Just about a month from now will be the anniversary of when I was particularly obsessed about getting ready for my junior year of football at Aurora High School.
I was oblivious to who I was waving to or why, but Coach Charles “Hoss” McCallister would later tell me that he was riding north out of Aurora, crossing the railroad tracks, when he met me running south alongside Mo. 39.
With him were some Monett football players, arch rivals, who were in a driver’s training class he was teaching that summer. He told me the next day that their conversation had gone something like this:
“Who is that?” one asked, after seeing me wave and his return wave.
“He’s my left tackle.”
“What’s he doing?”
“He’s probably running home from Mt.Vernon.”
“Really? From Mt. Vernon? A tackle?”
“Yes, all of my players do that all the time.”
He told me that story and then laughed like no one but Hoss could laugh. It wouldn’t be for another eight years that I would come to understand that folks in Bolivar were familiar with that laugh. He had coached here before returning to our mutual home town as a Houn’ Dawg coaching the Dawgs.
His old college friend and fellow WWII veteran, Bud Engleman, the man who hired him to coach here, would become my landlord upon my arrival. The woman I would later marry had Hoss as a P.E. teacher here. A small-world circle to be unbroken was formed.
“So, what were you really doing?” Hoss eventually got around to asking me about that hot July day in 1969.
“I was running home from Mt.Vernon,” I quite truthfully answered, as opposed to his story told to impress the rival Cubs.
“You were doing what!?,” he nearly screamed. “Are you crazy? You could die doing that!”
And he was too close to being right. It was in the mid-90s that day, without a cloud in the sky. From my brother’s house, where I had stayed the night before, it was 13-plus miles to home. I was wearing only white gym shorts of the time, shoes and socks. I had no water. No support.
Besides looking like I was running in my underwear, as an elderly neighbor would later tell me, I must have resembled a thermometer, like that proverbial story about a guy so skinny that if you have him drink tomato juice and turn him sideways, you can read the temp. And the reading that day was spiked.
Anyway, the coach’s questioning came the following day, prior to me taking my football physical. I failed that physical. High blood pressure, no doubt caused by my training adventure.
The reading was back to normal in a few days, and I was cleared to play in what turned out to be a state championship season, with me as the 142-pound starting left tackle in coach’s resurrected single-wing offense.
What a season to have missed, had it turned out to be a miss. A lifetime of stories — no doubt boring to all who have to hear or read them over and over — would be so different. Championships leave a mark.
As it is, I used a rainy Sunday afternoon this week to sort through a lot of drawers, closets and boxes. Some of what I came across made me smile. Some made me laugh out loud. And too much of it made me cry, but no one saw that, so it didn’t happen.
Within the smile-range was the finding of a white towel commemorating the 25th anniversary of that championship season. Then, I came close to the cry-range when reminding myself that this year is the 25th since that 25th celebration.
Where have they gone? Who is that in the mirror looking back at me? Why doesn’t he look to me like those people appeared to me back when they were returning for 50th reunions in 1969?
Those people were old! I can’t be that old. I don’t look like they did. Do I?
But, oh, I must. And I might as well laugh out loud about it.
I’m about out of tears.
Dave Berry is the former BH-FP editor and publisher and now carries the fancy has-been label of “emeritus.” Please direct any complaints or other direct communication with him to email@example.com. As always, the people who actually work here deserve to not be bothered by any of his weekly and weakly distractions or disruptions.