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  Steve Blow:
Amputee Network doing its part to educate, entertain

08:59 PM CDT on Tuesday, June 7, 2005
REPRINTED WITH PERMISSION OF THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS.

Well, heck. A guy can't be everywhere. But I sure wanted to attend a recent meeting of the Dallas Amputee Network.

The little announcement in the newspaper intrigued me. It said a member of the group would give a presentation, "Famous Amputees Throughout History."

But wait. It gets better.

And another member would perform "his amputee humor routine."

I suddenly realized just how little amputee history or humor I had been exposed to. And I felt ashamed of my limb-centrism.

I couldn't make it to the meeting, but I did the next best thing: I had lunch last week with amputee historian Jack Brixey and amputee humorist Randy Mecca.

Hey, what has two legs and makes you laugh?

Jack and Randy, of course.

They're as different as two one-legged men can be. Jack is a droll, soft-spoken engineer. He's 75 and retired from Texas Instruments. Randy is a loud, hyperactive character. He's 47, does comedy when he can and is between real jobs.

Randy lost his left leg because of a birth defect. But there was never any opportunity for self-pity. "I come from a family with seven brothers and sisters," he said. "You had to laugh."

His first public performance was in a student talent show at R.L. Turner High School in Carrollton. "I did an Elvis routine and then finished with my leg falling off," he said. "That was my first splash at amputee comedy."

His act is much more refined now. He cracks walnuts with his artificial leg.

I made the mistake of asking how. Randy turned from his enchiladas and rotated his prosthetic leg so that his foot was twisted up beside his head. I expected the restaurant to break out in screams.

Without benefit of an actual walnut, he demonstrated how he drops a nut into the upturned knee joint, yanks back on his foot and - voila - cracked nuts.

"In my act, I also chop carrots by sticking them in the side," he said. "Add a cup of mayonnaise and some mini-marshmallows, and you have a lovely Waldorf salad."

Jack lost his right leg in 1982. He had stopped to help a man fix a flat when a drunken driver plowed into them. "I jumped," he said. "I just couldn't get all of me out of the way."

He lost his leg just below the knee. Or, as he puts it, "at the height of a Lincoln Continental front bumper."

Once he joined the club, Jack got interested in amputees in history.

Probably his favorite is our old friend Santa Anna, who lost a leg fighting the French at the Battle of Veracruz. This was after he had already lost a little appendage called Texas.

"But he later returned to power and became president of Mexico," Jack said. "When he did, he had his leg exhumed and paraded through the streets of Mexico City."

Later, during the Mexican-American War, an Illinois brigade captured Santa Anna's artificial leg. It remains on display in a museum in Springfield, Jack said.

"The Mexican government tried to get it back. But the reply was: You don't have a leg to stand on."

Jack said it without cracking a smile.

After Santa Anna, the list of historic amputees drops off pretty fast - British naval hero Horatio Nelson (arm), Texas wildcatter Patillo Higgins (arm), American colonist Peter Stuyvesant (leg).

Jack was unsure whether to include scientist Edward Teller on the list of historic amputees (part of a foot). "Aw, he's a wannabe," Randy pished. "An honorable mention," Jack said diplomatically.

Randy said, "The one I thought of was John Bobbitt, but he didn't make the list."

Ouch.

OK, let's try to end on a high note with a public service. In the tradition of David Letterman's Top 10 lists, Randy created a list of things you don't say to an amputee.

5. "Don't drag your feet."

4. "Let's have a show of hands."

3. "Hop to it."

2. "You're pulling my leg."

And the No. 1 thing you never say to an amputee:

"Stumped?"


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