By M. Scott Morris
TUPELO – Plenty of 55-year-old men would like to get the same report Odell Cayson got.
“When I went to the doctor, he said, ‘Your cholesterol is all right. Your blood pressure is down.’ He said, ‘Whatever you’re doing, keep doing it,’” Cayson said. “If someone tells you that, I guess you’re doing pretty good.”
It could be his job at the BancorpSouth Arena that keeps him fit and healthy. It’s a big place, and it’s part of Cayson’s job to keep it clean.
“During the shows, I’ll be monitoring floors,” the Tupelo resident said. “If someone spills popcorn or beer on the floor, I’ll make sure it gets cleaned up so we don’t have any accidents.”
After shows, he’s part of the crew that picks up between 300 and 400 chairs from the arena floor. It’s a workout, but Cayson said he doesn’t mind.
“We make memories,” he said, “as long as I’ve been here, that’s what we’ve done.”
Other than Bill Cosby and The Temptations, he’s worked every show at the arena. But his work isn’t his passion and it might not even be why he got that good report from the doctor.
Cayson started roller skating in the 1970s, and he still owns the first pair of skates that fit him just right.
“I didn’t want anyone else to have them, so I took them home,” he said. “The next time I went, I brought them back and asked if I could buy them. The lady sold them to me for $20. I paid it in installments, and they never let anybody else have them. I paid it off every week until I could take them home again.”
In addition to finding the right skates, he also found Mrs. Right at the rink.
“We went in to go skating and I saw this girl sitting in the corner,” Cayson said. “I went over to her, did a spin and put my hand out and asked if she wanted to skate. That’s when I got engaged with her. We’ve been together ever since.”
Ada Cayson doesn’t skate anymore, and neither do the Cayson’s two daughters, who tried skating but didn’t stick with it.
Cayson, though, is always ready with his 40-year-old skates in his truck. His hours at the arena depend on what’s happening, so he’ll skate in the afternoon or at night, whatever works.
It’s a given that he’s the oldest skater on the floor, and he’s happy to teach the kids some of his moves. They point him out around town and say things like, “Mommy, that man taught me to skate backwards.”
With all the space to cover at the arena, it would seem natural for him to lace up at work – but not so much.
“I skated in here one time,” he said. “We had the Charity Ball one night. I put them on and cleaned the tables. It worked out pretty good.”
He tried ice skating at the arena once, but didn’t like the way the skates felt on him.
“They were too floppy,” he said.
Roller skating is his thing, and that’s not about to change.
“When I get out there, it’s my passion,” he said. “I won’t say I love it, but it’s a strong passion when I’m on those wheels.”
The effort he puts in comes back in big ways. He’s pretty sure the good report from the doctor was due to skating, rather than working at the arena. Of course, it would take only one nasty fall for the doctor to change his tune.
“The thing there is,” Cayson said, “don’t fall.”