing. I just can't remember who it was.

I don't remember a plane landing, but there was excitement in the crowd as the former president approached. Now, I was a shy child, like my sweet son, and my mom kept telling me to get my hand out, as we weren't in the front of the crowd. I would not cooperate.

As the president approached, my normally non-pushy mother picked me up, thrust me forward and demanded I stick my hand out. And I did.

I shook the former president's hand. And I remember him smiling at me. I seem to remember him giving a slight nod to my mother as well.

That was that. Finally, we got out of the cold wind, into the warm car and headed home. I remember my mom being very frustrated with me that I wasn't more enthusiastic. I was just glad to be going home.

I'm sorry, Mom. I was a kid. I didn't know better. I didn't understand the significance of what you were doing for me. All I knew was that it was cold, he was old, and I didn't care. I was seven-ish, what can I say?

I care now.

The thing is, I could never remember who it was. I always thought in the back of my head that it was Lyndon Johnson.

If memory serves me, we moved from Laramie to Cheyenne in...let's see, I started second grade in Cheyenne. I was born in 1965, so I would have started kindergarten the fall of 1970. Laramie: Kindergarten 1970-1971. First grade 1971-1972. Cheyenne: Second grade would have been 1972-1973.

Harry S Truman died December 26, 1972.
Lyndon Baines Johnson died January 22, 1973.

So it was either Harry S Truman or Lyndon Baines Johnson.

This is one of those silly little things that has bothered me for years.

Will I ever know whose hand I shook? My one touch with someone famous, and I don't remember who it was.

Well, Richard Simmons called my house when I was in high school and skinny and loved to exercise. I loved his TV show and General Hospital and he was starting one of his exercise studios in our town, I had called inquiring about classes, and he personally returned the call. It doesn't count, though, because he talked to Mom not me.

Then, of course, there was the time I met Russell Means, who was an extremely kind man, while I worked in South Dakota. That man had a wonderful aura or energy to him.

But the question remains: Which president? Anyone out there know which president visited Cheyenne, Wyoming in the early 70s??


Kate in NJ said...

I have no idea, but I wish I did.
That is pretty cool.

audrey said...

I'm betting Truman. He was in Cheyenne in April and August of 1972.
Check the interviews under Cheyenne on the Truman Library site.
You'll have to scroll a bit to find Cheyenne. See if any of the descriptions of the visits in the interviews line up with what you remember.

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