STEVE INSKEEP, host:
It is a Friday morning, which means it's time again for StoryCorps. This is the project that gets people talking to each other on tape. We get to listen. And today we'll hear from Ricky Boone. He was born with a rare bone disorder that stunted his growth. He's just over four feet tall and uses a wheelchair.
Doctors told his mom years ago that he would not live past childhood, but Ricky has spent his life surprising people. He's a magician now. His friend Patty Barber brought him to StoryCorps to talk about how he got his start.
Mr. RICKY BOONE (Magician): What happened is, in my mother's womb my skeletal system went haywire, and so I have bones in places where I shouldn't have bones, and then there are places where I should have bones that I don't.
Ms. PATTY BARBER: How was it for you when you were a child?
Mr. BOONE: I grew up in a very small rural town, and people were ashamed that their next-door neighbor was a disabled child. So, it was very difficult. One day when I was 13, we were told that there would be a new teacher where I went to school. And me and a couple of other guys were standing outside the school waiting to see what this new teacher looked like.
This guy pulls up on a Harley wearing a black leather jacket. So, I thought he was cool right then and there. He got off the motorcycle and proceeded to show us card tricks and coin tricks. And I was hooked. His name was Grovner Wood, and I owe everything to him.
He became principal of the school, and he would come over the intercom almost daily: Ricky Boone, please report to the principal's office. And he would come outside of his office, and the other kids thought I was always in trouble. Even the secretary thought I was in trouble. And he would say, get in here, and close the door.
And he'd say, Ricky, let me show you this. And then he'd show me a new card trick or a coin trick. He said, go find a book, learn a new trick. When you can fool me, we'll trade. And I started reading every book I could get my hands on.
So, later on when I graduated from college, he tracked me down and he was having a Christmas party. And he said, come and perform. So, I went and did their Christmas party. His mother came up to me after and she said, you know, he does little magic but nothing like what you've just done. And at that point in time I knew that the student had surpassed the master, and that made me feel really, really good.
I've been a professional magician now for 36 years. And people, they do judge a book by its cover. People see me as someone to pity, and so it takes a lot to get past that initial shock. But if I can make that person laugh their butt off, then they have no time to feel sorry for me and they forget that I'm in a chair.
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INSKEEP: That's Ricky Boone with his friend Patty Barber in Asheville, North Carolina. That's where Ricky runs his own magic shop, Magic Central. Their StoryCorps conversation, along with all the others, will be archived at the Library of Congress. And you can subscribe to the project Podcast at NPR.org.
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INSKEEP: You're listening to MORNING EDITION from NPR News.
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