Beyond Good and Evil

Dr. Ronnie J. Hastings

Archive for the category “Trivia Designed to Bring a Little Meaningless Content to the Social Network Instead of Meaningless Crap”

NFL — 2016-17 Style

For reasons not quite clear to me I have delayed my annual NFL commentary to over a month after the Super Bowl. Perhaps I assumed it would require more effort and thought because we no longer have Peyton Manning to ponder. But, now, I think “Nah-h-h-h…I was just procrastinating.” Pretty straight forward, now that I think about it: Unbelievable SB LI, rookies can take over if you give them a chance, and NFL front office has at last, perhaps, started doing something useful and begun staring at its own navel.

The NFL got perhaps its finest example of a fairy tale Super Bowl; if only it could bottle it and open its likeness every February!  Usually I have mixed emotions over who is in the Super Bowl when I have “no dog in the fight” (no Cowboys or Buccaneers).  Those mixed emotions are based upon the old traditional bias of going with the “old” NFL conference, the National Conference, over the “old” AFL conference, the American Conference (confusing franchises like the Steelers and the Colts notwithstanding).  So, I’m pulling for the Falcons, but it never felt “all in,” for I’ve always been on Brady’s side over the stupid “deflate-gate controversy.”  To suspend “Tommy” for four games over the PSI in the “hog’s bladder” is nonsense to me.  So, back in my mind, as the game started, I thought how sweet it would be for Brady, Belichick, and the Patriots to win and plaster egg all over Goodell’s face; sort of a “karma” thing to me.  But, winning the game after being down 28-3?  It was like karma wanted to make a statement with ten exclamation points at the end!  I felt sorry for the Falcons; players like Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, and their whole defense deserved better than that!  The NFL brass got what it deserved, but the Falcons should have won that thing; it was like they showed their inexperience and thought they had it won going into the second half.  Nonetheless, the “poster boy” for the all-year work-out NFL player, for the good ‘ol “Protestant work ethic,” Tom Brady himself, was in the end triumphant.  (Also, I have to admit it was “way cool” to see the most “spaced-out” Aggie ever, Martellus Bennett, win a SB ring, just like his brother with the Seahawks, Michael.)

What a windfall for the Cowboys, those two rookies, Dak and Zeke!  Just when you think all players need “breaking in” before they become NFL starters, people like these two happen.  Of course, that dynamic duo and all us Poke fans know the reason for the incredible 2016-17 season was that great offensive line, which stayed relatively injury free.  Were it not for that unbelievable sideline pass by Rodgers, the Pokes would have played for a SB berth.  That’s how good the defense was all season also.  Tony’s leaving the team is bittersweet to say the least; expect him back working for Jerry after he hangs up his helmet.  The upcoming draft will tell us how high our Cowboy hopes should be for next season, but for now, we need to savor this one.

The NFC South felt good to me this season.  Seems all four, the Falcons, Bucs, Saints, and Panthers were improved and more competitive.  Elsewhere I liked the Chiefs, Vikings, Seahawks, Broncos, and Cardinals, though that Seattle/Arizona tie made me put off the NFL for at least 50 seconds or so.  The possibility of the Raiders going to LV is just too intriguing and pirate-like not to come true.  We shall see.  And when, when, will the Texans get the QB they need?  I sure enjoyed the Houston season also.

The NFL brass made some headway on self-identity this season.  I saw signs of stopping treating millionaire abusers of women like children, and of facing the problem of closed head injuries like responsible adults.  But the front offices of the NFL still have a long way to go.  I think that it needs to get behind ideas like postponing participation in football for young boys and like changing at all levels how tackling is taught and coached.  Penalty for tackling leading with the helmet needs to be reviewed, especially the consistency of what is penalized.  Still think the day is coming when playing football at all levels will be considered legally like volunteering for combat duty.  And, by the way, love the introduction of women as officials; I thought the “rookie” did a great job.  Are other roles for women in the NFL opening up in future?

Wanting to keep this short this time, so until next Super Bowl, may your team not suffer those awful throwback uniforms (Who cares what the Bears wore in the 1940’s?) and may you have some financial windfall in the coming year allowing you to afford attending more than one NFL game next season.  Is it too early to talk about the horror of the stands being filled by only the rich?

RJH

 

The Lth Year of the Super Bowl in the “50+”th Year of the NFL

Word has it that the numerals “50” were used in the logo of the fiftieth Super Bowl (2016) because the Roman numeral (used in each Super Bowl) for “50” is “L,” which the credulous might confuse with the finger-symbol for “loser.” Really? What is wrong with keeping up the lesson in Roman numerals? Are we NFL fans that stupid, thin-skinned, and politically correct? Let us hope to every wing in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton we will see next season “LI” instead of “51.” It’s just classier and more cerebral, qualities sorely needed by the most brutal level of an already brutal game — the game we fans un-apologetically love.

I must confess I approached Super Bowl L, once Denver and Carolina were determined the two conference champions, with a degree of neutral ambiguity.  I felt I had “no dog in this fight,” as I cannot label myself a follower of either team.  I admired the way Carolina played as a team — good in all three phases of the game.  And Cam Newton reminded me of Joe Namath back in the days before Super Bowl III — Cam could talk and act however he wanted, because he backed it up; he walked the walk.  Peyton going from the Colts to the Broncos made it comfortable for me to openly express my admiration for the NFL’s elder Manning brother, one of Archie’s sons.  Moreover, even if I did not follow Denver, the Texas A&M connections (head coach of the Broncos, Gary Kubiak = former Aggie QB and star LB for Denver, Von Miller = former All-American Aggie LB) mean I could never think badly of former Aggie players on any NFL team.  Then there was the Defensive Coordinator of the Broncos, Wade Phillips, son of beloved head coach Bum Phillips of the long-gone Houston Oilers, as well as former Cowboy great OLB, Demarcus Ware, who had the chance to win a Super Bowl ring now that he was sadly no longer with the boys with the star on the helmet owned by stupid-decision king Jerry Jones.  In addition to my admiration of the Panthers, I, on the other hand, as an Aggie fan, a “fossil fan” of the Oilers, and a Cowboy fan, could think of nothing negative about the Denver Broncos.

Therefore, when the end to Super Bowl L came, I surprised myself how good I felt, despite the fact the Broncos are in the American conference, opposite the Cowboys’ National conference, because Gary, Von (the game’s MVP, by the way), Wade, and Demarcus were getting rings.  I guess I had a dog in this fight after all, and I didn’t know it.

 

I’ve often repeated that I will never stop loving both upper levels of football — college football and pro football — because one of the fascinations for me as a fan is to see both the correlation and lack of correlation between those players successful on the college gridiron and those players successful on the pro gridiron.  For every whiz-bang success making the transition from college to professional, like Peyton Manning or Von Miller, there seems to be a crash-and-burn failure, like Vince Young or Brian Bosworth.  The failures seem to parallel Greek tragedy — a clear hero with an equally clear “fatal flaw.”

As every fan of following players’ transition to the NFL knows, there is no assurance “your favorites” are going to make it (part of the fascination), and one of my all-time favorites, Johnny Manziel, was no exception.  Yet, as the 2015 season brought Johnny’s case into focus as a probable failure, his personal tragedy loomed especially sad for me.  Just as his gridiron success at Texas A&M was countered by off-the-field “negative spinning” by the media, efforts to shine his every NFL off-the-field move in as negative a light as possible became even more ratcheted up than in college, in my opinion.  Johnny definitely has a “fatal flaw,” an Achilles heel, if you please, but for him it seems the NFL, the sports media, and his NFL team set him up to be a failure because of an apparent drinking problem, spinning it as if his problem was on the same plane as the problems of fellow Heisman Trophy winner and QB of my Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Jameis Winston — ludicrous at best, as NFL fans paying attention recently to an ESPN crawl line saw Winston settling with a young woman over charges of sexual assault for around a half-million bucks.  All I’m saying is slapping someone in the face while intoxicated is not sexual assault; slapping someone in the face means you are a bad drunk, not an accused rapist.  Johnny does not deserve the bad press he is getting.  I’m not condoning what Johnny did off the field; I’m condemning the demonizing of what he did.

But whether Manziel is a success or failure in the transition is really up to him.  The light at the end of the tunnel for Johnny is that this is a game, not a public office; his career can be turned around with a team that will give him a chance to recover the feeling of having fun playing the game that we Aggie fans saw on the gridiron for two unforgettable seasons.  He needs not only to address his personal demons, he needs to change his personal posse he takes with him to parties; he needs true friends who understand his weaknesses and have his back; if he asked for interviews for such a “posse” position, I think there would be a long line of his generation waiting to apply, not all of them Aggie fans; were I not so damn old, I’d like to join that line.  Johnny could be another Joe Namath, or he could be another Ryan Leaf; with JFF, we can have another “feel-good” story of athletic success, or we can have still another Greek tragedy.  I join the ‘Bama fan who wrote an editorial in the local paper recently hoping that Johnny can turn his life and career around; the NFL needs him to do just that.

(Whatever the future holds for Johnny Football, Texas A&M has to, in the long haul, pay eternal homage to him, if for no other reason than the millions of dollars he brought and is still bringing to TAMU.  The least he deserves is a kick-ass statue that rivals or excels the great statue we already have outside Kyle Field of the late, great Heisman Trophy winner John David Crow.  I am such a “homer” Aggie, I believe Johnny was sincere when he closed his Heisman acceptance speech with “Gig ‘Em!”)

 

When Tony Romo got hurt early in the 2015 NFL season, it was “curtains” to Cowboy hopes for a repeat of a great season.  Tony’s bad luck illustrates a real concern I have as a football fan, especially in the NFL — the damn game is too damn dependent upon one “prima-donna” position, the QB!  The salary money gets top-heavy toward one position, as if the only successful teams are those who have QB’s that can still throw the ball at the end of the season.  How stupid is that?  In the Cowboys’ case this past season, poor choices for back-up QB indicated not only inflated QB salaries, but also idiotic money-saving hires of people who the organization hopes will not take a single snap all season, and the lack of keeping a quality offensive line intact to protect Tony in the first place.  Has anyone out there in “coaching land” not remembered the good old days when the QB did not have to touch the ball but very few times, like in early versions of modern “wildcat” formations or the old wing-T or single-T formations, from all of which you can, with the right personnel, throw or run every single down?  And I mean throw like Joe Namath, Tony Romo, Peyton Manning, Cam Newton, or Johnny Manziel?!  Sure the NFL defenses (one of the reasons I liked Super Bowl L — it was dominated by defense) will soon adapt to any innovative or throw-back offense, but does any offensive coordinator really believe that all offensive possibilities have been exhausted?  Bill Walsh sure as hell did not think that!

 

Concussions have to be addressed even more than they have already.  Every NFL fan should see the movie Concussion.  The “art and skill” of tackling needs to be coached differently from Pop Warner football on up.  Innovations in helmet and uniform protection of the player need to be accelerated independent of business factors.  Rules like targeting need to be tweaked and policed to walk atop the fence line between a safe game and a violent game, with the rules simultaneously not being as “metaphysical,” not being such a judgement call, as, say, pass interference.  We’ve not even begun to seriously consider if there is even such a thing as a safe, violent game.  As a football fan, I hope and pray such a game does exist; I hope the Pro Football Hall of Fame never becomes just a museum of history that enshrines some ending date.

 

2015 was another NFL season when the NFL showed it was “too big for its britches.”  Driven by profits, owners prop up a commissioner to do their bidding, and are so impressed with the successes of their bottom lines, they feel entitled to pontificate controls over their “assets,” the lives of the players.  This not only involves the concussion issue, it involves the moral and legal lives of the players.  The NFL should be a big HR department for players, not a police department or a church of the oblate spheroid.  As the only HR the players have, the players’ association should only have to be an adviser to the owners, instead of having to be their antagonist.  Players are the essence of the NFL, not its “workers.”

Unfortunately, the game of pro football became even more a game with only the rich and self-entitled seated in the stands, as costs to “average Joe” fans continued to rise.  Pro football is not really a game of the people anymore, it is more a game of the privileged.  Thank God for great TV coverage of the games!

 

As for the 2015 season on the gridiron, I enjoyed seeing the return of the Minnesota Vikings to prominence and the playoffs, as well as the noise the Tampa Bay Buccaneers made on the field.  The Seahawks were a hard team to figure out, and the Cardinals and Bengals sure were pleasant surprises.  The Chiefs were fun to follow, and the Chargers remain an enigma.  I sympathized with the troubles of the Saints, Bears, and Lions, but, of course, had no sympathy with any troubles suffered by the Giants, Eagles, Steelers, Redskins, and Forty-Niners.  I thought the Raiders and the Falcons had some unexpected bright spots.  Would you objectively call the Packers’ season expected or unexpected?  How about the Rams’ move to LA?  Will they be joined by one or both of the Raiders and Chargers?  Once more the city of St. Louis is left out in the cold.  I loved that former Aggie QB Ryan Tannehill ended up with a successful season with the Dolphins (not to mention former Aggie Dan Campbell’s interim head coaching stint) despite many premature obituaries from the media.  And good for Tom Brady for letting the stupid deflated-balls-fiasco motivate him and his Patriots to a great season.  And, finally, when oh when will the Texans get them a good NFL QB?  A drinking party-man from the Browns with a built-in Texas fan base would serve the boys from Houston better than what happened last season.

Coach Bill Belichick is to the NFL as Greg Popovich is to the NBA; Bill is still the best in the league, in my opinion.  With that, I shall sign off until next season, when the number “50” at the midfield stripes should morph from gold to white and we shall return in our heads to the fallacy that our QB going down is more serious than another on the team going down.  Deep down in our egalitarian hearts, we know that it isn’t true, just like we know deep down that we would like to watch a dangerous game of blocking and tackling rather than a game of touch pass or flag football.

RJH

 

D-I College Football — When Will We Ever Learn?

I expected, as a Texas A&M season football ticket holder, that the 2015 D-I college football season would be memorably good, given it marked the completion of A&M’s new expansion and make-over of Kyle Field.  And it turned out as expected.  My new tickets are not far from the  50-yard line (where my old ones were) and still in the preferred “nose-bleed” high section.  I can walk all the way around the stadium (something never before possible) at a high mezzanine level, and the women’s restrooms outnumber the men’s two to one, as it should be.  I can get a beer before (not during) the game, and I can get almost all the way up to my seats using an escalator.  To build and pay for the new Kyle Field in such a short period of time should be a point of pride for all Aggies.  We have built it, to coin the phase from Field of Dreams, so now the players should come.

Unexpected was the soap opera of QB’s that resulted in an 8-5 season for the Aggies, including a bowl loss.  It was better than I had predicted (7-6), but should have been better and free of discovering the hard way that 1) QB’s in the SEC need to be more like Johnny Manziel, 2) offensive lines need to be as good as during Johnny’s two years, 3) QB’s need to be neither slow nor prima-donnas, and 4) running backs like Trey Williams need to stay and not opt to the NFL after their junior year.  Applying my formula for predicting next year’s record (reduce the wins by 1 and increase the losses by 1) so as to minimize disappointment due to unrealistic expectations, I once again predict 7-6 in 2016 (with a bowl) for my beloved Aggies.

The carousel of coaches has had to plague the Aggies also, but, as usual, coaching soap operas interest me little.  The reason for this is I am a pure fan; I don’t bet and I don’t do fantasy football at any level; I don’t discuss football much with anyone but fellow Aggie fans, and I do not live vicariously through my chosen teams as a frustrated athlete.  My life is not significantly affected one way or another by the outcomes of my teams on the field or court.   The only thing I can reasonably expect from the money I send in support of A&M Athletics is that the Aggies play well and play to win each and every contest.  So far, I have not regretted my monetary support.  I understand the word “fan” comes from fanatic so I am as an irrational supporter of my beloved teams as any other fan, but my perspective comes from being a football trainer/manager rather than as a player, coach, or fan in the stands. (See Confessions of a Cisco High School Lobo Football Trainer/Manager 1960-1963 [March, 2014])  I have even self-analyzed myself as to why I like the sport; it is the physical contact of blocking and tackling; I enjoy watching rugby as much as I enjoy watching American football.  I shall return to this self-analysis shortly, as well as to the ramifications of being a contact sports fan.

I do enjoy being part of the SEC, the best conference in D-I ball, in my opinion, but with numbers to support that assertion.  Just look at the W-L bowl results at the end of the 2015 season:  SEC 9-2, Big 12 3-4, Pac 12 6-4, & Big 10 5-4.  Nothing else need be said on which is the best conference, except I will remind the reader that I’m fully aware that the Aggies were one of the 2 bowl losses for the SEC, but, that we had a chance to win it at the end, which is more than can be said for Florida’s bowl loss.

My good friend Bill Adling, a Texas Tech fan like I’m an Aggie fan, remarked this past season that the Big 12 is a more exciting conference because of all the high scoring that fans seem to like.  I replied that it depended upon one’s definition of “exciting.”  To repeat myself from other football posts, I prefer smash-mouth football rather than an aerial circus, although I do appreciate the passing/receiving skills of football.  But, give me a 16-13 game over a 48-45 game anytime.  If you want to see a high scoring game, watch basketball; if you want to see a lot of throwing and catching, watch baseball.  To me, going from the Big 12 to the SEC feels like going to a REAL old-school football conference.

I’ve decided that I will follow in seasons to come the non-Aggie SEC teams Mississippi, Mississippi State, Tennessee, and Auburn.  Other SEC teams that interest me are Georgia, South Carolina, and Vanderbilt.  In the Big 12 I follow Oklahoma State, Kansas State, TCU, and Texas Tech.  In the Pac 12 I like Oregon, Oregon State, Stanford, Arizona State, Utah, and UCLA.  In the Big 10 it’s Michigan State, Purdue, Northwestern, Iowa, and Wisconsin.  Other teams of interest scattered all around are USC, West Virginia, Florida State, Florida, Michigan, and Missouri.  No wonder my autumns are filled with watching games live and recorded on TV, as well as at home games in Kyle Field!  In the last two 2-year cycles, my son Chad has taken me to the A&M-LSU game in Baton Rouge for all-day tailgating, as well as for the game.  I’m becoming a fan of college football tailgating too.

Recently I’ve noticed more Aggie fans leaving the game early (regardless of if we are winning or losing) to go tailgating, which is a new experience for me at Kyle.  At LSU I learned that many fans cannot afford to do both — buy season tickets and tailgate, so they do only one, accounting for in part why any tailgate set-up has at least one TV blaring ESPN, etc.  My concern is:  does this portend a path for college ball similar to pro ball — a game only the rich can afford to attend?

Returning to my psychological reasons for liking football — the violent contact, which, of course means concussions.  This is a real sobering concern for me; it is not coincidental that the dark side of Confessions of a Cisco High School Lobo Football Trainer/Manager 1960-1963 [March, 2014] has to do with my close friends receiving concussions while playing.  I encouraged both my sons not to play my favorite sport, to no avail for one of them, because of this dark side.  (Be sure to see the movie Concussion if you have not already done so.)  Thus, my moral dilemma each season when I “re-up” for my season tickets — do I support a system that not only can chew up the careers of young men through injury but also a system that can permanently damage their brains?  Sadly, my dilemma lasts only a few seconds before I “re-up.”  When will I ever learn?  It is like being addicted.

[Lest one take the addiction of being a sports fan too lightly, please read up on the Greens and the Blues, the two groups of sports fans in Constantinople of the old Byzantine Empire.  They were so involved being fans, their fanaticism blended with social and political power to the point the two groups of fans were killing each other in gang-like fashion!]

Also, D-I and all levels of football have got to straighten out this targeting rule designed to protect players from concussions.  Improved helmets and better coaching of tackling would seem a better route to take than a rule that has joined pass interference as the game’s contributions to metaphysics!  To have a player suspended from half a game because he, the tackler, hit the tackled player as the latter was lowering his head in reflex seems a little fuzzy to me.  In addition, I think that whenever a player starts playing football, the parents need to sign off on a legal binding statement that the risks of playing the sport are understood and are the responsibility of the player and parents.  Without this, we are headed to schools and NFL owners being sued for closed head injuries.  For me it is like joining the military — “I understand that by participation, I am choosing to put myself in harm’s way.”  (in potentially life-changing  or life-ending harm’s way)

Finally, I come to my old manta — When will they ever learn that the D-I college championship is bullshit until there is a championship bracket played off like they do in FCS college football (You know, the college football programs that include Sam Houston St., Jacksonville St., and North Dakota St.)?  And D-I football is the only collegiate sport in which the championship is so cheapened.  I would say this even if my Aggies won the “championship” any year or years in the future if they don’t expand the bracket.  I am saying North Dakota St. is a true national champion because they played after Thanksgiving in a 24-team bracket, like a tennis tournament with seeds and byes; Alabama is not a true champion in this same sense; we do not know if the Tide is the best team in the nation like we know the Bisons are the best team in the nation.  Alabama winning is like only the 1st and 2nd seeds of the two NFL conferences (New England, Denver, Carolina, and Arizona) getting to play for the Super Bowl championship.  When will they ever learn?  Maybe after just one other frustrating season, like in 2016?  Maybe….but in the mean time, I’ve got to get ready to go through my seconds-long moral dilemma and order my 2016 Aggie season football tickets.

RJH

 

Mixed Emotions in the NFL…

My belated commentary on the NFL is just now emerging due to last season’s bitter-sweetness for me; I bid the 2014 NFL season farewell with mixed emotions.

The good news surrounds the surprising success of the Cowpokes of Big-D. I don’t think even Jerry in his mindless hype had this kind of season in mind. To advance into the playoffs and be within one Dez catch of playing for a ticket to play in the Super Bowl? Who would have “thunk it?”

Cowboy fans have few critical injuries during the season to thank as well as finally investing in a good O-line to protect Tony and in a good D to get the ball back to Tony, Demarco, Dez, and Co. for their outstanding success this past season. It was enough to begin entertaining the contemplation of the good days of the present instead of the past.

Can we count on building upon this success? We can only hope as Cowboy fans, for only Jerry and his plastic surgeons know for sure.

 

The bad news is longer and more complicated, as it concerns all NFL fans, not just Poke fans; even I admit once in a while that there are fans out there other than Cowboy fans.  The bad news comes for me in two categories:  1) the dark side, and 2) the farcical.   The heavy side first:

It bothers me that, just like the public schools, the NFL, in its new place as the nation’s leading sport money-wise and otherwise, has become the “moral police” of its personnel.  This is just a game in the long run, and if it expands its influence too much beyond the “just a game” boundaries, then the days of the fans of the Blues and Greens in the old Byzantine Hippodrome becoming not just fans, but movers and shakers of Empire policy, begin to suggest themselves.  It is just possible that under-inflated footballs have been compensated by over-inflated NFL League offices.  Take the Ray Rice case for example:  his behavior cannot be in any way defended.  But, the NFL cannot morally reprimand him, in my opinion.  This a violent, dangerous game to play that unfortunately caters to individual uncontrolled violence.  Criminal action by Rice off-the-field may be grounds for permanent dismissal, but for reasons of safety for the players; if Rice is seen as rehabilitated, with encouragement of that view from his victim, his wife, then it is hard for me to see that he is a safety concern to his fellow players on the other side of the ball.  When it comes down to it, what better way of corralling the violence of one individual than to put him on a field with 21 other violent individuals?  In other words, does the game have the same government over a player’s behavior off-the-field as do the laws of the land?  I say “render unto the law what is the law’s, and unto football only what is on the field, in the training room, and in the locker room.”

Then, there is the not-as-heavy paparazzi-like sports media coverage of the NFL players off-the-field; I know that sports are basically Hollywood-like entertainment, but do fans really care whether or not Johnny Manziel has a party before or after a game with his buddies or not?  A player doing drugs off-the-field is putting his field performance in jeopardy, so why should fans be so concerned whether or not players do drugs?  I submit so many fans bet the games and/or participate in fantasy football, they have money riding on a player doing his or her best; this is why they are so interested in following players off-the-field.  It is the same way the Blues and Greens became corrupted way back when; as they gained influence in State policy those two groups began killing each other.  Now, I’m not suggesting Cowboy fans and Steeler fans will one day start murdering each other, but I am suggesting that when teams are loved or hated for reasons beyond the game, then something is getting grotesquely askew.

When athletes are placed on pedestals as examples for young people, for children, then that is an example of “grotesquely askew.”  Getting all teary-eyed when the Babe rubs the head of some street kid is one thing, but when athletes are compelled to emulate that same behavior themselves, even when it is not in their nature to do so, is another.  Some athletes are naturally good examples, but I suspect most are not.  We as a society have not come to terms with this suspicion.  There are plenty of other places to find examples for our children than athletics.

So, what I’ve learned from the “bad news” dark side of the NFL 2014 is fans need to follow the game for the game’s sake and only for the game’s sake.

From the “bad news” farcical side came another “tempest in a teapot” or “mountain out of a molehill” episode — “deflate-gate” or Tom Brady’s deflated balls.  Give me a break!  As a manager/trainer of my high school football team way back when (not as far back as the Blues and Greens), there is more than ample opportunity for lots more stuff to be done to the equipment than merely messing with the air pressure inside the ball.  My experience with sports in general says that teams and players “mess with the rules” whenever they can to get an edge (spit balls, stealing signs, and corked bats in baseball, for example); when “caught,” apologize, correct the matter, and move on.  It is part of “gamesmanship,” a not-so-nice part, admittedly, but part of the game nonetheless.   Fans need not be so shocked, nor should the NFL act as if it is a big deal.  It would have been a bigger deal had the Seahawks won and the loss to the Patriots could be blamed by the media and the public as “just desserts” for “cheating.”  As it was, the Patriots’ victory was tainted in the minds of the “rules are rules” crowd.  Get over it, you purists, and spend some time on a team and/or in a locker/training room.

Both sides of the “bad news” remind us to remember the Blues and Greens……

 

With a big sigh I look forward to the 2015 NFL season.  May our legitimate worries about concussions by alleviated without making football a game of touch pass, by major innovations in helmet technology in the coming year.  May the targeting rule be tightened up, so as to be less ambiguous; may re-play be streamlined and faster processed so as to be applied to every “what was that?” play.  And please, please work on that completed pass all the way to the ground rule so that in future Dez’s catch against Green Bay in the end zone is a catch!

RJH

 

D-I College Football 2014: Turning a Corner

This past season of Division I College Football was a watershed season in its pitiful attempt to have a true playoff season to determine the national champion; at least it was better than the no-playoff of all seasons prior. For all its shortcomings, the 4-team playoff labeled with the names of three of the “big bowls” did represent, in my opinion, a “continental divide” back over which we will never return. For that alone, I suppose, I should be grateful as a college football fan.  However, for a Texas Aggie fan, it was a football season answering the question about life after Johnny Manziel, and, more importantly, it was a season whose end witnessed a quantum leap of improvement for the players, for student-athletes.

As I heard over the media and over the tables of sports bars the excitement of a 2-tiered “playoff,” I could only shout in my head two questions: “WHAT TOOK YOU SO LONG?” and “CAN YOU EXPAND THE NUMBER OF TEAMS, PLEASE?”  How about an 8-team, 3-tiered system, or, better, a 16-team, 4-tiered system like Division II or lower?

Let me indicate the advantages of having an 8-team playoff in 2014, reminding all football fans of what we missed. First, teams like Baylor and TCU would have gotten their shot to win it all, as they should have. I’m not a fan of either, but those two teams were as worthy as any of the four who did make it. Second, seed the teams 1 through 8 like a tennis tournament, and look at the four match-ups we would have had in that fantasy fan world of common sense:  1 vs 8 would have been Alabama vs Michigan State; 2 vs 7 would have been Oregon vs Mississippi State; 3 vs 6 would have been Florida State vs TCU; and 4 vs 5 would have been Ohio State vs Baylor.  These would have been like quarter-final match-ups.  Neglecting that farce at Jerry-World called the “national championship,” note in each of these match-ups there was an actual winner and actual loser in the “semi-finals” or bowl.  Using these actual results, the semi-final round of four teams in this fantasy 8-team playoff would have been 4 vs 8 Ohio State vs Michigan State and 2 vs 6 Oregon vs TCU.  The two winners of these two games would have met for a “truer” determination of the national champion.  Note how conference-wise the SEC and ACC would have been shut out, the Pac 12 and Big 12 flush with bragging rights, and the Big 10 with the biggest bragging rights of all.

The fantasy I just described is an 8-team playoff of 7 games over 3 weekends, the national champion having to win three straight.  A 16-team playoff would be 15 games over 4 weekends, the national champion having to win four straight.  And for 32 teams, it would be 31 games over 5 weekends, the champion having to win 5 straight.  The pitiful attempt of 2014 was 4 teams, 3 games, 2 weekends, and 2 games to win.  [The non-wild card playoff formula goes like this:  the even number of teams is expressed as 2^n, n an integer greater than or equal to 2.  (2^2 = 4; 2^3 = 8; 2^4 = 16; 2^5 = 32; etc.)  The number of weekends (the number of “tiers”) to play out the playoffs and the number of consecutive wins for the champion is n, and the number of games or “bowls” for a complete playoff is 2^n – 1.]

For n = 2, like the fledgling “playoff” we just had, the money and excitement nationwide is minimal.  Yet, look at what n = 2 generated:  college football has a chance to surpass the NFL playoffs in the national sports psyche; we will have to wait for Super Bowl 2015 to see if that happens.  In my opinion, college football is a “lock” to surpass the NFL if n = 3 or greater.  Think about that, all you “true” fans like myself who follow the game for  its own sake; think about that all you football betters who bet the Las Vegas line all season; think about that all you who play fantasy football.  Our passion, Division I College Football, has a chance to be #1 again, game-wise and money-wise.  And all because the 2014 season had the courage to try something reasonable and pragmatic — to try something every American understands, fan or not.

 

Football-wise and other-sport-wise, 2014 was a good time to be an Aggie fan.  With regard to Texas A&M’s joining the SEC, 2014 continued to vindicate that decision, many times over.  In Kevin Sumlin’s third season, 8 wins were chalked up in football despite devastating off-the-field QB problems, and I’m not talking Johnny Manziel, who left for the NFL.  2014 turned out to be a A&M football season that, in my opinion, vindicated Johnny Football as a gridiron blessing, not an off-the-field pariah.  Regardless of his success or failure in professional ball, JFF was made by 2014 to be seen as not near as bad as perceived by much of the media while he was at College Station; turns out, we were lucky to have him two years; he will deserve any tangible accolades given him by Aggieland in the future, like a Heisman-winner statue to compliment that of John David Crow.

Texas A&M athletics today not only has unprecedented success in all men’s and women’s sports, A&M athletics have the best facilities and financial solvency EVER!  Recruiting is growing in geographical outreach and success; coverage of Aggie athletics, thanks to not only networks like Fox Sports, ESPN, and CBS, but also to the new SEC network, is broader and deeper than ever before.  Texas A&M is not only the largest school in the State of Texas and largest in the SEC conference, it is being perceived as such in and out of Texas, something we never received while we were in the Big 12.

I predicted the 8-5 2014 Aggie gridiron record, not because the numbers matter (I don’t bet football games nor play fantasy football.), but because they really don’t.  Fans who want their team to win because it makes them money from their bet or in their fantasy league need to be called something other than fans.  W’s and L’s are secondary or tertiary to a fan; what is primary is putting on the field or court the best team resources can make possible and then having the team play as best they can, each and every game, regardless of outcome.  Aggie football is benefiting from being in the perennially toughest division in the nation — the SEC West.  W’s and L’s have, are, and will take care of themselves, as shown by the SEC West’s 2014 bowl record — 2-5 (All seven teams were bowl qualified, but only A&M and Arkansas won their bowl games.)  When you take a gander at the new multi-million-dollar Kyle Field in the fall of 2015, W’s and L’s will seem pretty insignificant from that season on.

A little tip for fans to avoid the angst of W’s and L’s:  don’t bet on sports or play fantasy football; make your money some other way.  Then, to gently deal with your fan psyche, predict next season’s record upon the last by subtracting one W and adding one L.  Therefore, I now predict next year’s 2015 Aggie football record to be 7-6, including a bowl game.  This way, if they duplicate or exceed 2014’s 8-5, I will have a satisfactory season outcome as a fan.  I would like them to win every game, but “if ‘ifs’ and ‘buts’ were candy and nuts, we’d all have a Merry Christmas!”  After all, it’s only football!

 

The lasting triumph of the 2014 D-I College Football Season happened after Ohio State won its quasi-bullshit national championship.  And it happened off-the-field, which is hard for me to admit, as I try to ignore tabloid sports media coverage and concentrate upon X’s and O’s.  The “Big-5″ D-I conferences banded together and showed the NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) it is little more than an impotent, unimportant bureaucracy; those who play the game “rule the roost,” as it should be.  The NCAA was forced to agree that an athletic scholarship cannot be revoked based upon athletic performance or injury and that student-athletes, in addition to tuition, books, medical care, and board, get a stipend of spending money so they can lead a normal life off-the-field; or, as I like to call it, student athletes now get “pizza money.”  IT’S ABOUT TIME!  Finally, finally, we will have no more of that silly signatures/awards/paraphernalia for money that unfairly got Ohio State in trouble a few years ago.  Finally, finally, the NCAA recognizes the brutal fact that for so many student-athletes, their families cannot afford pizza money; that for so many student-athletes, their scholarship is their way out of socio-economic depression.  Most scholarship athletes do not come from families as financially well off as the Manziels.

 

Rise up in indignation over how Baylor and TCU were left out of the cold!  Demand tweaking of the target rule and increased efforts toward safer helmet technology.  Work toward an expanded playoff system.  Pray for more beer sold in stadiums.  Come on, fans, there is much to do in the off-season!  Stop making your bookie and/or fantasy league manager rich and look forward to the day we no longer think of keeping up with changing bowl game names, but, rather only need to think of games in the rounds of quarter-finals, semi-finals, and the one true championship game.

RJH

 

 

Fun Read

As I have introduced during the summer of 2014 my self-published book, there seems to be (perhaps understandably) a “knee-jerk” reaction — oh, no! Not another stupid, nostalgic writing of high school memoirs!

Its title is long and twisted, but the book is “just right” in length, yet also twisted. I named it Some X-Y Type Members of the Cisco High School Class of 1964, The M-4, (Or, Funny Things Happened On Our Way to HS Graduation & Matriculation Beyond — Such As Expulsion & Impish Pranks Galore,) and More, or SXYMCHSC1964M4M, “for short.”  It may be one of the few books whose shortened title on the spine is unpronounceable!  Unpronounceable, after all, as it is an acronym.

Self-publishing is a path which very well may be one of those where “wise men and women fear to tread.”  The risk I took in self-publishing was mitigated by having it made print-ready and printed at a local company, College Street Printing, here in Waxahachie, Texas.  Despite knee-jerk reactions and despite unpronounceable titles, early responses hint the risk might turn out worth it.  Physically, the book is an easy read, 8.5 x 11 inch in format, around 240 double-spaced pages in length and paper-backed in “perfect binding.”  Whatever the risks, however, I was compelled to write this book, just as I was compelled to write my memoirs back in the early 1970’s.

So many years ago, strangers from my generation urged me to write down the high school stories of my friends and me before I forgot all the details.  In the second decade of the 21st century, I was urged by self-compulsion to pay tribute to the three “stars” of those stories — 3 of the 4 pictured on the book’s cover, Bill Adling, Bob Berry, and Robert Cole.  Those three made for me not only a self-made world of youthful, exuberant pranks by the time we were 18, together as a quartet (The M-4) we bonded beyond the normal levels of brotherhood; we became friends of a “higher order;” as I said in Facebook, think of a Ferris Bueller-type high school student academically near the top of his class and a student body leader, and then multiply that by 4!  We became class clowns transcendent of the genre of those who make the class disruptively snicker.  We forged a legacy shown in our college years to be unequaled in uniqueness; the legacy of the M-4 gave us an unfair advantage over others’ high school experiences; in the game of “what-did-you-do-in-high-school” the legacy of the M-4 gave us multiple “aces-up-the-sleeve” to play when the cards were laid down on the table.  That alone was justification of my compulsion to write this book, in my opinion, but that is just the “tip of the iceberg.”

I was also compelled to document the “perfect storm” of circumstances that gave birth to the M-4.  Our unbelievably strong friendships were cast within a maelstrom of community disagreement, school administrative and faculty personality confrontations, and school district facility crisis.  This maelstrom was local, yet reflective of the social revolutionary years in the United States defined by the 1960’s.  This maelstrom refocused the school and community of Cisco, Texas, away from the fact that one of the most outstanding classes ever was about to graduate in 1964.  Fatally, our class was not considered as part of the solutions dealing with the disagreements, confrontations, and crisis.  These circumstances are the reason I dedicate the book to the Cisco High School Class of 1964; we did not deserve to be marginalized.

Our four special friendships midst the “perfect storm” of potentially unpleasant and condescending circumstances for our Class of 1964 sparked the defining prank that spawned the M-4.  That defining prank is a major portion of the book, revealing “blow-by-blow” detail much beyond what I had documented in my memoirs.  The book covers all our “career,” a prank-filled history that extended into our college years, when we returned to Cisco for the summers from campuses of higher learning.

Among the many ironies of the M-4 is the fact we were never caught during our “acts,” yet we were always, almost, found out.  The reader is invited to see the other ironies of our “career.”  The book lays out the evidence that divided the community and surrounding area over which opinion was divided concerning the M-4.  Were we treated fairly?  Were our “punishments fitting” for what we had done?  What were our motives?  Why did we behave the way we did?  The reader is invited to answer these questions for his/herself.

I believe the story of the M-4 is transcendent of most high school memoirs.  Nostalgia is part of this book, for sure, but only as a background, in my opinion.  Issues that are considered at one time or another by anyone who attends or attended high school are laid bare by these stories of four class clowns in a small high school in a small west-central town in Texas:  What is the preferred relationship between a community and its public school system?  What is the preferred relationship between the faculty and the administration of a public school district?  What is the ideal relationship between the administration and the community?  Between the faculty and the community?  How should authority of all types be presented to students?  What should students do, if anything, when the foibles of those in authority are exposed?  Are academic and social success for students commensurate with questionable student behavior?  What price do students pay for pulling school pranks?  Is that price worth it?  Some might ask “What does the ‘M’ stand for in M-4?”  Who did we “protect” by our silence; who were non-M-4 and compliant with our pranks?  Or, as the M-4 would ask in the wake of taking physics when they were Juniors, what is matter here?  What is Archimedes Principle do?

 

SXYTMCHSC1964M4M at first glance appears to be a compilation of posts from my website www.ronniejhastings.com as constructed by WordPress.  Some readers might be tempted to read just those posts on the site and think they have read the book for free.  That would be a mistake.  Here is a list of reasons to supplement any reading of my site with the purchase of my book:

The book….

>>>>    is a compilation of edited posts from my site.

>>>>    places the posts in “proper” order, so that the stories flow somewhat chronologically.

>>>>    contains a dedication to, a chronology of, and a listing of the Cisco High School Class of 1964.

>>>>    features a name index in the back, whereby any name of interest can be followed on the appropriate pages; find your name, and see what I said about you!

>>>>    includes an author’s page in the back; some of you who think you know me might be surprised!

>>>>    also includes in the back a handy mail order form to obtain additional copies.

>>>>    features an exclusive map of the prank site of the night of February, 11, 1964 — the site in Cisco today bears little or no resemblance to the way it was back then.

>>>>    has a front cover of an unprecedented set of photos.

>>>>    has a back cover of unprecedented endorsements, both from the living and the dead!

>>>>    has a front and back cover displaying either the most famous, or the most infamous, example of Bill Adling’s extensive and excellent portfolio of artwork.

 

SXYTMCHSC1964M4M is presently on sale in two Texas cities, Cisco and Waxahachie, at $20 per copy, tax included.  In downtown Cisco, it can be found at Waverly’s Coffee Shop, Log Cabin Collectibles and Custom Framing, or The Cisco Chamber of Commerce.  In Waxahachie, copies may be purchased at The Ellis County Museum, The College Street Pub, or the newspaper offices of The Waxahachie Daily Light.  A nice write-up on the book was done by the editor of the Waxahachie Daily Light, Neal White, in a “Behind The Pages” article in the 7.20.2014 edition entitled “‘Doc’ Hastings and high school bonds.”  The article can be read on my Facebook site or by going to waxahachietx.com and looking up back articles.  Any additional selling sites will be added to the lists in this post.

For those wanting to order by mail, postage has to be included.  Send your mailing address, along with a check or money order made out to Ronnie J. Hastings to:

Ronnie J. Hastings

114 San Jacinto Ct.

Waxahachie, TX  75165

Additional postage to the copy price of $20 is $5 for the first copy and $3/copy for the second, third, etc.  (For all you math-philes out there, an easy way to get the amount correct for the check or money order for x copies is the formula 23x + 2  — $25 for 1 copy, $48 for 2 copies, $71 for 3 copies, $94 for 4, etc.)  Books shipped promptly for money orders; as soon as check clears for checks.

 

More than once a purchaser of SXYTMCHSC1964M4M has thumbed through his/her purchase and asked, “Why are there no photos inside like on the cover or on the author’s biography page?”  Those who read at least half-way never ask that question again, for they suddenly understand my answer — “Think of the incriminating evidence!”  This book is NOT my memoirs!

My experience writing this book hints at the best reason to purchase and read it; it is a fun read!  When I need a good laugh, or when, after a tough day, I need a “pick-me-up” mental smile, I remember penning the words of this book, or, now, actually reread whatever section appeals to me at the moment.  This book never lets me down; these are stories of those who for most of my life have compelled my mind to smile.  I both believe and think they will make most minds smile.  This is no book of inspiration, documentation, or high-minded lessons of life.  This is no book of boring, meaningless tales of “how we used to be.”  It is not a police novel or who-done-it mystery.  It is a true-life farce; it is a never-told-before-in-its-completeness comedy of youthful, raucous adventures; it is funny, unusual, and, for many, unbelievable.

Join in on this fun read!

 

RJH

 

Epilogue to SXYTMCHSC1964M4M

As pointed out in And God Said “Let There Be Friends”……..And It Was Weird! [April, 2012], the M-4, following graduation from Cisco High School, got together and “carried on the M-4 legacy” in two’s or three’s: The Flag Escapade — Phase I [August, 2013], The Flag Escapade — Phase II [August, 2013], The Summer of 1965 — The Motley Mix [March, 2014], and Crashing the Cisco Beauty Pageant — Night of the Long Knife [June, 2013]. We’ve got together in two’s and three’s many times since those days at class reunions and college football games, without executing any of our pranks, even for “old time’s sake.”  Most often, nowadays, Cole and I get together on our respective ranches and exchange free labor (Well, almost free — I work for him for beer.) But, since the dam painting (That Damn Dam Painting! [April, 2013]), we have never been together as a quartet to carry on our legacy.

We have been together as a quartet only 2 times since the damn dam painting.  The first was cited at the end of The Summer of 1965 — The Motley Mix [March, 2014].  The second was in the second semester of college, 1966, months before the crashing of the beauty pageant and during Cole’s first semester at A&M as a mechanical engineering major.  Deep in scholastic struggles, Berry had transferred temporarily from Texas A&M to McMurry in Abilene, as had a “buddy” of his he met at A&M, Andy Sikes.  One weekend a campout at Baptist Hollow on the shores of Lake Cisco was planned, with all of the M-4 attending, along with our high school classmates Robert Mitchell and Billy Wilson (both attending CJC as Cole had been) — and, oh yes, Andy Sikes.

Berry had warned Adling, Cole, and me about Andy, who apparently was so “full of himself” and so obnoxious, he was worse than Mike Burzenski (The Flag Escapade — Phase I [August, 2013]).  Robert and Billy went to sleep early, but as the night wore on upon the shores of Baptist Hollow, the M-4 could not sleep over the “excitement” of the four of us together again.  As we tried to create our own reunion in the darkness punctuated by dying campfires, Andy, instead of listening and joining in, tried to dominate the conversation and talk about himself.  The three of us looked at Berry, and he gave us a “I told you so!” glance back in the firelight.  It wasn’t long until Adling, with easily the “shortest fuse” of our four temperaments, and  with the “gift” of saying exactly what he wanted without thinking it through, lost his patience with Andy.   Adling gave him a diatribe “cut-down” none of the four can remember nowadays, but I feel safe in assuming that the word “asshole” was probably used more than once; it was so effective Andy shut up and walked away, probably fearing the four of us were going to throw him into the very cold water of the lake.  Our silence at that moment was our approval of what Adling had done.

We decided to get away from Andy Sikes so we could have our “reunion,” so we started to walk back into town from the lake, leaving Andy with the sleeping Robert and Billy.  Making sure it was alright for Berry to desert his “buddy” Andy (It was.), we hiked across the dam of our fame (That Damn Dam Painting! [April, 2013]), past the country club on onto the highway past Lee’s house.  Our path took us up and over the hill forming CJC’s setting.  Our last experience as a quartet found Adling, Berry, and me in the night shadows of mesquite trees on the west side of campus in the “wee hours” reminiscing while we “had the back” of Cole, who was busy waking up and seeing his sweetheart, Lois Anne Miller, in the girls’ dormitory; the three of us were hoping we could warn Cole in time before he was caught and arrested as a pervert.  True to M-4 form, Cole was not detected by authorities that night; we trekked on into town, laughing, joking, and just being ourselves.  As indicated in Crashing the Cisco Beauty Pageant — Night of the Long Knife [June, 2013], Berry was married early in the summer of that year, Adling late in the same summer, Cole married Lois Anne in 1967, and I married Sylvia in 1968.

 

I’d like to again acknowledge the Cisco High School Class of 1964, whose names are listed in the dedication near the beginning.  As we are reminded every class reunion, the people worth remembering in life are those who made our school days worth remembering.  None of the content of this work would have been possible without the year-by-year school-day flux of our class.  This graduating class led the student body after the chair/desk escapade in expressing their support and understanding of what we did and why we did it.  Many other Loboes from other graduating classes, underclassmen to us at the time, made us feel that a broad spectrum of the student body “had our backs.”  We understand that that time was prior to the times of campus student revolts.  Thanks to you all!  A special list of teachers needs to be cited — teachers who seemed to be with the four of us “in heart,” yet were able to do little, if anything, to express their views:  Mrs. Edward Lee, Mrs. Evelyn Bailey, Mrs. Carolyn (Page),  Mr. James Hughes, and Coach Cromartie.

Before I close, I’d like to make a small, special list of XY-type names — names who, if scale, time, and place can be overlooked, would have been perfect additions to the M-4; it is my opinion that if we could or would have added anyone from these pages, only one from our graduating class would be on this list — Joe Woodard.  Other “perfect” additions, in my view, would be Larry Johnson, Prince Altom, Darrell Holt, and Jerry Akers.  These five seem to me to embody the spirit and legacy of the M-4; they would have “fit.”  To award them with the M-4 “seal of acceptance” is the highest praise we can give anyone.  Thanks to this quintet for being supporting “highlights” of these pages!  Perhaps the readers might want to make such a list of their own.

I want to include a personal feeling of thankfulness for the times of these pages.  The summer of 1964 was called the Summer of Freedom, and, as Bob Dylan sang, “The Times, They Are ‘a Changing.”  We finished high school and entered college as the great social revolutions of the 1960’s were coming to a boil, with their three heads:  Civil Rights, Women’s Movement, and anti-War/Gov’t.  The stars of these pages were not revolutionaries, but the fearlessness-facing-change shown in these pages resonates with the spirit of the nation’s young people at that time.  Cisco, Texas, may not have been a microcosm of what was going on in the world then, but the M-4 and those who could be added to the M-4 understood and resonated with the news our generation was creating, striving to change the world for the better.  Not only was it “the best of times and the worst of times,” (The Chair/Desk Escapade — Chapter 4 (Coming Together and Planning) [Oct, 2013]), it was a heady time to be alive and young, even in a small, west-central Texas town.

Finally, thanks to the M-4, or, should I say, the other three “in the jail cell with me, saying, ‘Damn, we fucked up!’.” (And God Said, “Let There Be Friends”…And It Was Weird! [April, 2012]) In other words, thanks to the three greatest friends I’ve had — three fellow outliers.  In Preface to SXYTMCHS1964M4M [March, 2014] I asked “what had we done?” to cause these pages to be, hopefully, much, much more than nostalgic, innocent penning of high school memories, as if merely thumbing through yearbooks over fifty years old.  We did the almost unthinkable — we “pushed the envelope” of teen-aged freedom of expression by tenaciously clinging to our silly childhood imaginations borne of our grade school years; no matter what maturity brought our way, we had to make it funny — we had to make jokes of almost everything, including ourselves; we not only shattered “glass ceilings,” we shattered “glass walls” and “glass floors.”  We acted out our dreams and our joyous mental constructs, pushing the “art and science” of pranking to the limits of acceptability, legality, and propriety; for many, we “crossed the line” — more than once.  As a result, we inadvertently exposed the foibles and hypocrisy of authority of all types, and of many social mores.  Yet, in that “rarified air” of executing our “brain children,” our planned pranks, we felt most strongly why we were fast, true friends; we felt most vividly the joy of being young; we felt as if our youth could last forever…

RJH

 

Preface to SXYTMCHSC1964M4M

Writings on high school days conjure the descriptor “nostalgia,” and these writings are no exception, but with a very important qualification. These are stories of high school days out-of-the-box — nostalgia “with a twist,” if you please.

Typical of high school and college memoirs are books such as No Other Time Like This One, by Ed Jackson, (2005, Hannibal Books, ISBN 0-929292-63-4) which, incidentally, is also about high school days in Cisco High School, Cisco, Texas. Jackson’s book is set in the late 1940’s and chronicles friendships made while during high school — memorable friendships. It is filled with stories of normal school activity, dating stories, and how graduates went on to business success and service to their country. By contrast, this chronicles friendships molded in the context of school that were so abnormal, different, and unusual, they transcended beyond “normal” memories to include what can only be called unbelievable. In college, what I thought were typical high school experiences of mine turned out to be outrageous and atypical compared to experiences most high school students lived. As I approach 40 years of teaching high school, I am astonished and amazed that has not changed!

What had we done?  What had the four pictured on the cover wrought?  What was the “twist” we unconsciously put on the high school experience in the 1960’s?  Could this have happened at another time and/or in another place?  Rather than a nostalgia book such as Ed Jackson’s, this is a departure from the “usual” into the attempt to answer these questions.  Whatever it was we did, without it, our days in high school would have been normal and mundane in comparison.  Given what we did, those days were anything but!  And, surprisingly, the four of us, in my opinion, can be reasonably defined, which is attempted near the end of these pages.  But, as I try to “spell out,” I don’t recommend our being seen as examples to emulate.

Yet, our transcendent friendships were and still are based upon something priceless:  fun.  That is worth emulating in any circumstances, though our levels of silliness and extreme forms of fun are certainly not for everyone.  Many readers will resonate with the spirit described in these pages, but I suspect not as many as we would like.  What the world needs now is not only love, but also a whole lot more fun.  We were convinced we had brought extraordinary fun into our own lives, but, as the reader will see, whether the world saw our offerings as fun is quite another matter!

Other words usually conjured in writings on high school days are “innocence” or “we were just kids.”  In our case, I do not think you could describe us as innocent, given all we went through.  Therefore, readers might find a few words I’ve used to describe our adventures as far-from-innocent, coarse, harsh, and definitely inappropriate.  I don’t apologize for this at all, because I don’t feel the need to do so; part of our “extended education” in public schools was so strong and atypical, only strong, harsh examples of our lexicon can do our “beyond-the-diploma curriculum” justice; part of our atypical, unusual education was the development of our own sense of propriety.  But, again, the foundation of our special propriety was and is fun, laughter, humor, and the joys of making each other laugh.

Any other conclusions, lessons, or insights gleaned from these pages must be the responsibility of the reader’s interpretations.  Each “chapter” or posting can be read on its own, resulting in repeated references to important events, which I hope gives the appearance of “flow” and unity throughout the entire work.  (The only exceptions not “on their own” are the Introduction and Chapters 1-10 of the chair/desk escapade.)  Though, I must admit, I do hope every reader is, at the very least, entertained; may every reader of these pages apply to them the Lennon/McCartney lyric from “Being For The Benefit of Mr. Kite,” off the album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, “A splendid time is guaranteed for all!”

 

This work is a compilation of posts on my website www.ronniejhastings.com, entitled Beyond Good and Evil, made possible by WordPress.  This website, in turn, was brought into existence by my site manager, good friend, and former student Jim McDonald.  (Jim was one of the high school student researchers that highlighted my teaching career. (Hard to Believe!  High School Student Researchers?  Say What? [August, 2012])  The work is cross-referenced throughout, using the links within the website; the “chapter” titles are the titles of the posts, and the date on each link refers to the month the post was published on the site with WordPress.   Any reference mentioned not included in this work (like the post about Jim above) can be found easily on Beyond Good and Evil, www.ronniejhastings.com, using the month/year date.

Jim will be my first acknowledgement and only one of the preface; breaking protocol of most publications; I shall save the rest for the epilogue, for reasons I hope the reader will see by the end of this work.  So, thanks, Jim!  Without your insight and skills, I would not have been motivated toward fulfilling on cyberspace a life-long dream of disseminating tribute to my friends from our school days in the public schools of Cisco, Texas — friends who made those days unusual and unbelievable.

RJH

 

The Summer of 1965 — The Motley Mix

[As a sort-of prelude to the Summer of 1965, Cole and Joe Woodard made sure memories of the M-4 would not fade in Cisco while Adling, Berry, and Hastings were out-of-town in their first year of college. During the Christmas holidays of 1964, these two, to honor The Flag Escapade — Phase II [Aug, 2013], climbed to the top of the City Hall and wired a used Christmas tree to the flagpole. Joe wrote me an account of the incident and sent it to me after I returned to A&M. Like the M-4 flag wired at the same site by Adling and Cole, it stayed atop the building much longer than expected. Also, on the first anniversary of the chair/desk escapade in February, 1965, Cole and Woodard, with the help of Earl Carson, commemorated the birth of the M-4 by working hard to move an abandoned outhouse from some remote place outside town to the little driveway circle of the new high school, the school finished too late to do the Class of 1964 any good. The outhouse barely fit in the back of the pick-up they used.]

Of the three summers in Cisco following our graduation from Cisco High School in 1964, the Summers of 1964, 1965, and 1966, the middle one had a distinct variation. Just briefly listing that variation is very revealing of the latter years of the M-4 and our accompanying friends; its distinction lies in that not just one or two events characterize the summer, different from the cases of summer 1964 (The Flag Escapade — Phase I [Aug, 2013] & The Flag Escapade — Phase II [Aug, 2013]) and summer 1966 (Crashing the Cisco Beauty Pageant — Night of the Long Knife [June, 2013]).

Berry (Ode to Bob B. Berry [May, 2012]) and I had survived the “fish year” as cadets in Texas A&M’s Corps of Cadets — he in the Air Force R.O.T.C. and I in the Army R.O.T.C. We both looked forward to the “freedom” of a summer back in Cisco and planned on a camp-out together before we left Aggieland after semester finals. But Berry’s “freedom” was qualified and confined to the beginning of the summer, as he was facing academic probation at A&M, because, in my opinion, he majored more in the “campus-ology” than in his courses; he was learning too late that he could not go through A&M the same way he went through Cisco High School — making good grades easily. He, therefore, was going to have to return to A&M for summer school. In our window of opportunity, we planned on walking out of Cisco some thirteen miles to my parents’ place near Long Branch, after we had “stocked” the campsite with our “stuff” the day before the walk.

For different and diverse reasons, Adling (Ode to William L. (Bill) Adling [May, 2012]), Lee (Ode to Dr. Bill R. Lee [May, 2012]), and Cole (Ode to Robert W. Cole [May, 2012]) could not join us at such short notice before Berry had to go back, so the two of us “carried on” anyway. Walking south out-of-town along US Hwy 183, we were met by my Uncle Joe McKinney, who reminded us in “personal exercise” state that Kennedy was dead. Kay (Wallace) Morris said “Hi” to us on her way to Rising Star and met us on her way back to refresh us with fresh berries she had just obtained.

Two musical events highlighted this hike out. The first came at “Six-Mile Hollow” bridge, about four miles down the highway, the hollow forming the natural geological boundary on either side of which my sets of grandparents lived. North of the hollow is gravel-and-mesquite; south is sand-and-post oak. On the transistor radio we were carrying, the KLIF (Dallas) D.J. said, “Turn up your sets! Here’s the new one from the Rolling Stones!” That was the first time Berry and I heard “Satisfaction,” with that distinctive guitar riff literally dreamed up by Keith Richards. The second came as we were cutting across country off-road through the post oak and blackjack brush. The hit Adling had introduced to us on the car radio a day or two before, “Gloria” by Them, blasted out.

We had made the mistake of letting Earl Carson and Keith Starr know about our camping plans, thinking they did not know our location. We were wrong. The first night of our campout, after we had completed our hike, those two scared the hell out of us by firing their 22 rifles in the air suddenly. The next day, for some unexplained reason, back in Cisco, they tell my mother at the bank what they had done, I suppose not thinking that guns and goofing off do not mix well in the minds of mothers everywhere. After she was off work, she came out to take us back in and not spend our second night. Berry and I had just about had her convinced to let us stay, when, who should show up again with their rifles but Earl and Keith! Berry and I, without a word, began packing to go back in with my mom; we knew this camping trip was prematurely aborted by our “buddies.”

How Adling found time to get into trouble this summer is beyond belief, but get into trouble he did! You see, he basically was holding down four jobs, at Westfall’s service station, at West Texas Produce, at Heidenheimer’s clothing store, and at Cisco Steam Laundry, “juggling” the work shifts among all four. Because of his jobs and because we thought of each other as “most gullible” of our friends, I got to be a “temp” at West Texas Produce unloading trees of bananas off railroad boxcars and watching out for hidden Central American tarantulas, and he talked me into buying a “Prince Jac,” a Nehru jacket at Heidenheimer’s. Because I had lots of different jobs hauling bales of hay that summer, mostly for my dad, Adling crammed in hay-hauling sessions in addition to his four “town” jobs with me, featuring hauling hay throughout the night to avoid the searing heat of the day, and finding a beheaded snake inside a hay bale we at first could not see in the darkness.

With Berry gone to summer school and Lee not a close friend of Cole’s, just Adling and I from our class got to join Cole at the Cole ranch for overnight camping out at the ranch trailer house, where Adling got acquainted with Chuck Cleveland and Marlin Marcum (a year younger than we). Adling also got to know well Prince Altom, a life-long Ciscoan known for driving a hearse when he attended Cisco High School (He was three years ahead of us in school.) (That Damn Dam Painting! [April, 2013]). Our freshman year in high school, 1960-1961, would have seen him the President of the Student Council instead of Ken Keltner, had his family not moved just before his Senior year. Also a life-long Baptist, Prince was in seminary, but not the “orthodox” Southern Baptist one in Ft. Worth, a “progressive one” in Switzerland in-between summers. This summer of 1965, he was the music director at First Baptist Church in Cisco, the church which he attended when a boy. He was a favorite of Sylvia’s and Sandra’s, and I got to know him well through them. Berry joined into our times with Prince when home on weekends from summer school, he having known Prince from the days when Prince drove school kids living in southeast Cisco to West Ward elementary, “piling” them in the back of his hearse. The future minister was known for making “beer runs” to Strawn or Mingus for various under-aged Cisco drinkers. I’ve always characterized Prince by one of his “famous” quips: “If you are going to preach about sin, you gotta go out and know what you are talking about!”

In addition to all this (I did not even mention Adling moving on the girl-friend-scale from Cherrie to Suzy to Pam), Adling and I had fun waking each other up “too early” in the mornings — we lived only blocks from each other — he would scratch on the screens of my bedroom to wake me, and when it was my turn, I would sneak into the house and into his bedroom to put on a record and turn the player up “full-blast” as an alarm clock (“Gloria” was my favorite to use for this (see above)). If he and I wanted to wake up Cole for some “Teddy boy” action during the night when Cole was on break from the ranch, we would throw pebbles against the window of his upstairs bedroom; when we wanted to wake him up in the mornings, we would have to get into the house and climb up the stairs to his bedroom, all encouraged by his mom.

One would think that piling on demands of Adling’s time, such as a “burying of the hatchet” incident with the City of Cisco, would assure there would be no M-4 incidents the entire summer. It almost worked for me and my time! One day Adling was telling me of his roller coaster relationship with Pam (College had somehow caused us to talk more to each other about girls.), when his mom called to ask Adling if he would do a favor for Police Chief Parkinson (The Flag Escapade — Phase II [Aug, 2013]), driving a family whose driver/father was sick to Gilmer, Texas. Adling and I drove down to the Cisco motel where the family was staying, and Chief Parkinson explained the situation, including there was not enough family money to cover the return bus fares for two, so only one of us could go. Adling agreed to drive the family for $15.45. Chief Parkinson seemed to think differently about the M-4 than he did a year before, which was good; he did not treat us like felons and he seemed to trust us. Adling, after successfully driving the family, saved some of his money for bus fare by hitchhiking, but decided to take an early morning bus from Ft. Worth back to Cisco, after hitchhiking between Gilmer and Ft. Worth with a true bar-fighting hood, an Irving policeman, and a homosexual. Waiting for his bus, he got some free booze and visited a “wild” place called “The Cellar.” On the bus he had to ward off another homosexual, so he was glad to finally make it back to Cisco with a great need for sleep.

Not long after Clark Odom’s dad watched Adling, Lee, Carson, Clark, and I screwing around, swimming in the lake at the Odom lake house allegedly painting piping and platforms of the Odoms’ boat dock at Lake Cisco using inner tubes and calling us in his best “Air Force” dialect “a bunch of malfunctions looking for someplace to happen!”, Adling somehow found the time for the following:

In the large-ranch area north of Lake Cisco, on a spread owned S. E. Hittson, a deserted house became notorious as being haunted, sort-of an “urban myth,” Cisco-style. In the school year 1960-1961, when they were Sophomores, George Mitcham and Cliff Clary, got into serious trouble when an employee of Mr. Hittson found them snooping around the “haunted house” one night; the employee was using the house as a temporary residence. George and Cliff went to the Cisco police station at gunpoint to be turned in for trespassing. Hittson did not apparently press charges, and the myth submerged, only to rise again like a phoenix years later in the summer of 1965.

Adling’s younger brother John, Mark Gerrard, brothers Harold and Darrell Davies, and others, on their “nightly summer drives” noticed a light on inside the house of interest. In those days, no one seemed to be living in the house anymore. One evening, spurred by the stories of John, Adling, his girlfriend Pam, Bobby Smith (The Chair/Desk Escapade — Chapter 4 (Coming Together and Planning) [Oct, 2013]), John, and others took a drive out to see the light for themselves; upon arrival, Mark Gerrard and the Davies brothers were already there observing from the road. Clearly Adling was the only one of the observers literally carrying an M-4 card in his wallet, and, to him, he thereby had a reputation to uphold in situations like this; the M-4 experience carried its own “urban myth,” which included fearlessness to tread where others dared not go. He decided to lead the investigation of the house with its mysterious light, with the rest following a distance behind. He announced his intentions out loud in case someone was inside (there, of course, was no one) and then managed to pry open a small window set high, through which he squeezed himself. About the time he noted the house full of old “stuff,” John, not to be outdone by his older brother, kicked open the front door, and the whole crowd came in to discover the mystery light to be an ordinary incandescent light bulb apparently left on as a night-light.

About the same time someone drove up in a pick-up to see what the visitors were doing. Adling, thinking quickly, made up a story he was looking for some old lumber for a lake cabin, and he suspected some might be at this deserted house. The man in the pick-up apparently “bought” this story and drove off. The crowd of visitors made a hasty trip back into Cisco, and Adling and Pam came over to my house to relate this adventure and listen to the Stones on my stereo set. I had a date with Sylvia and had to go, but while I was on the date, Adling, Bobby, and some of the others went back out to the house, finding nothing of further interest.

It might be surmised, knowing the bond we shared as M-4 members, that if it were not for things like dates or being out-of-town, Cole and I would be “right in there” from the beginning of this “haunted house” caper. But Cole and I all but lived on farms and ranches, and could have told Adling before he went out what he would find, having seen night lights in old deserted houses and barns throughout the rural countryside. We would not want to go on the land of somebody’s else’s ranch because our fathers taught us “not to trespass, that you be not trespassed upon.” It was a code among owners of farms and ranches: Do not go on someone’s place without permission — you might get shot. (As George and Cliff had found out about this particular house years before.)

But “this was different,” argued Adling, fascinated by the mythology of the mysterious; this was “UFO” stuff to him, and clearly he was getting a big, bad charge out of being the leader of the investigation, especially in front of his girl friend. Besides, earlier, I had learned the lesson of the mysterious on posted property when rumors of a “monster” on a ranch just south of Cisco turned out to be the owner, Les Threet, proprietor of a variety store that competed with Mott’s variety store, dressing up with a rug or old fur coat scaring off teens hanging out at the gate entrance to his property. I had actually gone out with some “monster” hunters one evening, but we saw nothing. When my dad found out about the trip, he clued me in to what was going on, as Les was a coon hunting buddy of my dad’s and he told my dad what he was doing. In the end, to do what he was doing to scare kids was too dangerous; kids can carry guns, especially if they think they are seeing “monsters.” Luckily, no one got hurt, Les stopped his “pranking” the kids, and “monster” stories of that site faded away.

On a Sunday night (while I was at church), Adling returned once again with John, Bobby, and the Davies brothers, Cole’s and my M-4 buddy apparently not wanting any “country” perspective on the light, which was still burning bright. They were joined by Jimmy Smith and Travis Roach. Adling and one of the Davies approached the house with the usual verbalization in case someone was inside with a gun. He eventually got some writing materials from the car and left a smart-ass note that read “To save money, turn off lights.” Someone shouted out that a car was coming down the road, and Adling had to make a dive into Bobby’s get-away car, just as he had to do at the end of our painting the Lake Cisco dam spillway the night before our high school graduation (That Damn Dam Painting! [April, 2013]).

No more visits to the house were made after that, and it looked like the whole thing would “blow over” like Les Threet’s “monster,” but, while Adling was out-of-town visiting Pam’s family, things got “hot” for Adling and his fellow house visitors when rumors began circulating around town that Mr. Hittson was trying mightily to find out who had been trespassing on his property. Adling found out about the “heat” by phone before he got back, and, upon his return, I filled him in on all I knew — he, as the “leader” of the house visitors, and the oldest of them, was being fingered by all the questions thrown at the others; in his absence, without his being able to defend himself, he was being incriminated, as if plea bargaining was going on. Adling was being painted as a “gang leader.”

Adling was scheduled, along with a couple of the other “house visitors,” were to appear down at the police station, reminiscent of our appearance in city court a year before (The Flag Escapade — Phase II [Aug, 2013]). He and I thought it best he should get a haircut, for an improved appearance, before he went for his appearance. At the police station Adling was questioned for about two hours and he then requested to make a written statement, which took another hour. He was straightforward, truthful, and thorough in his statement. Confident he had shown there was no reason to make this a serious case, he was disappointed to find Mr. Hittson was apparently doing his best to create just such a case. Cole, in from his dad’s ranch, and I went over to Adling’s house to show him support and offer to help in any way we could; we found solace in the legacy of the M-4, but that did not seem to ease the uncertainty of the situation.

A few days later Adling and the guys who had been with him at the house were ordered to appear before the county’s grand jury to review the case Mr. Hittson was building. The grand jury convened at the county courthouse in Eastland. The story we heard was that Hittson was pressing charges under the influence of the County Sheriff, but Hittson seemed to be entirely self-motivated. One the afternoon the grand jury met, Prince Altom and I drove over to Eastland to offer our support. In the courthouse, where Prince’s grandfather worked, Mr. Altom wondered “what in the world” Prince and I were doing being so interested in the grand jury hearing. Mrs. Adling, who was present with a host of parents, seemed to appreciate our show of support. All the guys who were with Adling at the “haunted house” — his brother John, Bobby Smith, the Davies brothers, Mark Gerrard, Jimmy Smith, and Travis Roach — were present. Prince and I got to talk to Adling (with his fresh haircut and dressed in a suit) in the halls of the courthouse, even there joking to lighten Adling’s spirits, saying we were his “personal lawyers,” though we would make lousy character witnesses! We seriously advised him to take a “cool” attitude in front of the grand jury, never acting belligerent or haughty, though that was probably unnecessary for Adling’s head at the time. Adling’s “lawyers” took him out to lunch before the hearing began, back to joking we were taking Adling to his “last free meal as a free man,” and we almost got Adling in trouble by not understanding the afternoon starting time; we were late and barely made it for Adling to be questioned first. “Adling’s lawyers” were not allowed to be in the jury room. Prince and I had to “sweat it out” in the halls of the courthouse.

As Adling was questioned, the others were brought before the grand jury also. Adling did most of the talking, answering questions straightforwardly and politely, and even, near the end of the questioning, getting in some points about the necessary curiosity of Columbus. The jury deliberated for a while, during which Adling made a quick round trip to Cisco and back, and returned their verdict — no indictments would be handed down to any of the guys. This, despite the fact a couple of ranchers were on the jury, and because, probably, of the fact the jury’s chairman was Mr. James McCracken, President of the First National Bank of Cisco, where my mom worked; Mr. McCracken was one of the great humanitarians of Cisco in those years. After the verdict was read, Adling, as the guys’ spokesperson, offered to do free labor for Mr. Hittson on his ranch, which he turned down. Adling emerged from the courthouse more firmly convinced that Hittson had not been the boys’ “friend” he had tried so hard to make himself out to be, for, after he rejected Adling’s offer, he emphatically “advised” Adling and his “cohorts” to “go straight.” He really thought them criminals, not pranksters.

Immediately available to Adling and all of his supporters was the image of his disorganized lawyers Altom and Hastings midst stacks of messy records and law books, of a raving Hittson screaming “Hang ‘em! String ‘em up!”, and of a zealous Teddy Boy Adling “squirreling out,” finally, of a bad situation.

One might think the preceding would be enough for one summer, but this is the M-4 we’re talking about, and about the weird summer of 1965.

At the same time Adling was getting into “hot water” over the “haunted house,” someone he had met at Boys’ State back in high school and with whom he had stayed in written correspondence, Jerry Akers, was scheduled to arrive at Cisco as Adling’s guest! Imagine his surprise when the guest was met at the bus station by Adling, Lee, and Clark Odom and told Adling was under grand jury investigation! It says a lot about Jerry (Adling never invited just anyone to visit him in Cisco.) that he was none too “put off” by the situation, as one would expect an “ordinary” guest to be. Adling brought Jerry over to my house for introductions and record-playing, and the next day I took Jerry on a driving “tour” of Cisco, featuring visuals for my verbal history of the M-4, all while Adling had to work. My memoirs recorded my initial assessment of Jerry as a guy of “remarkable adaptability and freedom from ‘hang-ups.'” He filled in for Adling at work the day Adling had to appear before the grand jury; the day after Adling was “free,” the quartet of Jerry, Adling, Altom, and I went to Abilene to see a Jerry Lewis “flick.” Adling, Akers, and I took pictures of each other on the steps of CJC (Cisco College) dressed in a sheet with a laurel-leaf wreath around our heads, like we were Roman Senators or Greek philosophers. Akers (note how he deserves a last-name label) put on a façade, as if he was “flabbergasted” at all the Cisco/M-4 treatment we were giving him, a “façade” in that when each “party” was over, he was actually cool, calm, and delighted, even after drinking one night with Adling and Earl Carson or after meeting characters like Cliff Clary.

Meanwhile, I was in need of a harmless retaliatory prank. This summer involved a lot of interaction with both Sylvia and her sister Sandra, and I’m not talking about dating, though Sylvia and I steadily did date. Prince Altom had introduced the party novelty of “table lifting,” the fun “game” of four people raising a light weight card table with all eight palms down on the top upon one table leg; the novelty featured spinning the table around on its one leg, all four “lifters” going in circles, and “asking the table” questions whose answers could be tapped out; often the table was mysteriously “correct.” It took a while to figure out, but the whole thing works by diversionary chanting, which gets the four “lifters'” minds off the fact they are doing the whole thing through their hands; but they are doing it subconsciously — lifters are not aware they are making the table do all the things it does. I remember having fun introducing people to the “spirits” of the table, and watching skeptics from the youth groups of Prince’s, Sylvia’s, and Sandra’s First Baptist Church and Joe Woodard’s and my East Cisco Baptist Church become astonished when they experienced the subconscious phenomenon for themselves. I introduced it to Adling and Cole, of course, and we had fun trying to figure it out. Sylvia and Sandra invited the three of us to come out to the Hart house one Sunday afternoon when we happened to be at Adling’s house lifting a table — to come out and do the same thing there. So it was 3 of the M-4 and Sandra raised the Hart card table to wild gyrations.

One of my odd “odd” jobs that summer was being the substitute secretary in the office of East Cisco Baptist Church, while Mrs. Marie Brock was on vacation. During that week, Sandra, in the wake of our “table” visit, I suppose, got the idea to have Rev. Mart Agnew, a long-time Baptist minister known for his practical jokes and telephone pranks, to call me at the church office in the voice of an “old woman,” and I fell for it, much to my chagrin as a “professional” M-4 prankster. Sandra’s prank was made even more successful with me when Sylvia “played along” and acted interested in the call I got from this “eccentric old lady.” I did not find out I had been “conned” until Mart told my mother at work at the bank what he had done, and my mother had a good time relaying the details to me. So, as a matter of M-4 pride, “something had to be done.” And it was not going to be easy to fool someone clever enough to utilize the talents of Mart Agnew. I realized I had to “hit” them close to “home,” having faith that, once more, Sylvia would not “drop me like a hot rock;” my faith that true love trumps pranks was again going to be tested. (The Chair/Desk Escapade — Chapter 7 (Found Out…) [Oct, 2013], The Chair/Desk Escapade — Chapter 9 (Continued Aftermath and The Birth of a Legacy) [Oct, 2013], The Flag Escapade — Phase II [Aug, 2013])

Jerry Akers’ visit gave me a way of fulfilling my “need.” Sylvia and Sandra were well-known church soloists; the “Hart twins” were in “high demand” for special music presentations at Cisco’s First Baptist Church, for other churches in the area, and for funerals. (Sylvia sings alto and Sandra sings soprano.) I came up with the idea of Akers posing as an agent of Word Music Co. out of Waco, a music company that recorded regional church music performed by amateurs — an agent looking for new talent, namely wanting to record a sampling of Sylvia’s and Sandra’s singing. Akers pretended like he couldn’t do something like that, but by now Adling and I saw through his false modesty; Akers could pose as anyone he wanted. I checked with Altom at the church with my plans, and he offered the use of the church’s tape recorder for the “agent.” On the day before Akers had to leave Cisco, he was skiing on Lake Cisco with Adling, and I (a non-skier) took photos of them on the water. That night the three of us went to Eastland to see a couple of Edgar Allan Poe “flicks.” Akers was coming around on the idea, but was still not convinced to do it.

The next day, his last in Cisco, Akers was back at the lake skiing with Adling and Clark Odom, so I took Altom out to the lake with me for one last try. By the end of a boat ride full of answers to questions of Akers’, Altom, Adling, and I got him to “come around.” The deed had to be done before Akers left on the bus early that evening, so we all went back into town for preparation. I got detoured by something I had to do for my dad at one of the farms at midday, so by the time I got back into Cisco for the second time that day, I thought it was too late, and I had decided I had to call the whole thing off. But, Adling and Akers already had the whole thing going: Akers, who alias was “Warren Atwood,” so he could use Ading’s monogrammed brief case (“W” & “A” for William Adling), “agent for Word Music Co.,” had called the Harts, where we knew Sylvia and Sandra would not be (both working in the offices at CJC), the number to contact them was given “Warren” by their mother, and “Warren” set up an appointment that afternoon at the Hart house, talking to Sylvia on a CJC phone, for a recording of the Hart twins’ talents. We had to scramble fast!

Akers dressed in a suit and we all bivouacked at the First Baptist Church. Altom had the tape recorder ready and gave Akers some operating lessons (We all hoped the twins would not recognize the recorder from the church.). Altom and I also gave Akers some church music jargon, including names of famous gospel singers we knew Sylvia and Sandra admired. We faced the problem of coming up with a car the Harts would not recognize, and who should drive by but my cousin Dwayne in a white Chevy. Flagging him down in the street by the church, we told him quickly of the plan, and he consented to let us borrow his car for a few minutes. Then, up drives Lee (Ode to Dr. Bill R. Lee [Apr, 2012]) off work from Cisco Steam Laundry to visit Altom, and he gets briefed on the situation to become, at the very least, an interested bystander to see if all this was going to work. Adling, Altom, Lee, Dwayne, and I watched Akers load up the recorder and brief case into Dwayne’s car, and Adling, Lee, and I, in Adling’s car, led Akers out the Breckenridge Hwy (US 183) to the turn-off to the Harts’ house (Akers had forgotten the directions Sylvia gave him over the phone.). The three of us returned to the church to await with Altom and Dwayne the results of my “brain-child.”

Akers alone in Dwayne’s car did return to the church after what seemed an eternity. By the reserved smile on his face, I first thought he had been found out. I asked him how things turned out.

“I want to get out-of-town as quickly as possible!” he answered.

“What do you mean, Jerry? Did things come off all right?” I asked again.

“Just fine — too good, in fact!”

Indeed, similar to the chair/desk escapade that spawned the M-4, the execution of the “Word Music” caper exceeded expectations, thanks to the incredible impromptu acting skills of Jerry Akers. So convincing before the Harts had he been, he had no stomach for ever facing any of them again; he was not acting at all now, but was most sincere about catching his bus and getting out-of-town! With our thanks to our visitor, Adling saw to it Akers made his “escape” from Cisco, but it took, ironically, Adling and Akers having to chase the bus down (which was late) to get “Warren Atwood” on it.

Dwayne had hardly driven off with his returned car and Lee had hardly left, wishing us luck and promising his silence on what he had seen that late afternoon, when Altom and I began discussing what we were going to do with all this “stain of success on our hands,” especially upon mine. We at first thought we might wait for the next youth fellowship the following Sunday and “spring” the tape “Warren” had recorded of Sylvia and Sandra on them. But things “got out of hand” too quickly (as seemed to happen in most, if not all, M-4-related escapades) for that, so successful had been my “retaliatory prank.”

Sylvia called me that evening about “their surprise visit,” and Sandra called up Altom with the same excitement. Both of us had to feign excitement and congratulations, but we both asked questions to calm down the situation, like did they see any Word Music I.D. on “Warren.” We both had to say we hoped they would hear back from Word soon. We also found out they had already contacted several of their relatives with the “good news!” I was present out at the Harts when Sandra called Prince, and he asked to speak with me over the phone. While I was saying something for the Harts’ ears as if he was saying something completely different, he was actually saying something similar to “Ronnie Jack, this is going too far! Things are getting out of hand! You had better tell them, and the sooner the better. I cannot lie to Sandra and keep this up. I’ve got my job” (music director at First Baptist) “to think about too!” He went on to say that in light of the twins having contacted already members of their extended family, to wait until Sunday to “come clean” would be way too late to avoid an even bigger “catastrophe.” After talking with Altom, I knew I had to reveal the truth that very night.

The confession I had to make to Sylvia, Sandra, and their parents seemed even harder than the answer I had to make in the M-4 “line-up” in the principal’s office back in February, 1964 (The Chair/Desk Escapade — Chapter 7 (Found Out….) [Oct, 2013] & The Chair/Desk Escapade — Chapter 8 (Admission, “Punishment,” and Immediate Aftermath) [Oct, 2013]). I started out with, “Well, things did not turn out as I had originally planned.”

Soon I was asked, “Do you know who that was that came out here, Ronnie?”

“Yes,” I said, trying to smile appropriately.

“Who was it?”

“A friend of Bill Adling’s visiting in Cisco.”

I did not know what to expect — was I going to be thrown off the premises? Were they going to laugh the whole thing off? Were Sylvia and Sandra going to break down and cry, after they had broken a few articles upon my head? The reality was a mixture of being stunned and amused, followed by a disbelief I would do such, along with a disbelief they would “fall” for such. I had to express a back-handed apology for the plan working so well. Most of the rest of my “date” that evening was spent on Sylvia and Sandra re-phoning their relatives with news of what had really happened. One of Sandra’s calls was typical:

“Do you remember me calling you about the representative from Word Music Co. coming out today to record our voices?” (response) “Well, do you know a guy named Ronnie Hastings?

“He didn’t!?!!” came the voice on the other end of the line.

“I’m afraid he did!” said Sandra. Etc…….etc……

As news spread about what I had done, all the reactions from different denizens of the community were summed up in one: a good friend of Sylvia’s and Sandra’s, Bernadine (Campbell) Donovan coming up to me in the lobby of East Cisco Baptist Church and exclaimed, “Oh, Ronnie! How could you!?” I didn’t know whether she wanted me to feel like a war criminal, or a Casanova, or both.

I surmise that by the time that summer was over, the Harts had somehow forgiven me. At least Sylvia and Sandra seemed to, for I traveled with them to a church music camp — at Piasano, in the trans-Pecos area of Texas, lead by none other than Prince Altom, and I returned without being maimed or poisoned. Even better, Sylvia and I were still a couple!

The Summer of 1965, despite its chaotic and motley mix of Prince Altom, Jerry Akers, grand juries, and The Word Music Co., actually came to an end in a somewhat circular, almost logical way: Berry returned to Cisco in the break between summer school and the start of his and my Sophomore (“Pisshead” in Aggie lingo) year at A&M. He was going to be a Pisshead in the newly-non-compulsory Corps of Cadets and I was going to be in my first year out of the Corps as a “non-reg” — a civilian. To celebrate Berry’s return, we decided to camp out at the same place to which he and I walked at the beginning of the summer (see above), only this time without the hike. Thus, Adling, Berry, Lee, and I camped out at the Long Branch camp site with no visits from Earl, Keith, or their 22’s. Even while driving out to the site, we behaved just as we did when we camped out on the hill at the Mangum camp site during our high school, conjuring memories and feelings that were to us priceless. We were joined by Cole and Marlin Marcum later that first night. There we were — the M-4 + Lee + Marlin — having fun and giving Berry plenty of renditions of the summer of ’65 that was about to end.

Little did we know that was the next-to-last time ever the M-4 would be together as a quartet.

RJH

[Lest the reader think Rev. Mart Agnew got off “scot-free” from his part in Sandra’s prank on me, during the Thanksgiving holidays of 1965, Darrell Holt, visiting my house, being reminded of the Word Music escapade, decided that Mart needed to be “paid back.” With the encouragement of my parents, I called up Rev. Agnew in a high-pitched nervous voice like I was a CJC student needing to get “married to my boyfriend” because I was pregnant! I told him both of us were beyond the age of consent. My “boyfriend” and I were invited to his house right away. I donned grubby work clothes and my coonskin cap (genuine, by the way) as the “groom,” and Darrell, much larger and taller than I, put on one of my mother’s old dresses, rolled up his pants’ legs to expose his hairy legs, and stuck a pillow up his dress front as if he was “the bride with child.” Mart met us at his door all dressed in a suit — surprised, to say the least, to see the “couple” on his front porch. He denied he was fooled, but, after a few minutes of good-natured laughter, Darrell and I got back into the car in front of Mart’s house. We looked at each other, giggling, snickering, and thinking the same thing: “I think we fooled him!” said Darrell.

“I think we did too!” I said. My memoirs describe that visit to the pranking preacher as a “sweet success.”]

Confessions of a Cisco High School Lobo Football Trainer/Manager 1960-1963

Outside the classroom experiences, no on-site experiences had more profound and formative effect upon my Cisco school days than those I received as a football trainer/manager for the Cisco Loboes during the four football seasons 1960-1963. These were the four seasons of the 1964 graduating class, and I was fortunate to be the only one of my class to serve the team as a trainer/manager all four of them. These four seasons are the reasons I am today an avid football fan, a season-ticket holder to Texas A&M football home games, a general college football fan, a Cisco Lobo fan who one night in December 2013 had a lump in his throat and tears in his eyes when the Loboes finally won State, and a NFL fan who loves to watch any pairing of the 32 on TV line up and hit each other — all without ever having been a player. Yet, these four seasons are also the reasons why I’m glad I never played football, why I would never be the coach of a sports team, much less of a football team, why I’m glad my sons never played football, why I couldn’t care less about the so-called pageantry of college and pro football, and why I can claim, like a player, I never saw a half time show performed by my peers while in high school. These four seasons are the reasons I cannot be considered a typical football fan. Being a trainer/manager will do things like that to you.

And it is not difficult to see why. Being trainer/manager is a unique perspective on a football team — different from that of players, coaches, and fans. It is an “inside” view, yet a somewhat detached one, due to the “invisible” status trainer/managers have as members of the team. Sort-of-like officials in a football game — players, coaches, and fans don’t notice them unless they are needed and/or they screw up.

Consequently, this is not a history of Cisco High School Lobo football; there will be no season won-loss records, individual game scores, or individual/team statistics; Dr. Duane Hale and others have done a good job registering that. It is a slice of four years of high school experiences — events revealing adolescents in athletics, specifically four football seasons. It just happened to be Lobo football; it happened to be, as I’ve said, profound and formative, made possible by, perhaps, an atypical point of view.

Even the beginning of these four seasons was atypical…….

Berry (Ode to Bob B. Berry [May, 2012]) was walking home to Park Dr., west of Front St., from the 3-story high school building located less than a block from my house on the 900 block of W. 6th St. in June, 1960; he had just come from an organizational meeting of the summer’s driver’s education class. I was playing in my front yard, allegedly doing yard work. Berry and I had graduated from Cisco Jr. High, along with the rest of the 1964 graduating class, and all of us were being “pigeon-holed” into all the roles we could take on as we entered high school. Berry, for instance, was going to play football and take Spanish; I was not going to play football (My parents would not allow it.) and take Agriculture, joining the FFA.

There in my front yard, Berry persuaded me to do two things — sign up for driver’s ed, and talk to the driver’s ed teacher, head football coach Jerrell Rice, to see if I could be the incoming freshman “manager” (as trainer/managers were called) for the football team. Coach Rice said “yes” to both requests. These were two decisions with which my parents had no problems, so they had said “yes” also. Driver’s ed that summer turned out to be not-so-stressful because I already knew how to drive, learning how to drive cars, pick-ups, and tractors on our farms and ranches. But the decision to be a football manager was crucial, as it assured me I would not be out-of-touch outside the classroom with my good friends Berry, Adling (Ode to William L. (Bill) Adling [May,2012]), and Clark Odom — all going to play football — so, I would be “in-touch” without having to play football. (The only good friend from whom I would be deviating in an extra-curricular sense was Lee (Ode to Dr. Bill R. Lee [April, 2012]), who was joining the high school band.) Thanks to Berry, my high school “career” was launched — pocketing a driver’s licence and becoming part of the football team by the time school started. (Who knows what would have happened had I not been in the yard that day Berry walked by!)

Becoming a manager meant that before I entered high school, I took a “manager skills” correspondence course that summer from the Cramer Company. By the time summer football practice began, I knew all kinds of terms and theory, from balm packs to taping ankles, from bandaging to low-tech chiropractic techniques such as “popping” necks and backs. I was ready for the real thing — on-the-job training; practical success and only that would determine if I “made” the team or not.

Becoming an accepted manager by the time school and the football schedule started was like driver’s ed — not so stressful, for basically two reasons: 1) I was not put off by doing menial, dirty jobs (the “rewards” of being a freshman) like un-clogging toilets “jammed by deposits,” thanks to my experiences working and “doctoring” livestock on the farms and ranches, where I had to do some pretty unsavory things. 2) I was mentored and taken “under wing” by Senior manager Larry Johnson, who really taught me by advice and by example how to be a good football manager. It did not “hurt” that he and I “hit it off” right from the start; we had similar senses of humor, similar gifts (like drawing and sketching), and similar student body responsibilities (We were Presidents of our respective classes, also meaning we served on the Student Council together.)

For the 1960 season the managers were a quintet: Larry was the Senior (and head) manager; Jerry Parks and Olin Odom (Clark Odom’s older brother) were Junior managers; Chip White was the Sophomore mananger and I was the Freshman one. Stars of the team were Lynn Hagan, Darrell Holt, Hershell Barnes, Jackie Hammer, Kenneth Kenney, Rex Miller, Bruce Speegle, Jim Coats, Billy Duff Hale, Bill Midkiff, Jim Sitton, Don McCrary, Donnie Wallace, David Wende, Don Gosnell, David Callarman, and Gary Nettik. Head Coach Rice had as assistants Coaches Joe Turner, Ernie Davis, and Gene Hargrove. Varsity managers were Larry and the two Juniors; “B” Team managers were Chip and I.

What stuck in my memory in this first season as manager were the times we managers were “doing our thing” in the field house by ourselves, as when we were washing and cleaning up on Saturday mornings after a home or away game the Friday night before. Olin and Jerry seemed to get away from the job early, giving time to Larry, Chip, and I to have some “much deserved” playtime. The three of us took turns throwing each other in the wheeled laundry cart, and covering the one thrown in with freshly dried washing (towels, T-shirts, socks and jock straps) and/or inflated blocking and tackling dummies (canvas-sheathed tire inner tubes, not big-headed players). The three of us also, when all alone in the field house, would play “knights of old,” each of us donning a football helmet and grabbing a tackling dummy as a shield and a broom as a “lance or sword.” Two would gang up on one, or it was “every man for himself,” as we would “battle it out” all over the field house, giving each other scrapes and bruises — especially on our hands and fingers. Chip would keep us “in stitches” by “throwing a tantrum” by slinging in all directions as fast as he possibly could washed items and inflated dummies which had accumulated in the laundry cart.

Chesley Field, Cisco’s home field just outside the field house to the east (actually NE) did not drain well when a deluge came this season, resulting in the SW corner (actually S) end zone standing in water. It was the task of the managers to drain that water; digging a ditch, the proper solution, seemed impossible to do before a game was to be played as the weekend approached — too little time. We finally resorted to dipping up the water and pouring it over the chain-link perimeter fence of the field with empty athletic tape cans, each of which held eight or so rolls of the white tape with which we taped the players’ ankles for both practices and games; if you could not rip strips of this tape off the rolls with your fingers instead of using the time-consuming surgical scissors, you were not considered to be a very proficient manager. Olin’s reluctance to “get his feet wet” and his hands dirty in the standing water did not sit well with any of his manager colleagues, and this only added to Olin’s reputation of being a lazy manager, maintaining an attitude of entitlement because he was an upperclassman. It was a reputation never to improve, in my opinion, though my estimation of him did improve in areas outside the football team, as the reader will eventually see. In my world of Lobo football managing, he was to me the poorest example.

Part of our job as managers was to mark off the sidelines, end zones, and yard lines every five yards with a “wide-swath” trimming machine. This had to be done, of course, before the start of the season. I remember our messing up one time, not keeping in line with the marking pipes driven to ground level marking the corners of the end zones. Was I ever glad I was a “bottom-level” responsibility freshman! Just before one JV game on a Thursday night, I remember it raining so hard, they started the game with the field still draining to each sideline down the yard lines we had “trimmed.” The ball was spotted on one play right on a yard line divisible by 5, and when the official sat the ball down, it floated down the yard line toward the sideline! He had to retrieve the ball and re-set it.

When high school started for the graduating class of 1964, I immediately experienced an advantage I had being the only freshman football manager: being such, I could avoid being hazed by the Seniors 1961, for the most part. Summer two-a-day practices at the practice field and the field house had essentially ingratiated me with the Senior football players, like Lynn Hagan, Darrell Holt, and Kenneth Kenney (It did not hurt that I had become good friends with the first two at the church we three attended.) doing “normal” managerial things for them that all the managers did for the players: hand them towels when they came out of the showers, bandaging their cuts and scrapes, apply balm packs for bruised muscles, tape ankles before practices and games, massage backs and limbs in need of relaxing, especially calf muscles seized by “charley horses,” and personally procuring aspirin and/or salt tablets for them on demand.

Consequently, in the halls of 3-storied Cisco High School, when Seniors ’61 like Craig Meglasson, Robert Shirley, James Tabor, James Stanley Webb, or Charles Yardley (all non-football players) would try to haze me like they were hazing freshmen Adling, Berry, Clark Odom, or Lee, I would put myself in close proximity of a Senior football player like Lynn, Darrell, or Kenneth, who did not take kindly to their classmates “abusing” someone who “took care” of them at the field house. For me, it was a “good deal.” And, if I needed it, Larry was always there for me to advise me on “how to handle” these particular hazers.

When players had to run their “windsprints,” Chip White and I would find ourselves with no duties until they finished. We would go to the middle of Chesley Field and play “wrestle-tackle” between two of the yard lines we had helped carve into the grass. We would line up in a 3-point stance like a lineman across from each other and crash into each other, trying to push each other across the yard line behind each of us. Wearing no helmets, we avoided concussions.

Concussions were something many players could not avoid. Here in the 21st century, it is ironic and interesting how the issue of player concussions has come to dominate all levels of football, from pee-wee or Pop Warner leagues, through Jr. High and High School football, college ball, and the NFL. From the beginning, concussions from my perspective as a manager mitigated and moderated who played football and when.

Donnie Wallace was a Junior star on the team the 1960 season until he got “his bell rung” in a game in Ranger (helmet came off), and we applied “Am-caps” (little glass vials of pink-colored ammonia wrapped in a small nylon or cotton mesh, which could be crushed between the fingers and fanned under the noses of players who seemed “out of it”) to bring him around after he was helped off the field. We knew something was serious with Donnie’s injury, despite the fact we were laughing when he asked over and over who won the game, even as we were getting on the bus for the trip west back to Cisco, and we always answered that indeed we had won. “That’s good! That’s good!” was about all Donnie could reply. When we told him he was going to be all right, he said, “That’s good!” When we helped him into the showers, he said, “That’s good!” The last word we heard as he was taken to the doctor after he got dressed was “That’s good! That’s good!” Donnie’s football career was over; he did not play football his Senior year. That was NOT good.

Berry’s football career was cut short similarly our freshman year. More than once, I had to “bring him around” during a JV game (“B” team game) by waving an Am-cap under his nose. The last time was so bad, I had the Am-cap stuffed up into his nostril, and he still was not responding. It was scary! When we finally got him to “come around,” that time, Berry stopped playing thereafter. When the second season of 1961 came around, in order for Berry to be able to be “with his buddies” on the football team outside class, he became a manager, along with Olin and me; that season, Larry had graduated and Olin was the head manager, as Jerry, for reasons I never clearly knew, dropped out of managing, Chip dropped out also, but to play football rather than manage, despite all the concussions he had witnessed and tended. That left only me, so I was “second in seniority” as a manager when I was a sophomore. That meant, in turn, that Olin and I were the varsity managers and Berry was the JV manager.

[Berry’s having to quit playing football at least brought him the freedom from the “Nitrotan compresses” I applied to his football cuts and scrapes. The most infamous one was a cut between his fingers that the compress turned a dirty brownish-green. His mother thought I had ruined his hand, I’m sure, but it did heal up with no infection. (Ode to Bob B. Berry [May, 2012])]

Standard helmets only contained a sling of cotton straps to protect the head, and as more cases similar to Donnie and Berry came along, some players wore the “latest” in headgear, a helmet lined with foam padding. Now, in retrospect, such should have been “standard” a long time before it was. Compared to what players today wear for protection, what they wore in high school football in the early 1960’s seems pretty primitive.

Jumping to the last and in ways most memorable concussion briefly, our Senior year in 1963 Adling, playing the “monster,” strong-side outside linebacker, got run over by a “student body” sweep to his side during a home game one Friday night. He had to be helped off, but seemed to be all right after the game. He said he was going over to Bobby Smith’s house after the game, but he never made the cross-town trek. He simply had disappeared! Soon, in the late Friday evening hours and the early Saturday morning hours several parties were looking for Adling. In my party we heard that his mother had received a call (remember, no cell phones)from Baird from Adling, who had “awakened” to the reality he was on I-20 driving west almost to Abilene; he had lost his memory from the play in the game to that phone call! Several of us, including his dad, met him on the Interstate between Cisco and Putnam near the county line; he seemed none the worse for wear, and medical check-ups afterwards confirmed that impression. (Ode to William L. (Bill) Adling [May, 2012])

[In the summer of 2007, Adling also lost his memory in Las Vegas, where he and his wife Pamela met Sylvia and I for a few wild days. He seemed incapable of refusing all the free white Russian drinks the cocktail waitresses were bringing to him at his seat at the slot machines. He “blacked out” for several hours, again acting as if he was just “sloshed.” His loss of memory made him uneasy, as he claimed the next morning this was the first time he had “blacked out.” I forgot to remind him about the night of his “weird drive” to Baird, or should I say, to “Bobby’s house.”]

Clark Odom’s football career was short-lived also, but not due to concussions. He found he should think about following in Berry’s and his brother Olin’s footsteps and become a manager also. But, unlike Berry, that transition never worked out for him in the long run. In the case of Berry, the irony was he wound up doing for three years what he had talked me into doing for four! He also wound up having migrane headaches for the rest of his life, a condition I want to think was brought on by his concussions and not the rock I hit his forehead with in the eighth grade! (See Ode to Bob B. Berry [May, 2012]) These headaches could also help explain a lot of the academic struggles he had for years in college (which he overcame).

With Olin and I as managers of the varsity and Berry as manager of the JV, the 1961 football season saw stars Jim Sitton, Bill Midkiff, Jim Coats, Mike Cooper, Billy Duff Hale, Don McCrary, Vernon Phipps, David Wende, David Callarman, Robert Mitchell, Carson Snow, Buddy Surles, George Mitcham, Gene Darr, Jimmy Brown, Nicky Lopez, Jackie Williams, Bobby Maynard, and Danny Phipps. Coach Gerald Rice’s staff consisted of Coaches Joe Turner, Ernie Davis, and Gene Hargrove, the exact same staff as the previous year.

Now that they were “big bad Seniors,” Jim Sitton (who went on to a college football career at SMU) and Bill Midkiff figuratively “threw their weight around” by literally throwing Sophomore managers Berry and me around the field house. Fortunately for our health, they usually threw us into the laundry cart (see above), which often contained something soft to land upon. The thing we hated was their “bearding” us — one holding one of us down and the other scraping some exposed part of our anatomy (nothing gross; it was usually like an arm, leg, or back) with their “5-o’clock shadow;” Bill’s beard was especially bad, really long by the end of school, despite the fact he shaved every morning.

This was the season (1961) that defined the job of trainer/manager for both Berry and me, and Olin Odom (the head manager) was the catalyst. Olin was such a bad example and so lazy (the exact opposite of Larry Johnson the previous season), that we simply behaved counter to his behavior, and the result was that we gradually began to run, as Sophomores, the business of managing the team, not Olin. He was so high-handed, acting as if his position gave him entitlement to boss us around and not do much work, we got to where we would do what he told us to do only to the extent he thought we were listening, and then, in his absence, we would do the job in the manner we saw best. By the time the season was over, we hardly listened to him. Not that what he said was all bad, as he did pass on to us some very good tips. And, I did not completely reject Olin, as I found him a better “mover and shaker” socially in the school student body than he was a football trainer/manager. In the spring of 1962 I choose him (or he volunteered, or both) to be my campaign manager in my run for Student Council Vice-President; we won the election!

Hence, Berry and I emerged as “products in the footsteps” of Larry Johnson, not Olin Odom. Since I had one year of manager seniority on Berry, I, as the second varsity manager, got to make the long, chartered bus ride to Lamesa for a non-district game early in the season. (Lamesa is a town on the “bottom” of the Texas Panhandle near the border with New Mexico.) There was no position, apparently, for Berry on that trip. Also there was no overnight stay, so we rode back to Cisco in the wee hours of the morning, during which trek I had crawled under the bus seats and gone to sleep; after a break at a truck stop, through which I slept, I could not be found, leading to a rude awakening for me by the coaches asking what I was doing sleeping on the bus floor. If Berry was resentful over my seniority, he did not show it. It was my tendency to treat him as an equal (See The Chair/Desk Escapade — Chapter 2 (Dramatis Personae) [Oct, 2013]), and we became more like a team, not a hierarchy, a “well-oiled” machine, a “dynamic duo” of apparent efficiency. This self-definition was growing in importance, as it appeared, given that there were no Junior managers, Berry and I were going to head up the managing for the next two seasons, our Junior and Senior years.

No character on the team was more memorable than Don McCrary, Senior fullback. He was like a barometer measuring how the Loboes were doing at any given moment in the game. Were we ahead, he was a dynamo; were we behind, he was sure to contract an “injury;” as we lost a lead, Olin and I got ready to escort him off the field in a play or two. If we somehow came from behind to regain a lead, we would expect him to suddenly be able to go back in the game.

After being a trainer/manager for two seasons, I knew that I never wanted to be a coach. Not that I had a large sampling of coaches to observe (4 over 2 years), I saw in my sample the “dark side” of the profession, if you please, being privy to hours coaches spent at the field house before and after practice, day-in and day-out. I never saw a coach escape the psychological “trap,” as I saw it, being in such a position of influence and power over young athletes. They all seemed to struggle with the inflation of their own self-esteem; instead of emphasizing the positive influence they could have on players both on and off the field, they found it easier to allow their ego to inflate. They all struggled to find time for their families and to find a way to be a head coach (except Head Coach Rice, of course, who already was a head coach). Coach Ernie Davis was so conceited (perhaps because he was from Stamford, the team that kept the Loboes in the days of Randell Hess, Charles Lipsey, Duane Hale, and Delbert Schaefer from advancing in the State playoffs), he actually thought we managers coveted his position and influence as a coach, and, therefore, we would “naturally” want to be coaches like he. I think the opposite was true, but we dared not let him know that. Like Olin, Coach Ernie Davis (I use his full name not to confuse him with Coach Manning Davis, a very different individual.) was not all bad. Outside the field house, in the school building, I found him very understanding and congenial — one time fooling my classmates by pretending to give me licks with his paddle out in the hall for disturbing his general business class; he slapped his leg with the paddle, and I groaned out appropriately. His approach to his profession just “rubbed me the wrong way.”

The 1962 season, the first of Berry’s and my “tenure,” had as varsity stars David Callarman, Bobby Maynard, George Mitcham, Buddy Surles (What Did I Say or Write? WTF?!! (For Adults Only) [Jan, 2013]), Chip White, Adling, Earl Carson, Gene Darr, Ralph Lanham, Robert Mitchell, Danny Phipps, J. V. Plumlee, Leon Bint, Jimmy Brown, Danny Clack, Richard Coats, Nicky Lopez, Coy Miller, Bobby Rains, C. B. Rust, Bobby Smith (The Chair/Desk Escapade — Chapter 4 (Coming Together and Planning) [Oct, 2013]), Johnny Tennyson, and David Waters (Play Rehearsal Night, With a Side of Greased Flagpole [May, 2013]). Lots of changes in the names of the players, for sure, but the greatest line-up change was that of the coaches, percentage-wise. Coach Rice was still the Head Coach, Coach Turner was still the Line Coach, but coaches Davis and Hargrove were gone, to be replaced by only one, Coach Jack Cromartie (The Chair/Desk Escapade — Chapter 8 (Admission, “Punishment,” and Immediate Aftermath [Oct, 2013] & The Chair/Desk Escapade — Chapter 9 (Continued Aftermath and The Birth of a Legacy [Oct, 2013]). Joining Berry and me as managers were Eddy Blailock and my cousin, Dwayne Scarlett, both receiving my support when they wanted to join, but Eddy not turning out to be what the team needed (So much for my endorsements!). He was too frail of health to physically “always be there” — a quality absolutely necessary to be a trainer/manager. Dwayne was a successful manager for a full school year, going on to manage basketball, but the demands caused by his living miles out-of-town with my grandparents made it impractical for him to continue after one school year.

Some managerial memories of Berry’s and my “managerial management team” were:

Berry was delegated to the “field” manager, along with Dwayne and Eddy, and I was the lone “in-house” manager who stayed in the field house cleaning and “tidying up,” washing the daily laundry with the field house’s industrial-grade washer and dryer, and tending to wounds and other injuries emerging during practice that could not be handled on site by Berry & staff on the field. I deliberately chose to be the “in-house” manager, so that when everyone was out on the field for the practice except me, and I had finished cleaning and straightening up the field house and had started the day’s laundry, I could get a head start on the night’s homework that would be finished after practice during the traditional study session over at my house (The 1963 Cisco High School King Lobo Coronation [March, 2014], & The Chair/Desk Escapade — Chapter 2 (Dramatis Personae) [Oct, 2013]) (assuming I did not have a “patient” or “patients” in the field house to attend).

Another “division of labor” occurred concerning game days, both home and away. Berry and I were responsible for packing the managerial medical kit and other side-line supplies, and we usually had those things ready to go at the end of Thursday night practice — well before the actual game the following Friday night. Whether home or away, we were also responsible for setting up the stadium headphones for the coaches well before the crowd filled the stands. While Dwayne and Eddy attended to the team, we would switch out going to the top of the appropriate sideline stands and staying down on the field at our team bench site, stringing a wire between us connecting an ancient Army-surplus set of field phone receivers — in this way coaches up high and coaches on the field could communicate during the game. Of course, it was also our responsibility to “strike” this field communication system after each game. Before we finished our two-year tenure, we could assemble or disassemble the phones in a matter of minutes, returning to taping ankles or removing ankle tape “before most knew we had been gone.”

With Dwayne and Eddy being absent a lot, we also “took over” retrieving the tackling dummies (the inflatable tire tubes, not the players!) after practices in record time, using the “athletic department” car used often by Coach Rice. We good-naturedly “tormented” Mr. Mitchell, the head custodian of the athletic facilities and the high school and Robert Mitchell’s (see above) dad. One day when a player during practice ran into and broke a water line to the practice field, terminating practice for the day and causing Mr. Mitchell “fits” trying to find the cut-off valve, I thought he was going to “bean” us right there with his tools when Berry and I, returning to the field house with tackling dummies, pointed to the high “fountain” of water flooding the practice field and said to him, “Uh..Mr. Mitchell….I think there’s a leak down on the field…..” We also were not comforting to him when he had to repair frozen water pipes that had burst in the field house walls during very cold weather.

I was also the occasional designated whirlpool “administrator,” or, as it is known among teams, “cooker of players.” These were the days before cold or ice water treatment, and the whirlpool was located in the far corner of the community gym, the corner closest to the bonfire site (The 1963 Cisco High School Homecoming Bonfire — No Sleep and Almost Torched Into Martyrdom [Aug, 2013]). I “boiled” many (That was the one instruction I got from the coaches — “Keep ‘em in the hottest water they can stand for as long as they can stand it!”.), but two examples always come to my memory: Darrell Holt the first season and Earl Carson the third and fourth. I don’t remember Darrell’s “cooked” body part, but I remember his being so weakened from the hot water I had to drag him out of the stainless steel tub almost on my own. I also don’t remember whether it was left or right, but Earl’s “part” was his entire elbow; given his complexion, his arm looked like a lobster after each treatment! He spent many school days in an arm sling.

This was the season Coach Gene Hargrove had become part of the staff at Hamilton, and we played Hamilton at their place. Coach Hargrove “had a score to settle” with Cisco, and, judging from his behavior during the game, he had “prepared” his new team on what to expect from all the Cisco players. Adling was one of our running backs; “Get him! He can’t run!” Hargrove would shout; Adling would make three or four yards; “Stop that spook! He ain’t nothing!”; Adling would make six or seven yards and a first down; etc…..etc…. That was also the game where the field was so rain damaged, running back Danny Phipps had to run the ball at least 3 yards into the end zone to get the refs to signal a touchdown (Over the years, the story inflated to 5 yards.). He had told them one or two plays before that he was already in, pointing to the pylons (or spring-mounted flags) at the ends of the goal line.

Berry and I discovered we liked to stay after home or away games into the early morning hours of Saturday doing the washing (everything but the uniforms, which were sent to Cisco Steam Laundry, owned by Mr. O.L. Lee, Bill Lee’s dad — Ode to Dr. Bill R. Lee [April, 2012]) so we would not have to do laundry for hours on our “precious Saturdays.” We discovered many wonders together doing the laundry in the wee hours — finding out we could lie in the coffin-like chests holding track uniforms (locked) without getting claustrophobic (I got caught doing that one afternoon when practice ended early; Berry had to rescue me from tortures from the team who found out I was “in the box.” (Ode to Bob B. Berry [May, 2012]))

More than one early Saturday morning, while we were waiting for the next load of clothes to dry in the huge natural gas-powered dryer, we would go out onto the field and climb to the top of one of the light poles (which were blown down — bent over near the ground — by a tornadic wind sometime during our “tenure,” by the way) with a transistor radio. Sitting on the top bars of the pole among the arrays of lights and swaying in any breeze, we would listen to rock-and-roll on station KOMA out of Oklahoma City, stare out over the top of the press box to survey the expanse of Oakwood Cemetery less than a block away, and watch for Texas & Pacific night trains to pass both directions to our right and left on the tracks just beyond the cemetery. And we would talk — talk as only the two of us could when it was just the two of us. Surreal………….surreal………

One day Coach Rice had the team all in one field house room (the one with the washer and the dryer) telling them something important, while the dryer behind him was ablaze with gas jets atop its rotating cylinder, finishing up a load. We had it on high, and, probably because my dusting of the premises left something to be desired, the flames caught dust-laden cobwebs on top of the dryer afire! Dwayne happened to see it first, standing nearest the dryer and Coach Rice.

“Uh…Coach…..uh….Coach….”

Coach Rice tried to ignore him, but the manager’s persistence finally interrupted what was being said, angering the speaker.

“…uh, the dryer’s on fire…” Word of and sight of the flame got Berry’s and my attention too, and before we could reach where Dwayne was standing, Coach Rice quoted a “classic:”

“Well, put it out, stupid!”

Only then did Dwayne began moving to assist us. We controlled the blaze, and afterwards had loads of laughs over the experience that it was as if putting it out had not occurred to Dwayne until he was ordered to do so. Our imaginations conjured managers standing in front of the charred remains of the field house saying, “We had no authority to proceed to put it out!”

In Ode to William L. (Bill) Adling [May, 2012] I described the chaos of getting from the 3-story high school building at the end of 5th period to get to the field house during football season. As managers, I don’t know how we avoided having to treat injuries from the mad leaps down the stairwells we and the athletes took to race to the north side (NW) parking lot of the building (800 block of W. 6th St.), pile in some random assortment into an athlete’s car before the driver backed out on the street and “peeled out” in a mad traffic rush to get to the field house. One lost count of how many different cars one “bummed” a ride in during a season, if you did not have a car yourself. No wonder Adling forgot he had his own car at school that first day he came with his own wheels and frantically “bummed” someone else’s car to get to football! I suspect some of the “football” scrapes and bruises we treated on lots of days were sustained before arriving at the field house. Arrival and parking of the cars in the parking area of the field house looked like a “simultaneous pit stop” of all the racers in a NASCAR race. To this day I “feel” for any pedestrians, elderly drivers, stray dogs, and unleashed pets unlucky enough to find themselves on the streets between the high school and the field house those first three seasons I was manager. (For the fourth season, the HS building was condemned, and we went to school across town from the field house.)

The fourth season, 1963, brought one important change — we got a new Head Coach, Coach Billy Bates (The Chair/Desk Escapade — Introduction [Oct, 2013]), but Coaches Turner and Cromartie stayed on. Added were Coaches Manning Davis and James Couch. Coach Bates seemed determined to change the whole football program, moving the field house over to beneath the north (actually NW) bleachers of the community gym, next to where the whirlpool was located. Our old beloved field house of the previous years was to become the visitors’ dressing room. But the washer and dryer were not moved (I remember waiting for a load to dry while reading a paperback copy of William Shirer’s The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, when a visiting team arrived for a game or scrimmage; they thought I was a Nazi; I didn’t tell them any different.) So, I had to transport the daily laundry from the gym to the field house, do the washing and the drying, and transport the finished washing back over to the gym, doing the folding at one or both sites. I had help using my own car named “Liberty” (after the western villain Liberty Valance). My laundry chores were therefore made more public, so much so that on one return trip to the gym porch paralleling Avenue L with my laundered load, Coach Couch called me “Cisco’s answer to the washer-woman.”

With the departure of Dwayne and Eddy from the managerial staff, Berry and I needed some help this season, so not only were Sophomore Larry “Stick” Owens and Freshman Sidney Mahaney added, our classmate and fellow study session participant, Clark Odom, Olin’s younger brother, was also made a part of our “staff.” We were back to five managers, just like my first season back in 1960. Berry and I continued to not “pull rank” on the two underclassmen managers, despite the fact we were “big, bad” Seniors; we had to “keep them in line and on task,” for sure, but we never hazed them like we were hazed. (See above) Clark never impressed me as a manager (It was hard to live up to the examples of Larry and Berry.), but he was much better than his brother, and, besides, he would often stay in the new field house with me (after laundry) while Berry, Stick, and Sidney were on the field and we would get a head-start on our homework.

Starring on the 1963 team were “Wild Bill” Adling, Earl Carson, Gene “Dummy” Darr, Ralph Lanham, Robert Mitchell, Danny “Wild Horse” Phipps, J. V. “Jasper” Plumlee, Butch Sparks, Keith Starr, Charles Stephenson, Macon Strother, Ervin Addy, Tim Bennie, Leon Bint, Jimmy Brown, Richard Coats, Danny Clack, Nicky “Joe Don” Lopez, Coy Miller, Gary Phipps, C. B. Rust, Anthony Strother, David Waters, Bobby Rains, Bobby Smith, Jimmy Smith, Roger Fields, Benge Burnam, Charles Court, Glen Ferguson, Greg Graham, Larry Hargrave (The Chair/Desk Escapade — Chapter 4 (Coming Together and Planning) [Oct, 2013]), Ross Honea, Mark Johnson, Robert Pitts, James Queen, Larry Pilgrim, Ronnie Reynolds, and Larry Warren.

Gene Darr, who went on to play at Texas Tech, was the captain of the defense and had to get the defensive signal from the sidelines before each play. Proper playing eyewear always seemed to be a problem for him, and, without it, he had to lean toward our sideline and squint noticably to get the signal. Even then, the signal wasn’t clear always to him, and he had to get Earl Carson to tell him what it was so he could pass it on. It would have been more efficient to have Earl get the signal all the time.

Evidence that I, as a Senior manager, was very different from the likes of Olin Odom when he was a Senior (see above) came in the form of I being “punished” far more than once by being banished to Coach Bates’ “Happy Crew,” the group who had to do extra wind sprints at the end of practice for “offenses” committed against the Bates rules. I would usually disrupt the seriousness mandated on bus trips to games or scrimmages by doing something goofy in the back of the bus to get players laughing; soon finding out where the disruption of seriousness came from, I would hear from the front of the bus, “Happy Crew for you, Hastings!” During the wind sprints I had to do as a result, I would try and evoke laughs by often tripping on my feet and falling flat of my face somewhere in the middle of the sprint, meaning somewhere in the mid-yard lines of Chesley Field.

But the “prize” for conjuring laughs, even in the midst of football, must go to Adling (Ode to William L. (Bill) Adling [May, 2012] & The Chair/Desk Escapade — Chapter 2 (Dramatis Personae) [Oct, 2013]):

Ironically, the first Adling athletic “funny” occurred in track season when we were still in the old field house at the SW end of Chesley Field: He was always on the verge of quitting, almost weekly declaring he was fed up with his famous “I quit!” This seemed to be declared always after the coaches had left the field house, especially after the exit of track coach Coach Turner. He would with great pomp and circumstance empty the contents of his locker and fling them, notably his track warm-ups, in the floor, followed by a demonstrative exit of the field house himself. He clearly expected me to follow up this demonstration by doing my managerial duty and pick up his “stuff” off the floor and process it accordingly. But, I knew better, and I did nothing with Adling’s stuff before I exited for the day, leaving it scattered where he had left it. The next school day, predictably, Adling would have a change of heart, realizing the trouble he could get in by quitting track — i.e. jeopardizing his status on the football team — and asking me at school if I had picked up his stuff. I, of course, said “No,” and suddenly I would have his “eternal gratitude.” On those days at the field house after which he had “quit,” he would make sure he beat Coach Turner to the field house that afternoon so he could pick up his stuff I had “lazily” left alone and return it all to his locker.

The second “funny” occurred during football: In the 1963 season one afternoon after practice and after Berry and I had gathered in the inflated tackling and blocking dummies (the inflated kind, not….well, you know the joke), Coach Cromartie called me back onto the field to help him drill the backs in catching punts, one of the backs being Adling. I was to hike the ball to him like a long snapper so he could do the punting to the waiting backs at the far end of the practice field. Adling turned out to be the last back left on the field to catch his alloted five punts. For reasons only he knows, Adling, running in his last punt of the day, as Coach Cromartie called out, “Hustle, Adling, hustle!”, did a somersault just before he flipped the ball to me at the end of his run. This did not set well with the coach, and he called Adling back from his attempt to run to the field house with something like, “All right, Adling, if you like to play fancy, just go right back out there and catch five more!” So Adling caught four more “straight,” but on the fifth he ran the ball back alternating touching the ground with his free hand as he switched the ball from arm to arm for the last twenty yards or so, casually flipping the ball to me at the end. “That’ll be five more, Adling!” was the coach’s response. It was ceasing to be funny, as not only was Adling getting “trashed out” fielding and returning many more punts than usual, Coach Cromartie was getting tired doing all that punting, and I was getting “pooped” doing all that long-snapping!

But now, in the growing darkness, it was growing beyond funny; it was becoming ludicrous! Now, despite my fatigue, I was having trouble suppressing my laughing at Adling’s “battle of wit and stamina.” (Coach Cromartie and Adling were always at odds, good-naturedly, in civics class, wherein Adling could not keep from “wiseing-off,” always unsolicited, prompting Cromartie to take 5 points off his grade; nicknames for Jack Cromartie were “Old 5 Points” and “Ratfink.”  To be fair, Adling could have his “5 points” erased by writing nursery rhymes hundreds and thousands of times; during that civics class, Adling “killed lots of trees;” one week he “wised off” so much he “shot” his entire week end, having to write “Mary had a little lamb” 5,000 times!) As “Old Wise-off” tortuously ran back out to receive the next fifth ball, Coach Cromartie said to me so that Adling could not hear, “I hope he doesn’t do anything this time; I’m dog tired!”

“Me too, Coach!” I said, as I painfully bent over for the snap.

This last punt was fielded and returned, amazingly, reasonably “normal” by Adling, or, at least, normal-looking in the dusky twilight of the practice field. I think anything he did would have been acceptable, so tired was Coach Cromartie. For me, I’m not sure how many more snaps I could make, darkness or no darkness!

There was and is, of course, much more, but this will give you, hopefully, the ideas and feelings of my “confessions”…..

Because of these four seasons (get it? 4 Seasons….”She-r-r-r-y,” “Walk Like a Man,” “Let’s Hang On To What We Got,” “Big Girls Don’t Cry,” etc………OK, nevermind………..) I never took PE in high school, but got full credit for it for graduation. Because of these four seasons, I never got to see the Lobo band perform at halftime; nor did I ever see any halftime ceremonies. But because of these four seasons I got free pre-game meals like I was a player, topped off in the first two seasons with a delicious Dr. Pepper (in a paper cup) from the machine at the entrance of the “Cracker Box” “basement” gym beneath the auditorium floor. During the first three seasons I got all the free ice-cold Coke I wanted (after the players had finished) just before we went back on the field before the second half (This was before Gatorade had reached Cisco, and was three seasons instead of four, as I don’t remember Coach Bates approving Cokes at halftime.). Because of these four seasons I got all the salt tablets and dextrose tablets I could swipe — you didn’t have to ingest such to be a manager, but I thought it helped! All in all, with these and all the other “perks” presented above, I thought I was in “tall cotton.” Looking back, I must confess I still think today I was. Those four seasons for me had more “Good” than they had “Bad and Ugly.”

I’ve emerged from these four seasons not only a weird, twisted, and unorthodox football fan, I have life-long phobias of both athlete’s foot and jock itch, based upon all the cases I tended (I did NOT treat the cases of jock itch, I want you to know, only handing the medicine to the “patient” for self-treatment!). Every trip to Cisco I always do a nostalgic drive-by of Chesley Field, the community gym now-turned-football-practice-facility, and the site of the old field house, which looks replaced by a new one. They are only two blocks removed from that front yard in which Berry put me on the path, back in 1960, toward becoming very familiar with industrial laundering of towels, jock straps, and tee-shirts.

RJH

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