Old Digger & Cory Cheek



Gary Spina

(Copyright 2011 by Gary Spina)


Now I don’t often claim to be perfect, though I do belong to The Perfect People Society.  It is a very exclusive club.  I am the only member.  I never make a mistake.  Never.  It was September 22nd of 1993, I thought I made a mistake, but I was wrong.

People call me a “know-it-all” and a “smart-aleck” and I just nod shyly and smile.  I don’t take compliments well.

This all takes us to my last newspaper column where I was quoted as saying my friend Digger’s real name is Cory Cheek – an obvious untruth to them what knows Digger and Cory.  The story has already become a sort of humorous urban legend to the Old Philosopher’s Club at the Olde Towne Tobacconist Shop in downtown Fredericksburg, Virginia.

If you check my website, www.GarySpina.com, and click on “Old Digger” you’ll get my actual original, unedited story. 

The Cory Cheek version was a mistake made in our newspaper’s editorial department, and it has caused much chagrin to both Cory and Digger.

It’s got people almost believing that in times of trouble, when a hero is needed, Cory disappears inside a telephone booth, or down a dark alley and emerges as Digger to the rescue.  It’s got people scratching their heads and wondering if indeed they’ve ever actually seen Cory and Digger together – and are they really two people, or the same person.

Now, Cory Cheek is not a man to be trifled with by any stretch of the imagination, but he would be the first to admit that he is no Digger.  Still, just yesterday when I was at the tobacco shop sitting out front at a sidewalk table, the cigar-smoking men of the Old Philosopher’s Club got to telling me Cory Cheek stories instead of Digger stories and making me swear not to print most of what they were telling me.  Ah, shades of Digger himself, one would think.

Well, a lesser man might think that.

But I am not given to mistakes or misjudgments.

While I enjoyed the fragrance of the second-hand cigar smoke’s rich aroma I listened intently.

They told me of Cory on his Yamaha 1300 motorcycle on a trip to Tennessee’s Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  Cory was in the middle of a line of comrades making their way to a weekend mountain retreat of smoky contemplation and relaxation – ah, “the Goddess Nicotine” as Winston Churchill referred to the peace and tranquility induced by cigar smoke – and a little fishing may have been in the plans.

But somewhere south of Gatlinburg, on US Route 441, Cory encountered some trouble.

The lead rider’s motorcycle took a wicked bounce and lost a stray chunk of steel – nothing vital – but it came back and bounced up and vitaled-out Cory’s bike.

Not to worry, the tellers of this tale assured me.  Cory may have lost his engine, but possessed of brute strength and boot-leather, he foot-peddled his way up the rugged mountains, coasting down the other side once he reached each summit.

Yes, this may sound like a Digger tale – but it was our Cory, they assured me, obviously awestruck even as they recounted the adventure.

As luck would have it, there was a park ranger at the bottom of one of the long mountain slopes.  The ranger had a radar gun and was checking for speeders.  Now the speed limit inside the national park is 25 miles an hour, and on the long down-slope Cory was kind of resting in the saddle and gliding silently and enginelessly when he passed the ranger at about fifty miles an hour.

“Cory just waved at him and smiled,” one of the old philosophers said.  “But the ranger, he wasn’t seeing the humor in it.  He gave chase.”

With lights flashing and siren blaring, the ranger was alongside Cory frantically waving him and his freewheeling bike to the side of the road.  Of course, not wishing to waste all that downward momentum, Cory did not stop until he came to the next upward mountain incline.

“You were speeding – 52 miles per hour on a 25 mile-per-hour highway,” the ranger said to Cory.  “You failed to pull over and stop upon seeing and hearing my emergency lights and siren – and my hand signals, I might add.  May I see your operator’s license and registration, please.”

Now, Cory is not a man easily intimidated.  He was cool.  He said not a word about the technicality of his motorcycle not running on its own power.  He merely complied with the ranger’s request and surrendered his documents.  The ranger looked carefully at the name on the license.  He squinted his eyes and looked again.

“Ever go by the name of… Digger?” he asked.

Cory cocked his head to one side as he slowly considered the query.

“Only in Virginia,” Cory responded.

“Well, in that case, I’ll let you go with a warning.”

That seemed to end the story there at the sidewalk table outside the Olde Towne Tobacconist shop.  The tips of the cigars that surrounded me glowed bright red.  I looked from face to face.  All were dead serious.

“You guys gonna stick to that story?” I asked.

“Absolutely.  On Digger’s grave.”

“Digger ain’t dead,” I said.

“Let’s not split hairs here.”

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