Life by the Numbers


I’m 56. What does the number mean to me?

It was the number associated with the race-car driver Jim Hurtubise, who, in addition to his occasional brilliance, was the Don Quixote of the Indianapolis 500 because, for a number of years, “Herk” tried to qualify a front-engined roadster after low-slung, rear-engined designs had come to dominate.

Here in town, the football number of one of the town’s athletic heroes, Kinard Littleton, was “56.” In the 1950s and early 60s, numbering was different. For instance, my late father played guard in the ‘50s, and his number was “33.” Littleton, a rushing legend, wore “56” because the numbers added up to “11,” which was his baseball number. He is a local baseball legend, too.

My father also died at age 56. That was 21 years ago come the end of summer.

Oh, yeah. I live off S.C. Highway 56. It goes north to Spartanburg and south to Saluda. I haven’t been very far south in, oh, more than a decade. That would’ve been a novel way to celebrate my 56th birthday: “Get your kicks … on Route … 56.”

In Saluda.


If I can make it to 57, I’ll use a famous steak sauce, recall another race-car driver, Jason Keller, and baseball’s greatest cokehead pitcher, Steve Howe, who made it to 57 in uniform number but not in age.

I briefly wore No. 58 when I played football in junior high. I’m drawing a blank on “59,” but I’ve got three years provided the Good Lord’s willing, and “the creek” and my blood pressure don’t rise.

I’ve just been 56 for a day. I’m still pondering its consequences.

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2 thoughts on “Life by the Numbers

  1. In racing, I think of Tiger Tom Pistone for number 59. And I lost an uncle close to me at age 59. You really don’t have much in common with Tiger Tom – physically, ethnically, linguistically, etc. And in 3 years, I hope you don’t share a common experience with my late uncle.

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