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!