I remember when I came out of college and started coaching and all the rules I thought I needed. I remember an old coach once sitting down with me in some bleachers after a practice and saying to me, “think twice about your rules, you need’em but think twice about them and how and who you administer them to.”
He had a rule. No girls on his team who were mothers. Iron clad. But something was different. He had watched how people had soured on this young girl after she had gotten pregnant. Pregnant and unmarried. He though of her as one of the sweetest girls he had ever known. For some reason he changed his mind on this situation and allowed this young lady to come back on the team. He changed one of his rules. He’d take the heat.
After all she had more than one struggle in her life. She had been born into a family of twenty-two children, she being the twentieth. She was born two months premature, weighing less than five pounds. At age four she endured scarlet fever, later double pneumonia and polio. Polio had crippled her left leg and forced her to wear a metal leg braces for several years. And now this. Something unplanned. Pregnancy and rules.
Oh the young lady, that was Wilma Rudolph. The great Olympic runner. She would go on to be the first American woman to ever win three gold medals in the Olympics. All because a man thought twice about rules.
“She ran free and easy–as though she were nine years old, flying down the dirt roads of Clarksville, freed at last from the braces she wore during her recovery from childhood polio.”
Rome 1960—David Maraniss
“Winning is great, sure but if you are really going to do something in life the secret is knowing how to lose. If you can pick-up after a crushing defeat and go on to win again you are going to be a champion.”
“Worldly things meant little to her, nor did prizes and fame. Her will to win came from another impulse, to prove herself worthy. Her carefree disposition made it difficult to imagine the trauma she had endured in the first twenty years in her life.”
Rome–1960 David Maraniss
You know I’m pretty much in the school of “second chances” especially when it comes to young people.
Rules yes, but also good judgement in the application of those rules. Think about the outcome of this young ladies life because a man thought about the matter of a “second chance.”
“For every woman athlete who came after her, she was the person who opened the door. Wilma opened that door, and for all women, not just in track and field. She had that smile. She had that charisma.”
Quote from Ed Temple
By the way the coach was Coach Ed Temple of Tennessee State track fame.
Some of us are old enough to remember the Yale professor Erich Segal’s book Love Story, written in 1970. Hard to think it has been almost fifty years. Maybe even more so the movie of the same title with Allie MacGraw and Ryan O’Neal.
Love appears in a lot of different ways. Recently I heard of a love story. It was about a cowboy. We will call him Jack. Jack lived out in west Texas, grew up in hard times and was now an old man. Had been a cattle man, a rancher, a lot of things but his last job was now a trapper for the government. Trapping and hunting animals of that west Texas area.
The folks he worked for thought so much of him that they present him with a gift of a dog. A special bred of animal, good with cattle,etc. Ole Jack, well he just named the dog, “Dog.” Over time the two became inseparable.
Where Jack went Dog went. If Jack went inside the dog would sit for hours waiting for his return. Early mornings when Jack got in his pick-up truck to ride over the land Ole Dog was in the front seat. It was said about the only place where Jack did not take Dog was church.
But unfortunately as dogs will do Dog once put his nose in a place he should not have. The dog was bitten by a rattlesnake. The dog was taken to the vet and Jack was told the outcome did not look good for Dog. If he made it thru the next 48 hours he might live but even then with issues.
The dog did live but not long after that the dog’s face came to be drawn and scared badly. After effects of the snake bite. In fact some now called the dog “Snarl” cause that was now the permanent look on the dog’s face. Not a pretty picture. Often in trying to relieve the discomfort and look of Dog, you would find Jack sitting with Dog and rubbing a special ointment, a salve on the dogs face. This old ugly dog and Cowboy Jack sitting together, befriending one another.
As dog’s do, Dog grew old. Too old to be much good to anyone. Anyone but Jack. But finally Dog’s condition was bad that everyone even Jack knew what needed to be done. It was not an uncommon practice in those times when an animal such as a dog could no longer live they might be taken to a woods and shot. No seriously that was done. The Elvis Presley routine of the song “Ole Shep.”
Cowboy Jack in his life time had been hard on many things. He had shot many animals. One day he told his wife, “One day when I’m not here call one of the kids to come and get Dog, have them take him to the vet and have him put down.”
He also, added, “Just don’t tell me the day.”
You know love stories, well they appear in a lot of ways.
Recently as I pulled from my drive (top down on Corvette) a Conway Twitty (Harold Jenkins) song came on. For some reason I thought, “I remember exactly where I was the first time I heard that song, Exactly.” It was at a Dog-n’-Suds type place in Spencer, Indiana. (The Spencer Cops) It was blasting thru the outside speakers.
Later as I sat alone at my coffee place I got to thinking about “First Time” and songs. A number of songs and circumstances came to mind. I remember the first time I heard:
*”When My Blue Moon Turns To Gold Again”–Bert & Finn’s Truck Stop
“Maybelline”–Chuck Berry–Restaurant in Farmersburg, IN
“Peggy Sue”-Wabash Ave.–Mike’s ’56 convertible –a Wednesday night
“The Monster Mash–Mike’s ’56 convertible–Wabash Avenue
“Precious Memories”–A grandmother’s funeral–as a very young child
“Stagger Lee'”–Garfield High School follies–1960
“In The Still of The Night’-At a sock hop Wiley high school–after ballgame
“Travelin’ Man”–Saw this one live-Rick Nelson
“That Will Be The Day”–Saw this one live–Buddy Holly-Buck Lake
“The Stroll”–Wassell Inn–Terre Haute
“Will You Still Love Me”-The college grill-Indiana State-1961–too often
“The Purple People Eater”–Wabash Ave—WBOW
“Dreamy Eyes”–Johnny Tillotson-Wabash Ave.-A Saturday night
“The Twist”–Country Fair–Midway at the carnival
“It Only Hurts for A Little While”-Ames Brothers-County Fair–Cattle Barn
“Fool Number One”–Brenda Lee–ISU college grill
“Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer”-Riding in car with my dad
“Lonely Teardrops”–Jackie Wilson–saw live first time
“The Mountain’s High”–Merle’s Highdecker–Indianapolis
“Long & Lonely Nights”–Wiley High School–Sock Hop– after ballgame
“The Old Gospel Ship”–County Fair–Gospel Night- Happy Goodman’s
“Only the Lonely”–County Fair–Riding the Ferris Wheel
Oh yes there are more…but that’s enough memories for now..as I said some of them carry different meanings now…than then.
There is a song from an old Statler Brothers album “That Summer.”The lyrics say “Those songs once made me happy, now they make me sad.”
That can often be my feelings when I now hear some of these songs. In fact there are a couple song not mentioned that when I hear them they make me really sad. I do remember the time, the place and the circumstances.
If you are honest I bet you have a song or two that can bring mixed emotions. Maybe even time, place and circumstances.
When my wife is not with me and it is around lunch time I often look for one of them off beat type places.
In the south and Midwest they are called “Meat and Three.” If it is noon time and you can see their parking lot and if you see a number of pick-up trucks, pull in. Chances are some one as you walk in the door may greet you with “Honey, you sit where ever you want and I’ll be with you in a minute.”
Recently I stopped in such a place. I had been in this little town playing their nine hold golf course and before I headed back home thought I would stop for lunch. As I sat down at a table a lady brought me some ice tea and said, “today’s specials are on that board.” She was referring to a blackboard above the cash register. I gave her my order but I was even more impressed by what was written on the blackboard below the special of the day. Written was this:
“You can run quicker than an old man,
but for his wisdom and words, you are far
You know that might be a pretty good thing to put on some three by five cards and see that they are passed out/ especially at some particular locations.
Yesterday morning I walked out of my coffee shop and thought what a pretty fall morning this is. My thoughts this morning had been a lot of directions as I sat alone early over my coffee. A little half decaf and half hazelnut. As I pulled from the parking lot those thoughts they told me “turn right, not left,” as I usually do. So I did and then headed east on Old Hickory Blvd.
My thoughts drove me to the cemetery of a good friend. Cemeteries especially early on a fall morning can cast a special spell on one. Well I guess really they can cast a spell on one at about anytime. There was not another car or human in site. I did hear a bird and saw a bunny off in the distance making his way to possibly his breakfast. As I walked from my car to my friend’s grave a sadness came over me but also smile. I can and never will remember my friend but what I won’t smile. Often laugh.
And I thought….”remember the night we”……” remember the time we”… “remember the girl”……..I was full of “remembers.” Old good friends have a way of doing that you know…make us say…”remember.”
“How’d You Get Home So Soon?”
It was Memorial Day in’81
I left the city and I drove back home
I stopped by the grave of a childhood friend
And as I stood there I talked to him and I said
How’d you get home so soon Bill
I knew you way back then
We were pals back in those days much
too young to have friends
I left town bout when you did I’ve been makin’ up tunes
Ain’t it strange how they play this game
how’d you get home so soon
How’d you get home so soon Bill
I knew you had to ask
She married some guy from Dayton
left and never came back
To tell you the truth I liked her but
boy that’s been a moon
I’m still playing games on the same old
range how’d you get home so soon
I did some time in the Army but
you don’t wanna hear about that
Made easy money the hard way
it all goes for toys and for tax
Whiskey tastes better than ever the ladies
they look better too
Well Bill I’m down I’ll see you around
how’d you get home so soon
Tom T. Hall
“Mike, I’m down my friend, how you get home so soon?” It was much too soon, but that is always the case with the passing of friends. There’s no such thing as good timing in the loss of friends.
If you happen to be reading this, well I hope you have or had such a good friend. Don’t let their memory die with them.
When one stops and thinks about it there are similarities between life and the knuckle ball pitch in baseball.
“He was taught the pitch starting at age six.He devoted his life to that pitch and still has not mastered it. It is a capricious pitch. It has no logic. To throw one, a pitcher digs his nails of his first two finger into the seams of the ball and then pushes it toward the plate with the same motion he would use to close a door. Once released it has no spin. It is caught immediately by air currents. The vagaries of these currents may cause a knuckle ball to rise or dip or flutter left or right, or maybe all these things at once, or just some of them, or none at all as it just floats lazily plate ward. The ball’s behavior is as erratic as the flight of a hummingbird. A knuckle ball is impossible to hit when thrown over the plate as it is to throw over the plate. He imposes nothing on it but simple surrenders to its will. To be successful, a knuckle ball pitcher must first recognize this fact and then decide that his destiny still lies only with the pitch and that he will throw it constantly no matter what.”
A FALSE SPRING–Pat Jordan
Similarities of the two:
*Life often comes at one young
*Life often digs its nail into one
*Life takes a lifetime to learn
*Life one never knows for sure where it is going
*There will be days in ones life in which there seems to be no logic
*Life has days when there is “no spin.”
*There are days in ones life when they will do more pushing than pulling
*In life there are days in which one will surrender to the will of others
*In life there will be times being constant is the only way to deal with life
*In life there will be those special times when the ball goes over the plate
*In life possibly the best way to coupe is just stay with the pitch
November 11th was Veterans Day— I remember: “We are interested in this kid.”
There is a web site regarding my home town area, Terre Haute, Indiana.
On veterans day as I looked on that site, as I often do, I saw a posting for all the people from there that lost their life in the Vietnam War. It caused me to pause and brought back an old memory. The memory had to do with Sph, Theodore “Ted” Sweat.
The year was 1964. I was in my last semester at Indiana State University. I was now to do my student teaching and I was assigned to Wiley High School there in Terre Haute. Looking back on that to me it was quite ironic being assigned to Wiley. Various reasons, which I won’t go into further detail.
I was fortunate during my student teaching time to also be included with two of the athletic teams. The basketball team and track team. My supervising teacher was Bill Malloy. I was so lucky, the whole experience, to have Mr. Malloy, well again the whole experience.
Ted Sweat was a member of the basketball team, a senior at the time. Seeing his name posted on the site this morning brought back a basketball locker room memory. Ted was a very good player. One night following a game a college scout came into the locker room. I stood and I heard an exchange between the coach and the scout. Bottom line was the scout, who was from a Big Ten school, said “We are seriously interested in this kid. We think he could play for us.” Well this kid was Ted Sweat.
I don’t know all the happenings or decisions that were later made following Ted’s graduation. I finished my student teaching at Wiley and accepted my first teaching and coaching job in Frankfort, Indiana. I did learn that Ted did not go on to college and that he had joined the army.
I also remember where I was when I heard that Ted had lost his life in Vietnam. I also remember crying and thinking of the night a college scout said “We’re interesting in that kid. We think he could play for us.”
I have visited The Wall a few times, I never visit the Wall…but I don’t go and run my fingers over his name.
Yesterday our son-in-law and our daughter (Daren & Jennifer) hosted at their house the wedding of Daren’s niece. What a day it was for all I am sure.
But in seeing this picture and the young man in his Marine uniform, I couldn’t help but think of all the many men and women who have served our country over all the years. I thought of my brother who served in the Korean War. I thought of our son Jay who has also served. I was reminded of the morning I took him to his place of embankment for him to begin his basic training. I never have or will forget him as he, it seemed like bolted from the car with excitement, shaking my hand and saying “Dad, I’ll be ok.” And I thought “Yea your mother and well we have our thoughts.”
(Congatulations to Laine & Cody)
So to this couple we say thank for your service and God’s speed to both of you. And to our veterans…thank you.