Jim Arthur is a retired attorney from Memphis who moved with his wife, Jill, to Franklin in 2012. Jim grew up in the Blues City, not far from Graceland.
In 1957, at age 12, Jim was the paperboy who had the plum assignment of daily delivering the afternoon paper, The Memphis Press-Scimitar, to the Presley residence.
To read Part 1 of my conversation with Jim, CLICK HERE.
Jim, one day on your paper route you had a special moment with The King himself. I believe it involved a peacock and a bike wreck. Tell us about that.
Elvis had bought two peacocks and let them run loose on the property. These birds were big, loud, obnoxious, and meaner than snakes. If they happened to be in the front
yard and spotted me struggling up the driveway, they would descend on me and peck my legs all the way up to the house and back down again, where the cousins would run out flapping their arms and shoo them off of me. I am pretty sure the cousins were not so much interested in rescuing me as they were in not having to chase those flightless monsters up and down Hwy 51 in heavy traffic.
After a few of these episodes, I became most adept at scanning for peacocks. One fateful day, however, when I thought the coast was clear, the feathered demons were actually lying in wait for me at opposite corners of the house. As soon as the paper hit the mat and I made my turn, they broke from cover and tore out after me. I was sure I had the beat on them. I mean, c’mon, it was all downhill. I was pedaling like mad … and they were gaining on me — laid out, long necks and tails parallel to the ground, just like the Roadrunner, one on the left, one on the right.
I remember looking back under my left arm at the one I thought was closest, and the next thing I knew I was in the air in a cloud of afternoon papers. I did a forward one-
and-a-half, landed flat on my back, and the lights went out. When I came to I found myself stretched out comfortably in the cool grass under the shade of the trees.
After making sure everything was still working, I looked over at my bike lying in the driveway and was horrified to see Peacock #2 with his neck bent double in the front fork and his nasty little beak tink-tink-tinking on the spokes of the front wheel, which was still slowly turning. I heard his pal hooting way off in the distance somewhere behind the barn, and I started to cry.
Something moved over me, blocking the sun filtering through the leaves, and I heard a voice say, “That’s alright, little buddy, I didn’t like that damned bird, anyway.”
It was the King himself. He was wearing a white bolero type shirt with gold chain around the bottom, toreador pants, and had what I’m now sure was a gin and tonic in one hand and a big cigar in the other. He was barefoot. He put his stuff down, laying the cigar carefully across the top of the glass, helped me up and started brushing me off.
At this moment, a big guy (whom Elvis later introduced as Lamar Fike) came up huffing and puffing. Elvis inclined his head toward my bike, and Lamar walked over,
unceremoniously grabbed the dead bird by the legs, jerked his head out of my wheel, and threw the sucker over a large holly bush thirty-plus feet away.
Then, both Elvis and Lamar proceeded to pick up about 120 still-tightly folded copies of the Memphis Press-Scimitar. They unbent my basket, which had become a sort of
parallelogram, checked out my bike, which was miraculously undamaged, packed in the papers, and helped me mount up.
Elvis, retrieving his drink and cigar said, “Lamar, give my little buddy something to make him feel better.”
Lamar reached in his front pocket and pulled out a huge roll of bills, scotch-taped together end-to-end, like a roll of toilet paper. They were singles. Hey, it was 1957. He snapped one off and handed it to me. It rolled up in my palm, tight, the size of a pencil. I still have it. Still rolled up tight.
Jim, as one who lived in Memphis during the Elvis era, what are your lasting impressions of the man, not just the entertainer?
Elvis was a sweet soul, generous, well-mannered, self-effacing and kind, who lost his battle to remain just a regular guy. He became a captive to his fame and was ultimately destroyed by it.
What is a quality or trait that you observed in Elvis that most people didn’t/don’t know or understand?
Elvis and I crossed paths a number of times in later years. I was an Assistant DA in Memphis the night Elvis died. My immediate boss went to the scene. I reviewed the
file. Elvis was a victim of poly-pharmacy. Elvis wasn’t doing drugs for recreation. He was doing drugs to survive. He took drugs to sleep, drugs to wake up, drugs to speed
up and drugs to slow down, drugs to feel better and drugs to chill out, to the point his body finally just threw in the towel.
It is reported that, in his later years, Elvis was desperately searching for meaning in life, trying hard to make sense of the bizarre hand he had been dealt. He read voraciously all manner of theological works looking for answers on his own, instead of hauling himself off to India with the Beatles. On the nightstand next to his bed the night he died was a copy of Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy. Obviously, he never finished it.
Ramon Presson, PhD, is a licensed marriage and family therapist in Franklin (www.ramonpressontherapy.com) and the author of several books. Reach him at
firstname.lastname@example.org. To read Presson’s previous columns go to www.franklinhomepage.com/?s=ramon+presson