Loran Smith: Missing My High School Friend

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Loran Smith: Missing My High School Friend

Loran Smith
Loran Smith

A close friend from my high school years passed away in the last fortnight, and I’m ‘hurtin.

With a busy schedule, almost overwhelming in the fall, I hardly have had time to grieve, but his smiling face has appeared often in my consciousness as I have gone about my daily routine lately.  There were times when I would stop and laugh out loud at something I remember him saying.





He was always a gregarious person, never taking himself seriously and was forever making fun of his friends good-naturedly.  He loved a good story and he loved those who made him laugh—a classic raconteur. 

He came from a family of big people.  In high school, he was a 260-pound lineman.  The rest of us topped the scales at 150 pounds or less.  We didn’t have a placement kicker, so our coach lined him up at fullback, and he rushed the ball for extra points.

While I am sure that he wasn’t perfect on PAT attempts, I don’t remember anybody stopping him.  His intimidating size caused smaller defenders to scramble uncontrollably to get out of the way.





With his intimidating size, Jim Jordan, his surname pronounced “Jerden,” became a highly regarded college prospect.  He wasn’t just big, he had quickness and excellent speed for a lineman.

The University of Alabama was beginning to show him a lot of attention in his senior year, but there was a problem.  His agribusiness father took a trip to Southern California about that time and decided to take a fling at big time cotton farming out west.

The senior Jordan abruptly moved his family to Blythe, a city 223 miles due east of Los Angeles on the Arizona border.  We couldn’t find it on the map.  The good news was that Jimmy, our court jester friend, stayed behind to play his final season of football in Wrightsville in 1956.   

Following the Rose Bowl game in 2018, my wife and I drove from LA to Phoenix on Interstate 10 which took us through Blythe.  I stopped at a restaurant and called my friend, giving him that, “Guess where I am” treatment.  He was flabbergasted with that call which he never expected from a back home classmate.

With his family settling in Blythe, both Arizona State and Arizona discovered him and offered him football scholarships. He first committed to Dan Devine at Tempe but reneged and enrolled at the University of Arizona at Tucson.

“You should have heard the chewing out I got from Coach Devine when I told him I had decided that I was going to Arizona,” Jimmy later told me.   The end of the story is that he benefitted from a football grant-in-aid but tore up a shoulder which ended his football career.

After graduation, he got into sales for which he was a perfect fit.  He traveled the west and made friends as he racked up sales of farm equipment.   His success had him moving his family quite often.  I managed to visit him wherever he landed.  I recall the only place I didn’t connect with him was when he took an assignment with John Deere in Chillicothe, Ohio.

Everywhere he lived, it was fun and happy times.  In Evergreen, Colorado, he became friends with Willie Nelson and enjoyed many private parties with Willie when there was non-stop pickin’ and singin.’ 

When he lived in the Northern California town of Grass Valley, which was the home of pilot Chuck Yeager, we would drive the 88 miles to Reno, Nevada where I visited Savannahian, Mills Lane, who became a judge and boxing referee.  Mills was the ref when Mike Tyson bit off Evander Holifield’s ear.

We also, a couple of times, drove 79 miles to Lake Tahoe for lunch.  Tahoe is a little more than 30 miles from Donner Pass where the Donner family perished in a blizzard while trying to get through the mountains to their California destination.

When I suggested we go see that historical site, he threw me the car keys and said, “See you in a couple of hours, I’m going to stay at the bar.”  Vising my high school friend, enabled me to see a lot of the Western U. S.  

Fun ‘n games, love and laughter.  My friend Jimmy Jordan enjoyed life to the fullest because he had an outsized personality, loved his friends and was forever a generous host.   He gave of himself to his friends because he loved life and laced every conversation with feeling and affection.

My guess is that the only person he ever offended was Dan Devine.  That is forgivable.  Who can second guess a man who decides on where he will spend his campus life.  He must have felt that they had more fun in Tucson than Arizona’s main rival had in Tempe.





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