LOCKHART — In 1971, Danny Comer set a school record at Lockhart High School when he won three individual state championships in a single meet — long jump, high hurdles and low hurdles.
These days, the former track star is taking life at a slower pace but he’s still turning heads, this time thanks to a rocking chair.
Yes, a rocking chair.
This isn’t just any rocking chair: This one is 10 feet tall and 4 feet wide — kind of a combination of a really, really high hurdle that one might need some long-jumping experience just to make it into the seat.
But we’ll get back to the rocking chair.
Back when Comer ran track, athletes could only run three events at state. Comer’s three best were the long jump, high hurdles and low hurdles.
In addition to the trifecta at the state meet, Comer’s achievement record included being named most valuable in track in 1970 and 1971 and being the first athlete at Lockhart High to win an individual State Championship (1971). He was also part of the state championship track team in 1970.
Throughout Comer’s high school days, no one had a better time in high hurdles or low hurdles except for 4-A Gaffney’s Charles Foster who went on to run in the 1972 Olympics.
Comer’s only loss came his junior year when he forgot what he calls the “cardinal rule” of track.
“You’re never supposed to look over your shoulder if you’re ahead ‘cause it’ll throw you off balance,” Comer said. “I had always beat that guy, I can’t remember his name, but I would only outrun him by a couple of yards. I just glanced over my shoulder at about the seventh hurdle and hit that one and rolled from there to about the eighth hurdle — that was for state. That was the first and only time I lost.”
Despite that one loss, Comer’s record remains impressive. Equally impressive is the efforts of his friends and fellow classmates who helped him train.
“Wayne Grady and Johnny Littlejohn had a big part in me doing what I did,” Comer said. “We had three high hurdles and three little hurdles that the shop class made out of school bus seats for me to jump over. Wayne and Johnny would run alongside me. They pushed me to get better.”
Out of gratitude for Grady’s friendship and support, Comer gave him a special gift when he graduated.
“I had a shoestring I wore around my wrist and a headband I always wore and I gave them to Wayne when I graduated,” Comer said.
Grady wasn’t the only person to get a special gift at the end of Comer’s high school career.
“When I went to turn my track shoes in after the last meet (state) Coach Bevis said ‘Nope, you keep them, you earned them,’” Comer said. “I’ve still got my original track shoes from 1971.”
After graduation, Comer went to work at Carlisle Finishing where he would remain for 32 years before having to retire on disability in 2003 due to “arthritis, rheumatoid, fibromyalgia and all that stuff.”
Though it forced him into retirement, Comer did not let arthritis force him into inactivity. Instead, he tried his hand at carpentry, a hobby he still enjoys today.
“Me and Tony — my brother-in-law — started back in about ‘98 building a few chairs and things. I just kept on doing a little bit on my own just piddling around. When I decide I want to build something, I’ll tackle it,” Comer said.
But what about that oversized rocking chair?
Comer has been building chairs for 16 or 17 years and had been thinking about building this one for a while. It was a trip to the mountains that planted the idea in his head.
“It’s slow go with me because of the arthritis and all, so I took about a week to build this one,” he said. “When I was able, I could have built something like this in probably a day.”
Comer has been partial to rocking chairs for as long as he can remember.
“Mama raised me in a rocking chair,” Comer said. “When the weather was alright, she’d have me outside, rocking.”
Comer’s wife, Julie, said she knows of just two people who can rock a chair to pieces and they just happen to be related.
“Him and his cousin, Julie Eaves,” she declared. “Those two will wear a rocking chair out faster than anybody I know. Don’t even ask me how many we’ve had to buy over the years. When they tear up, Danny’ll bring them up to the shop and try to restore them.”
Comer’s creation sits behind his home on Hwy 9 and he’s had several visitors stop by recently for a closer look.
“I didn’t do it for any kind of recognition,” he said. “I just always wanted to build one like this and I knew the kids would like it.”
Comer has never been one to relish the spotlight but the spotlight found him when he was inducted into the Union County Hall of Fame in 2009.
In the three years since, Comer has continued to remain as active as his body will allow, enjoying his family, his projects and country life.
“Arthritis is the main thing that slows me down,” Comer said. “I sit around out at the shop and have my little rat terrier Petey with me most of the time. I babysit Abby (granddaughter), get on my four-wheeler sometimes, but mainly just piddling. I’m just an ol’ country boy.”
Yes, he’s a record-setting country boy who knows how to rock with the best of them.