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It was that voice that carried him out of Dixon and away from the Depression, the voice that more than any single attribute got him where he is. On that smoky blue December afternoon in Pacific Palisades he was telling the old story again —about his job hunting in 1932, about heading for Chicago, where "a very kind woman" at NBC told him to start out in the sticks. So he drove around to radio station WOC in Davenport, Iowa, where he made his pitch to the program director, Peter MacArthur, an arthritic old Scotsman who hobbled on two canes. Reagan, of course, had that voice, and he had played football for Eureka College. But MacArthur said that he had just hired someone else, and Reagan stomped off muttering, "How the hell do you get to be a sports announcer if you can't get into a station?" The delivery is perfect—plaintive, sore. Something wonderful is bound to happen.
"I walked down the hall to the operator, and fortunately the elevator wasn't at that floor. And while I was waiting, I heard this thumping down the hall and this Scotch burr very profanely saying (in a Reagan Scotch burr), 'Wait up, ya big so and so.' " And what did MacArthur say? Something about sports, of course. And what did MacArthur ask? "Do you think you could tell me about a football game and make me see it?" And could Ronald Reagan do that then and there? On the folk tale goes, fresh as a daisy, full of old hope and heartbeats.
In the pinch, Reagan fell back on describing a game he had played in for Eureka. "So when the light went on I said, 'Here we are going into the fourth quarter on a cold November afternoon, the long blue shadows settling over the field, the wind whipping in through the end of the stadium'—hell, we didn't have a stadium at Eureka, we had grandstands—and I took it up to the point in which there were 20 seconds to go and we scored the winning touchdown. As a blocking guard, I was supposed to get the first man in the secondary to spring our back loose, and I didn't get him. I missed him. And I've never known to this day how Bud Cole got by and scored that touchdown. But in the rebroadcast I nailed the guy on defense. I took him down with a magnificent block."
Cheers and laughter. Who would not hire this man? Humility, a sense of proportion, gentle humor. Bless the elevator operator; bless the crippled Scotsman. Who would doubt that even now, from time to time, the Governor dreams.of the fancy footwork of the ever elusive Bud Cole?
Of course, the anecdote gives everything and nothing. In the movies, The Story of Ronald Reagan might be built of such stuff, like the "story" of Jim Thorpe, but not a life; the life has to be discovered elsewhere. At least the facts pile up neatly: born Feb. 6, 1911, Tampico, Ill.; son of John Edward and Nelle Wilson Reagan; younger brother of