While he was small in stature, he was huge in heart. I watched him make plays a little guy should never make. He got knocked down over and over, and every time that happened, he would jump right back up ready for the next play. I watched him later in the season when the Cougars made the short trip over to Ira to take on the Bulldogs. And there #1 was… still playing with very well-developed fundamentals and that great big heart. I immediately knew I had to find out his story.
Kylar Pepper. The little Cougar with the big heart. I like to call him Mighty Mouse. I thought it appropriate he wore #1 on his Cougar jersey proudly. He is switching to lucky #7 this year. Kylar is a typical teenager in that he loves chocolate, especially Milk Duds, really enjoys learning about history in class at Klondike High School and listens to country music. He lives on a farm ten miles from the school and works the land with his dad. Much like other 1A kids, he participates in multiple sports. While his favorite sport is football, he also plays basketball and runs track. Kylar believes that running track is essential to doing well on the football field. He quoted his coach saying, “Run the ring in the spring to move the ball in the fall.” Great advice!
Being small in size may seem an obstacle to most football players, but Kylar doesn’t let it affect him. He admits he sometimes gets discouraged but immediately pushes that to the back of his mind and remains tough. Last year against Balmorhea he says with certainty about playing the Bears, “That was intimidating. I got barreled over a couple of times, but I just tried to get back up and be tough.” Kylar admits it’s sometimes very intimidating to go out there at his size, but he just has to get back up, be tough, and keep going.
There are many teams with smaller kids who have lots of heart. Kelan Evans from Santa Anna and Caleb Chisum from Jayton, just to name a few. I asked Kylar if he had any advice for other 1A kids who may not be the biggest guy on the field. He had wise words. “Don’t be intimidated by anyone. No matter what size they are, go out there and give 100% every day. Just stick it out. Don’t worry about your size. Don’t worry about your weight. Just stick it out, and you’ll be alright! You’ll be good!”
Coach Degraffenreid had great things to say about Kylar, “He’s an exciting kid to watch.” Sometimes the smallest guy on the field has to learn the fundamentals of the game and make them evident in every move just to see some playing time. Coach “D” says Kylar works hard and has earned every second he gets on the playing field. He added, “Kylar is a great kid!”
Kylar may be viewed as the underdog, but he doesn’t want to be seen that way. In many ways, Sixman football is the same. The underdog to big schools. The underdog to 11-man football. We are the little guy. But more importantly, we are the little guy with the great big heart who pushes discouragement out of the way and forges on tirelessly. We love our players. And they come in all shapes and sizes. Our towns may be small, but we are family. Small towns provide a simpler life, and we enjoy every second of it. We do more than exist. We embody the fight within the human spirit. So many 1A kids like Klondike Cougar #1 represent our towns with pride and the “never give up” attitude.
Thank you, Kylar Pepper, for being an inspiration. You are an example for us all. Never change that about yourself, and never, ever lose that heart! You, sir, encourage me to go forward and do Good!
By Dency McClure
This time the trip was a short one. I actually looked it up on google maps just for kicks. It estimated the trip to take two minutes by vehicle and 14 minutes if walking. Not sure how they calculate the walking time because people of all different ages, sizes, and physical fitness have to be included in that. But rest assured we drove, and it was a very quick trip down the bumpy, dusty roads to the Paint Rock football field.
We parked under my favorite tree on campus near the playground. I taught Pre-K at Paint Rock for many years. When I would go up to work on my classroom in the summers, I liked to park under that tree for shade to keep the car cool, and it was close to my classroom. I always enjoyed the kids. My girls use to tease me that my Pre-K kids were my best friends. My youngest daughter told me that I never had to worry about people thinking I didn’t treat all the kids on campus fairly because I treated them all like they were mine.
Paint Rock has lots of transfers and when our youngest was in high school, we did our best to make the kids welcome in our home. I wanted them to have a place to go between school and game time etc. I never knew when I would come in from work on Fridays who was in the shower or whose clothes were in the wash. We loved every minute of it, and the Paint Rock kids are the best. When they left, you couldn’t even tell they had been there because they always picked up after themselves. Our youngest has since graduated and our home is now quiet on Fridays.
Paint Rock has made some improvements to the campus grounds in the year I have been away. They have done some maintenance to the playground and have completely redone the football field itself. The town is very proud of the new green field. It took the mayor, city council, the water department, and the head coach all putting their heads together to figure out how to supply the water needed to water when the sod was first put down. Dedicated employees at the water department and the school had to work together to make it happen. It took the town as a whole to keep it alive when a water pipe broke. Water had to be hauled in tanks to the field and towns people had to stand in the heat with hoses. The field is a symbol of the hard work and pride of the community.
As we approached the field, it almost looked like turf. As I got closer, I could tell it was beautiful, thick lush green grass. I walked through the field gate onto the nicest grass field I’ve been on this season. This is where the sports photography started for me... right here on these sidelines. Let me tell you what the field used to be like: grass burs, goat heads, fire ants, holes, hard as a rock, cracks, dirt with lots of weeds, and a patch of grass here and there. We called it the secret weapon as our boys practiced on it and new its wrath. Some used to tell me they would tackle so the other team would land in a fire ant den. I learned quick if your foot hit soft dirt you best move fast and do the ant dance. But those rough and tough days are a thing of the past as I stand in what is now the castle of grass fields.
Since Michael doesn’t broadcast scrimmages, he quickly got pulled into the chain gang for the night. He is one of those people that never sits and watches. He always wants to be in the thick of it. So running chains and staring into the sun all evening was right up his alley. I have to admit when he ends up on the field with me, it messes up my groove. I’m not used to it so I trip over him or he gets in my shot etc. I love him dearly, but the sidelines are my game not his. He told me once where I needed to be to get a great shot. In case you didn’t catch the “once” it’s there. All jokes aside we have been married for 24 years and make a great team.
It was super weird seeing Coach Shannon Williams in red. I covered him at Zephyr for years and well, red is just not his natural color in my thinking. It’s a beautiful, bright red and I must say, it was exciting to see Leakey in their first few weeks of Sixman. The kids seemed to be taking to the game and liking it. Coach Williams is doing a great job teaching them the Sixman ways and by the end of the game, seeing him in red was starting to grow on me. For their second scrimmage in Sixman, they are looking good. We may all be surprised by this first year team when they get a few games under their belts.
Paint Rock is looking good this year. They are making a better team than I have seen in a while. Coach Egan is enjoying working with the boys and instilling pride along with Coach Gibson and new Coach Carson. Paint Rock is lucky to have had Coach Gibson; he has been a consistent mentor in the boys lives for years. Hopefully once the season gets going, they can continue to do well on the field.
I got to smell burgers cooking along with fresh cut homemade fries. The cross country team was in charge of the concession stand. If the groups that follow them do as good of a job, it will be a great place to eat all season. Coach Pyburn always does great with the kids and his expectations are high. It shows in his multiple trips to state in track and cross country.
I enjoyed visiting with friends along the fence during the game. One has been a stand out fence hanger. He has been there longer than I have been taking photos. Arnulfo Campos, Jr. I call him Arnold like most people do. I have been visiting with him for years on the sidelines and had both of his boys in my pre-k class. I told him I needed a quote for my article. He told me he would give me not one but two; both from Coach Boyd, a legend around these parts. The first, “Go to work, go to work, go to work!” That one is so famous we put it on a spirit shirt one year. I may still have it in my closet. The second one, also from Coach Boyd, “Head on a Swivel.” Arnold explained to me that was to remind them to not get focused on just one player but to always look for the ball and at what was happening on the field. Both great quotes.
After the game, Michael got an interview with Coach Williams and we enjoyed visiting with him and the other coaches from Leakey about their new home. They all are settling in. Best of luck to them and the Leakey boys in their first year. Sixman is definitely a different sport and culture.
After catching up with some friends we ended the evening at what we call a porch party in Paint Rock. Some of our friends live in a historic old home with a grandiose wood wrap around covered porch. We enjoy many evenings there when the weather is good. Sitting and rocking away the day’s worries as the sun goes down and the evening breeze keeps us cool and takes away our cares. Just something about a porch party to perfectly end a day.
See you on the Sidelines!
By Bobbie Brown
I can head straight down Highway 70 and keep going until I reach I-40 about 55 miles East of Amarillo. The road meanders past several Six-man towns: Spur, Matador, Turkey and skirts Silverton. Once you make it past Turkey, the road becomes a maze of canyons with twists and turns. It finally dumps you out into Antelope Flats and then winds into Clarendon. I was headed to McLean. It sits due East of Amarillo about 70 miles along I-40. A person can see for miles up there! I watched a small cloud explode into a very large storm on the almost three hour drive deep into the panhandle. It was an amazing process to view through the windshield.
Stephen Reynolds (another awesome Texas 1A Fan team member) and I finally arrived in McLean at what I have dubbed the Monster Scrimmage. The McLean faithful invite many teams to participate and provide an awesome concession stand. Proceeds from concessions go to the athletic fund at the school. And there were many people there to watch McLean, Lefors, Silverton, Follett, Claude, White Deer, Groom, Happy, and San Jacinto (out of Amarillo).
Stephen set up on the game field, and I headed over to the practice field. Many Sixman fans were gathered around the field in lawn chairs. The practice field was completely surrounded with cars, trucks, and buses. It was a great atmosphere! I picked my way through the teams standing on the sidelines. I was more interested in watching than taking pictures but did manage to get a few good shots.
I love Sixman football and opportunities to speak to people from 1A towns. Because this scrimmage had so many teams at one location, I was able to talk to a variety of people about the game we all love so much. I talked to a college teammate of mine from Happy. Her son is a senior and plays for the Cowboys. I talked to Coach Rucker from White Deer. I finally met the Happy broadcasters, Craig Sperry and his wife. They do a great job for the Cowboys! I also talked to Mr. Jason Henderson of McLean. He was overseeing the fundraiser concession stand. I had a great conversation with Coach Linman and finally tracked down Coach Moffett of Claude. The majority of each conversation was about the football team and how they would do this season. It’s always interesting to hear the viewpoint of the fans and coaches. I hear words like encouraged, nervous, depth, fast, big, quick… the list goes on and on.
I did have a few takeaways from the scrimmage:
As the scrimmage wound down, all eyes were on the big storm to the north. Flashes of lightning could be seen in the distance. We packed up and headed back down the road to home. We saw a fabulous lightning show most of the way along with seven deer (#5 and #7 were HUGE bucks with very tall antlers – some of the tallest we’ve seen up close and personal – and no one will probably believe the antlers were at least 2 ½ to 3 feet tall… but I have a witness), one racoon, two skunks, and numerous dead hogs. I’m just glad they were already dead and not running into my vehicle.
Next week is it. The start of the 2018 Sixman football season. We have the Gridiron in Jayton (nine games in three days), the Garden City Sixman Shootout (six games in three days), The Rochelle Heart of Texas Classic (eight games in three days), and the Gorman Kickoff Classic (six games in three days). We also have other Sixman teams playing all over the place! Get out and see a game. Enjoy the atmosphere, the teams, and especially 1A people. Until then, Go forward and do GOOD!
By Bobbie Brown
I had many choices for scrimmage number two of 2018, but finally decided to head South to watch Highland and Borden County. It took a while, but I finally arrived at the Hilltop. I arrived early. The JV players had wandered out to the field and were beginning to warm up. Suddenly I hear a loud voice say, “Hey there, stranger!” I whipped around and there is none other than my good buddy Leman Saunders. We had a short conversation and set out to investigate the concession stand and other facilities. Met his little girl. She’s a CUTIE!
I finally wandered onto the field. I found Coach Jeffrey and Coach Richey near the stands talking at the fence. Coach Jeffrey had to take his place with the JV, but I did get in a great conversation with Coach Richey about being a grandparent, empty nest, and his dad, the late great John Richey. This scrimmage was a lot like a high school reunion. I grew up with three of the Borden County coaches and watched Coach Jeffrey when he played for Hamlin back in the day. You all know how small towns can be. Some are in such close proximity; all the kids know each other and hang out. Some things never change… and they shouldn’t.
The scrimmage finally got underway. Both JV squads looked good. It’s always been funny to me that football players look so much bigger in pads and a helmet than they do when they aren’t wearing them. Many of the JV players were unrecognizable without their protective gear. They looked pretty big on the field. They were much smaller sitting on the bench.
The varsity definitely needed protection last night! In what can only be described as “the shot heard round the world,” a coyote leveled a hornet. The hornet stayed down for a bit but finally made his way up. Later in the scrimmage, I heard his hornet teammates talking about that hit. One was very animated and said, “I swear there was internal bleeding. And it broke the clavicus!” Another hornet replied, “What’s a clavicus?” He responded, “I have no idea what a clavicus is, but it was broke!”
I walked away laughing knowing that the kid was ok, and the Highland Hornets are a bunch of funny kids. That certainly makes a person really like a team! Humor really gets my attention. I don’t normally relay what I hear on the sidelines, but that was so timely and funny, it had to be shared.
Several observations from Highland last night.
I can tell you that the Highland Hornets are pretty salty. Better watch out for them. I was pleasantly surprised. They have several kids who can run it straight up the gut quickly. They also played very well on defense. Borden County has once again brought players up who are fundamentally sound and can do things they really shouldn’t be doing this early. Those types of movements, tackles, and execution doesn’t usually appear until a few weeks into the season.
Thank you to Highland for being such gracious hosts and to my childhood friends for allowing me to cover both your teams. I had a great time and saw some very good Thursday night football!
Always remember… you, TOO, can go catch some football. Until next time, Go forward and do GOOD!
By Bobbie Brown
I headed west from Lubbock and made my way to Ropesville, Texas. Yes, that is the name of the town, but as we like to do in Texas, we chop the name off. Ropes. Rolls off the tongue a little better. And if you have an especially twangy accent, it sounds even better.
I pulled into the football field. The practice field sits just to the north of the game field. Let me tell you… THAT is the prettiest, most well-groomed practice field I have ever seen! Very green and no stickers (yes, that is important)! That’s my kind of field. There were 29 (yes, that is correct) kids on that beautiful practice field. I made my way over to Ropes Assistant Coach Robby Kyle. I coached with Coach Kyle many moons ago. Love the guy! It’s always a pleasure talking to him. We conversed as the players warmed up and completed a few throwing drills. Coach Jackson appeared at the edge of the field, and it was time to start practice. The JV and varsity split up and went through their many plays. Coach Jay Bingham and Blake Jackson (Lane’s nephew) took the JV through their drills. The varsity was led by Coaches Jackson and Kyle. Coach Kyle told me they have another coach, Captain Bill Sanders, who will help with the junior high. It’s a good thing they have the Captain. I can’t imagine how many junior high players they have!
Ropes has a chute. I had seen one at Matador a few weeks ago. This one was larger to accommodate more players. I can see the reason for having a chute. It encourages players to aggressively move forward and then up into the defensive opponent instead of standing straight up and then moving forward. The Eagles used it well. I have concluded this is a pretty cool device. I compare it to the large wooden chair my college coach put in front of me behind the three-point line to keep me from stepping when I shot the basketball. Unconventional but effective!
During a water break, I was able to speak with Coach Jackson. He’s always very pleasant and genuinely happy to see me. I interviewed him and then he smiled really big and pointed out the new Ropes field house. A big, beautiful white field house with Ropes Eagle logos all over the front. I laughed because special signs adorn the front just for Coach parking. Coach Kyle pointed out the old field house, which now sits in the shadow of the newer building. He teaches history and told me that the old field house used to be the school for the segregated population back in the 1930s. He includes that in a lesson each year. I’d say 80 years is many years of putting a building to good use. The new facility has a nice big dressing room for the Eagles, the visiting team, and the Lady Eagle track team, plus various other rooms. Really cool graphics on the doors point you to the correct place. I did peek into the coach’s office. It’s enormous by 1A coaching standards. I have to say, I was pretty proud of the field house, too. And I don’t live there.
Before I left, I walked over to the game field. It is also immaculate. The grounds people at Ropes are top notch! You can tell they are extremely proud of their facilities. One thing that stood out to me during practice… at some point a dog showed up. Ok, so how many of you have a football field dog? I know there are some! I’ve come to expect almost every football field to have a dog that hangs around. I’ve seen many. And they are always welcome because they just hang out, watch, and sometimes run with the players. The Ropes dog socialized with the players during the water breaks. He also ran out on the field with them afterward, but he seemed to notice when it was time for serious business and trotted off to the sidelines when drills began. Cool dog. I didn’t ask his name. Maybe I need to!
I always enjoy visiting Ropes. If you have a free Friday night, get out and watch some football. You might want to head on over to Ropesville. They scrimmage Amherst this week. Just remember to drop the “ville” when you’re there. Until next time, Go forward and do GOOD!
By Dency McClure
I headed out to May Tuesday afternoon after traveling to Gorman, Strawn, and Lingleville the day before. To be honest, I was getting a little road weary and was glad to know my name was printed on the front of my Texas 1A Fan shirt, in case I forgot it. I turned left in Rising Star and, much like my trip to Lingleville, no signs gave any indication that May was anywhere along this road. I knew; however, that May would appear before long and it did.
I was almost all the way through May and thinking I might need to turn around when the sign pointing the way to the May Sports Complex appeared. The word complex is in no way being misused here. At the end of the road is a grand entrance to an amazing complex any school can be proud of; including a football stadium along with baseball and softball fields. All with nice parking and lights; oh the lights. I can tell you the first thing any photographer looks at upon arrival is the lights. It’s even common conversation on the sidelines between photographers to discuss the lights at various locations for future knowledge. Good lights in Sixman are like an oasis in the desert. A rare luxury cherished by all photographers. In talking with Coach Steele about the complex, he informed me that more is being added for the town little league kids. What an amazing area for the town to enjoy and be proud of.
I arrived early and gathered my gear and headed for the only shade in sight; the covered burger grill. They have a large round open grill for cooking for the concession stand. It already has a stack of wood ready for football games this year. It has a nice cement slab under it and a good well built cover. I enjoyed the shade and my water bottle as I took in the countryside. I also enjoyed watching the young boys prep the water coolers and drive a Gator like real pros. The one driving backed it up perfectly to the door of the locker-room. I think he’s had some practice.
Before long the boys started filing out of the locker room and across the street to the practice field. Coach Steele greeted me and the other coaches followed suit. I got my interview with Coach Steele, and we visited for a moment while the boys stretched. As practice was getting started, a man pulled up and shook the coaches hands. I found out after visiting with him that he has two boys on the team and another boy is in 8th grade and one of the water boys. He works out of town often and hates having to miss some of his kid’s games so makes practices when he can. He lives in the area, and we had a nice visit. When my water bottle got low, he quickly had his son refill it for me. I have to admit I was well taken care of in the water department on this journey.
Like Strawn, May also has a blocking sled. They did some different drills with theirs than I had seen, and it made for some cool photos I hope. They ran some footwork drills and the dust flew under their feet. They ran some passing drills, tackling drills, etc. I stayed quite a while and enjoyed taking photos of their activities, visiting with the dad, and catching bits and pieces of the water crews conversations. I had more than enough photos so watched for a while and then headed out.
I drove by the school and could see the pride the community takes in it. It’s a nice and well maintained facility. It was fun driving around May a bit and getting a feel for the community. Back in the 80s, May was my hometowns big competition in football. It’s funny now how I enjoy visiting the towns we played against in high school.
I headed on down the road to Brownwood so I could stop at Walmart before starting the long trip home.
See you on the Sidelines!
By Dency McClure
On my fourth and last trip though Desdemona that day, I finally stopped at the fancy new convivence store, Cactus Corner. It was like it had just fallen from heaven and been placed perfectly at the little busy country intersection. I had been eyeing it off and on all day on my multiple trips through Desdemona. This was going to be my last chance to stop at it as I traveled through on my way from Lingleville to Gorman. As I entered, the cool breath of comfort and newness struck me. I used the awesome facilities and then headed to the soda fountain. I reached for a medium size cup and then rethought it as the heat from the Lingleville outing still resonated with me. I grabbed the biggest styrophome cup they had. Filled it full of ice and to the brim with Diet Coke. Grabbed the big lid and straw and I was set. I sipped on the heavenly drink as I eyed all the greatness the Cactus Corner had to offer. I then headed to the counter and asked the man just how long the store had been there. Because I knew all my times through that part of the world, over the years I couldn’t have missed it. He told me three months. I told him how nice it was and that I thought they had the perfect location and I wished him well.
I was all set with my giant drink after a refreshing cool stop. I headed down the little country highway to Gorman. On my way, a Gator passed by on the other side of the highway. We waved at each other, and I realized how common that is for no-highway vehicles to travel on these little roads. I admired the trees and hills and the thick humidity hanging low to the ground and shining in the sun like an afternoon fog.
Once in Gorman, I made my way down the little paved streets past some chickens. I have come to believe all 1A towns have resident roaming chickens. I made my way toward the school. I always enjoy a good grill cleaning when the chickens are near where I park. I knew from attending past Gorman practices that the practice field is a bit hidden, and if you don’t know where it is, it could be a bit adventurous trying to find it. I went straight to it as my first trip there a few years ago I had followed the little bus from the school to the field.
Once there I left my big cold ice drink in the car and grabbed a new warm water bottle along with the rest of my gear. I walked over and visited with the water crew. They told me what grades they were in and we visited about the heat. One kid had covered himself with a big towel to block the sun. The older boy who seemed to be the leader of the crew, was extra friendly and when he saw my water bottle asked if it was hot. I told him it was warm. He offered to get me cold water. I told him I was fine, but he insisted on being the perfect host. He took my new water bottle opened it and poured it out. I watched in some amazement; a little unsure of what the plan was. He then refilled my bottle with good, ice cold Gorman water. The bottle was covered with condensation from the coldness when he handed it back. The cold water was a nice treat in the heat.
I then walked onto the field and was greeted by Coach Dixon. We visited for a brief moment and then he headed back into action with the other coaches. They were running drills and plays. Not sure why but I always get a little chuckle seeing the players with scrimmage helmet covers. I completely understand their use and it makes perfect sense, but it doesn’t stop me from laughing a little when I see them. The players were many and they all knew what was expected and did their part. Later in practice they worked on defense and what they should be prepared for at their upcoming scrimmage with Gordon and Jonesboro. The coaches made sure the boys were at ease with their responsibilities and made sure they didn’t have any questions. Once they got going on some other activities, Coach Dixon came over to do an interview.
While I was there, a man arrived in a golf cart. He would stop and watch for a while and then move to a different observation point and watch some more. We waved back and fourth a few times. Before I left, he was parked under a good shade tree on the other side of the field content in his location to enjoy the afternoon practice.
As I headed out, I drove through the downtown area past the nice community park. Last year I had a booth there with my LuLaRoe brand clothing during the Peanut Festival. I enjoyed the festival immensely. The parade was the best part. The children along the parade path had their bags ready to fill. As the floats went by, they would throw candy, sandwich bags full of peanuts, plastic jewelry and other fun items. The children, with the ready help of parents, would fill their bags with the goodies. It was as much fun as Halloween. The bags of peanuts was the fun thing for me as it was unique to this particular festival.
I crossed the railroad tracks and headed out past the trucking buildings and peanut processing areas. Two of my uncles were peanut farmers that also had several head of cattle, and I am familiar with some things. I occasionally helped with irrigation pipe, bottle feeding calves, hauling hay, and other sundry things around their farms on my extended visits. Bottle feeding the calves was my favorite, but I dare say I would have tired of it on a daily basis. I enjoy the sounds of the sheep, goats, cattle, and an old rooster where I live now. I keep thinking the rooster is on his last leg because his crow is a bit slow and croaky sounding. But I’ve lived here four years, and he is still crowing the same crow.
When I was a kid and we would travel through Gorman, I remember loving the smell of the peanuts being processed. Made me want a big bag of roasted peanuts!
See you on the sidelines!
By Dency McClure
I was determined to get to as many Sixman towns as I could in two days in a certain radius. I covered Strawn that morning and was set to cover Lingleville and Gorman that afternoon. Lingleville practice started and 3:00 and Gorman started at 4:00, so I felt with them only being 20 minuets apart, I could get in adequate time at both towns. I headed out on highway 16 again for Desdemona.
Desdemona is a small town that no longer has a school but has a flashing light that connects two roads that are well traveled by country standards. At the flashing light in Desdemona, I turned right to go to Lingleville and would have turned left to go to Gorman or gone straight to get to Strawn. I actually went through Desdemona four times that day. On my trips through that morning, I had spied a nice, shiny convenience store at the intersection. It was calling my name, but I wanted to get to Lingleville early.
There were no highway signs to let me know I was headed in the right direction or how much further I had to travel. I have been to Lingleville before so knew from my own instincts I was traveling the right way and about how far I had to go. Sure enough, in a few moments a little sign simply stating Lingleville appeared. I turned right at the intersection and quickly got to the school.
The school is located right next to the Baptist church. I always love seeing the outdoor tabernacles that so many churches in this area have. I am amazed how well they have survived the years of weather. I can picture the outdoor revivals and church picnics they once hosted. A center to many community activities; now standing as a beacon to the past and an era of old time revivals. I wonder how many people can testify to their Christian life beginning right there during an old time revival alter call?
I made my way to the back of the school and Baptist church and parked my little white Fiat. It always stands out next to the farm trucks and suburbans. It gets good gas mileage and, other than my Texas 1A Fan trips, it mostly bounces around the dirt roads in Paint Rock like a golf cart. I do hate dodging deer in it on the back roads, but it’s perfect the rest of the time.
I thought I was in the right location, got my gear and my cap, and just hung out. When 3:00 had come and gone, I got a bit concerned and started roaming the campus and texted Coach Boyle. He responded that in-service had run longer than expected and they would be coming out shortly. The coaches soon approached in a Gator and pointed me to the old baseball field. Coach Boyle suggested I take my Fiat through the hole in the fence and drive down to the field. I told them I didn’t mind walking and headed off behind them. I quickly realized I should have taken the Fiat off road as the walk was getting longer, the grass was tall, and the opening to the baseball field was completely on the other side. Live and learn, I guess. Probably best to take a Coaches’ advice in such matters. I needed the exercise so it wasn’t all bad.
Once at the field, I visited with Coach Boyle. He told me he had eight players; two were out injured, one had never played before, and one hadn’t played in years. I knew immediately this would be a year of heart. I watched as they ran some drills. The kid that has never played before is a quick study and has the makings of a great quarterback. The boys were communicating and enjoying their time together. Before I left, Coach Boyle was walking them through his varied plays. It was screaming hot and the breeze was not fast in coming. After getting some shots and my interview, I hiked back up the hill the great distance to the car.
As I reached the top, I could hear kids playing on the nicely covered playground. The teachers must really enjoy that. I bet the shade makes the playground equipment a much more bearable temperature in the heat. I had to do what I called “snake hunting” when I taught in Paint Rock. I’d make the kids sit in one area while I walked the playground and looked for snakes. I think snake hunting is a job lots of 1A teachers have.
Just beyond the awesome playground is a large, nice newer building that is part of the school. It’s always nice to see new additions to school campuses. To me it’s a sign that the community is involved, cares, and takes pride in their town and their children’s education. That building will take the school well into the future.
I headed out back by the Baptist church tabernacle and took a left at the intersection. The shiny convivence store in Desdemona was calling my name even more. A big cold drink would really hit the spot on my way to Gorman.
See you on the sidelines!
By Dency McClure
I headed out to Strawn’s morning practice after spending the night with my dad in DeLeon. Not too bad as it’s only a 30 minuet drive. As I was leaving DeLeon, I noticed the sign to Gorman where I would be going later in the day. Highway 16 is a gorgeous drive. Lots of green grass, mature trees of all kinds, and hill after hill. I loved all the panoramic views as I topped the big hills. I only live about two hours away, but the climate is so very different. Where I live it's dry and the trees are mostly mesquite brush, so I really enjoy the lush country side.
My Dad had warned me to watch for deer and wild hogs. I traveled this road often as a high school kid. We lived in Newcastle and my grandparents lived near Sidney. Once I had my driver’s license, traveling this road between the two towns was their way of letting me gain independence and travel experience. At one time, there was an exotic animal ranch just south of I-20 that had kangaroos. I would always strain to see them traveling by. I looked as closely as I could today without having a wreck, and didn’t see any. They are probably a thing of the past. I often wondered how crazy it would be if one escaped and you hit it on the highway. How insane you would sound trying to explain to your insurance company that you had hit a kangaroo in central Texas! Makes me smile every time I picture trying to do that.
As I approached I-20, I saw the sign Abilene to the left 76 miles and Fort Worth to the right 76 miles. Ever wondered where Strawn is? It is four miles north of I-20 exactly half way between Fort Worth and Abilene. I stopped and took a picture of that highway sign on my way back through.
Once in Strawn, I wasn’t sure where they practiced so I headed to the school first. I saw coach Cervantes buzzing around on a moped-type vehicle and caught his attention. He told me there was a practice field at the stadium. I followed his buzzing moped along the streets to the stadium. Strawn is a very active train path. Trains come through all the time. The road to the stadium runs parallel to the train tracks. The train crossing gate was down and it felt very odd to take a sharp left directly in front of it with a train racing by. I love the little paved road to the stadium. It is painted with all kinds of spirit signs for the players, etc. Makes for a neat little drive on the tree lined path next to the train tracks.
I parked and headed to where some of the boys where going. As I waited, a few of the boys walking by me, greeted me, and asked me how I was. It’s always nice to be spoken to kindly when you are out of your realm. Some boys were working hard to move the elevated film chair from the stadium to the fence along the practice field. Looked much like a contraption used for deer hunting but a great double for filming as well. I took some photos of them working to get it over the fence. They did a great job working together to get it over easily.
The boys were getting lined up on the field for their stretches and the coaches were coming out. Coach Lee greeted me and asked if I would like to interview any players or coaches. He isn’t big on personally being interviewed but wanted everyone else to have the opportunity. The first two boys came over, and I talked to them about what I was going to ask and right before I started the video a train came by. The boys told me loudly that sometimes they have to wait for coach to give instructions during practice because a train is going by. Once the train passed we went on with the interview. I interviewed two more players and then headed over to take photos of practice.
Strawn is very adept at stretching, and I’m sure this helps lesson injuries. Practice started at a quick pace and the pace never lagged the entire two hours. All the players were always moving and the water boys were always at the ready in the lines handing out water bottles. I was impressed with the crew. They had equipment, water, towels, supplies, etc always ready to go at the very moment it was needed. They set things up and handled equipment for several drills. Sometimes they even called out for the next player to take action. A good crew is always a plus.
The boys knew what to do and what was expected. They were quick footed and quick thinking. I enjoyed watching the drills in the sand pit. The more they ran around the cones the lower they got. I can’t wait to look at my sand pit photos. Hope I got some sand flying. I also enjoyed watching the boys run the blocking sled. I honestly haven’t seen this piece of equipment used much in the practices I have gone to. I had to keep an eye out when taking photos of other activities on the field to make sure the sled wasn’t coming my way. Practice was rounded out with running some plays and tackling practices.
Coach Lee is everywhere all at once. I would find myself looking for him often only to find him clear across the field from where he just was. He was watching and interacting in everything. I don’t think he stood still very long the entire time I was there. Even when he would stop by to talk to me, he would move from one side to the other of me as he was talking. Keeping his momentum going while carrying on a conversation. He asked me all sorts of questions, and I enjoyed hearing them and answering them. It fascinated me the things he was wondering about and wanting to know. He is a very knowledgeable man and knows what he wants to know.
I finished out my visit with an interview of coaches Eli and Cervantes. After I had been taking sports photos for the school where I taught, I wanted to get out of my comfort zone and cover a team into the playoffs. Lucky for me, my hometown of Newcastle happened to be starting a long playoff run. I was blessed to be allowed to share the sidelines with Coach Eli and others at Newcastle and further my skills as a photographer that year. It was nice to see him again and see how he was settling in at Strawn.
I drove back down the little paved tree lined path decorated with spirit signs next to a roaring train. I drove down a few streets and admired the large older homes Strawn so gracefully showcases from a past era. Then headed out of town past the famous Mary’s restaurant to go back to my dad’s house to enjoy a meal of squash and left overs. It was a bit hard to keep the wheel pointed down the road as I passed Marys. I still didn’t find any kangaroos on my return trip. I did, however, enjoy a meal with my dad before heading out to Lingleville and Gorman later in the day.
See you on the sidelines!
By Bobbie Brown
When I’m invited to a sporting event by a 1A coach, I do everything I can to attend. Because it was Saturday and a beautiful day, I hopped on Red 5 (my motorcycle) and headed down the road to Aspermont to the Volleyball tournament. I was eager to see the 1A schools in the tournament. Rotan, Paducah, Munday, Aspermont, Knox City, and Wellman-Union participated. I was able to see all the teams play. While I’m not an expert in the game of volleyball, I did enjoy watching the competitiveness between the teams. And there is something quite hypnotic about watching the ball go back and forth over the net.
The one thing about volleyball that amazes me is the ability of the players to fling themselves into the air or on the floor and keep the ball in play without hurting themselves. They pop right back up. Now that's toughness! Speaking from experience, when I fling myself into the air or on the floor, you can bet there will be some type of mark or injury... maybe a little bloodshed. Perhaps I should take lessons from some of these great 1A volleyball players!
I met two Lady Hornets, Gracie English and Kenadee Shugart, during a break between the Lady Hornet games. I had bought a pretty good burger meal deal from the concession stand and was busy stuffing it into my mouth when they sat down beside me. I’ve known their coach since we were both in high school. He asked me not to ask them about him, but that’s like dangling a steak in front of a starved animal. Of course, I’m going to ask.
We had a great conversation about Lady Hornet sports in general and how it had changed since Coach Carreon had taken the helm. The girls were very appreciative of their coach and respected him very much. I really enjoyed my conversation and subsequent interview with them. They are down-to-earth, respectful, polite, and humorous.
I was also able to corner Coach Mark Weaver and ask him about the Hornet football team. I hope to make one of their practices. If that doesn’t happen, I’ll definitely catch one of their games. They have quite a schedule this season! I was also happy to hang out with Trent Van Meter. He is the girl’s assistant coach as well as one-act-play director and English teacher. He wears many hats, as all 1A coaches do.
I had to leave late in the afternoon, but I was told the Lady Hornets came in 2nd in the tournament and Coach Carreon earned his 100th volleyball win over Munday. Watch out for the Lady Hornets. They are on a mission. And they do have something to prove.
Get out there and watch some volleyball if you can. While you're there, marvel at the acrobatics and the finesse in which the game is played. And never forget... Go forward and do GOOD!
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