Small Town Rivalries

There’s nothing to do here on a Friday night but go to a football game. This town really revolves around football. – John Williams

There was a time….before the small towns were overrun by the Godzilla monster of urban sprawl.  Before cell phones, computers, and social media hypnotized us all.  Before there were so many choices at our fingertips.  Friday night football was king.

I guess there are still small towns that close up lock, stock, and barrel and migrate to the local football stadium on a Friday night.  Bright stadium lights and green grass with sharply painted or chalked white lines.  Marching bands and cheerleaders dressed in their finest, strutting to this year’s marching songs.  Drumlines rocking, pompoms shaking, rabid fans cheering at a fever pitch.  Yeah, there was a time.

This coming Friday the annual bloodletting known as the “Golden Strip Derby.”  I was a part of the rivalry for nine years early in my teaching and coaching career.  During those days I fancied myself as a football coach and felt there could be no higher calling.  No greater high than those heady moments after a win…especially against your “down the road” rival.  “Better than sex,” one coaching chum tried to convince me, “sex lasts but a few minutes, winning a football game last all week long.  Beating your rival last all year long.”

I know it has changed, but during those days, Mauldin, SC, was at one end of the Golden Strip, Simpsonville at the other, maybe five miles separating them by road, closer as the crow flies. 

Mauldin High School was created in the early Nineteen Seventies mostly from the student body of Hillcrest High School, just outside Simpsonville.  In the Seventies, Mauldin proper was a wide-place on a crossroads, Simpsonville, not much larger but they did have a main street.  That is one thing that has changed as Greenville has come calling.

Hillcrest looked down their noses at the farmers and “sh!tkickers” down the road, at least that’s what we told the kids. They probably had as many “rednecks” as we did. It was inevitable a small town, Southern football rivalry would manifest itself.  Rednecks versus the townies. Mavericks versus Rams.

I don’t rightly remember who came up with the idea of playing a game for a cheap sporting goods trophy, calling it the Golden Strip Derby. That would be cheap in monetary value. I’m sure it was as valuable as the Lombardi Trophy to those kids. 

I think I remember but don’t want to put someone’s nose out of joint if I’m wrong.  I know we had a couple of rabid fans I’d put blame on.  They bled their school colors. I remember some pretty outlandish bets being wagered…free gasoline for a year?  A lot of bottles of Daniel’s or Walker’s finest or five-hundred-dollar bets were the norm.

I read Hillcrest is on an eight-game winning streak. I know hope springs eternal for the Mauldin fans. I was a part of nine straight wins by Mauldin in the Seventies and early Eighties. Never lost to them and winning never got old. Our orange, white, and brown-clad Mavericks never fell to the red, white, and black-clad Rams…although there were some close ones.  I’m sure there was always hope by those fans on the opposite side of the field.  Hope that we stomped flat.

Many were close, hard-fought games…” slobber knockers.”  I remember one was 6-0 on a dreary wet night and not decided until Ray Ritchy secured it with a late interception.  He nearly broke my nose when he jumped into my arms and then got tangled in my head set cord. We both went down in a jubilant, muddy heap.

I also remember mocking the Radio City Rockettes as we coaches danced to “Rock and Roll Part Two” watching the final seconds tick off of the clock.  I don’t think the opposing school appreciated the lightness of our feet and the Rockettes weren’t in danger of replacement.

In another game we were down by double digits at halftime when a short, stocky running back named Timmy May and our offensive line decided we weren’t going to lose and we didn’t.  Stuffed it down their throats we did.  Did I mention our defense shut them out in the second half?

The stands will be filled on Friday night and periodically I’ll check the score.  I won’t be one of those fans in attendance.  When I retired I found out it was about the kids and the coaches, the parents of those kids, the students, teachers, and administrators who supported us.

It was about the people who played the game, not the game itself.  The games are not as important when you don’t know anyone.  They are not as important when you haven’t invested a part of yourself.  The win is no longer better than sex…but the memories might be.

My favorite memory of one of those rival games was a pre-game speech.  We had heard how great the Rams were that year, a bunch of college recruits, top to bottom. This was going to be their year. Remember, hope springs eternal.

Our head coach lamented to the team while asking the question, “What can we do to fire you up? We’ll do it. What do we have to do to win the game?”  An offensive lineman no longer with us in this life, Preston Trotter, raised his hand and in his best country voice asked, “You reckon Coach Long could do that Johnny B. Good song?”  Not at all what was expected.

Coach Long was our Elvis impersonator and on the baseball field next to the stadium he did Elvis doing “Johnny B. Good.”  We kicked their butts.

Football is about being a part of something bigger than yourself, even if it is a small town rivalry. It is not about stadiums holding eighty thousand. Its about lifelong friendships forged in the heat of August. About lessons learned form exhilarating victories or excruciating defeats. It is about people, not pigskin.

Good times, good memories.  Good luck to the Mauldin Mavericks.

Don Miller wrote a book, “Winning Was Never the Only Thing….” about his teaching and coaching career. It may be purchased or downloaded on Amazon at https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00OM8ONRM/ref=dbs_a_def_rwt_bibl_vppi_i4

Image from Greenvilleonline.com

Pig Trails and Rabbit Holes is Now Live

Pig Trails and Rabbit Holes is now live on Amazon and may be purchased as a Kindle download or in paperback at https://www.amazon.com/dp/B09GQSNYL2/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1632220574&sr=8-1

Pig-Trails and Rabbit Holes refers to the way Don Miller’s mind works…a curse or a blessing?  Alice’s rabbit hole worked out well, right?  Think of all the friends she met. A White Rabbit, the Mad Hatter, a hookah-smoking caterpillar, a Cheshire cat, and the one he thinks he most emulates, the March hare…as in, as crazy as a March hare…or a Mad Hatter…which is it?

These are short stories and essays about life.  Some humorous, some reflective, all from the perspective of one of the rarest of animals, a Southern liberal. 

Stories of life in the foothills of the Southern Blue Ridge, history, politics, race, religion, and religion’s close Southern cousin, football.  And food…too much is written about an obsession for barbeque. That’s a lie.  One can never write too much about barbeque.

Pig Trails and Rabbit Holes

“Rabbit holes are my specialty. I live and breathe in them.”
― Kara McDowell, One Way or Another

Pig Trails and Rabbit Holes is now live on Amazon and may be purchased at https://www.amazon.com/dp/B09GQSNYL2 in both download and paperback.

Pig Trails and Rabbit Holes refers to the way my mind works…a curse or a blessing?  Alice’s rabbit hole worked out well, right?  Think of all the friends she met. A white rabbit, the Mad Hatter, a hookah-smoking caterpillar, a Cheshire cat, and the one I most emulate the March hare…as in, as crazy as a March hare…or a Mad Hatter…which is it?

I write in a world that is slightly out of focus or as a Southerner might say, cattywampus, waiting for something to occur that will send me on an unplanned metaphorical trek, twisting and turning like a wild pig trail or mountain switchback, until I find my rabbit hole.  My motivation may be a spoken or written word, a song, a taste, or a smell…food maybe.  I seem preoccupied with food. 

Once the pig trail leads me to my rabbit hole I will pursue my rabbit to whatever lengths necessary to satisfy myself.  It is maddening to live in my head sometimes.  See, I’m already wondering why you have a rabbit and a hare in the same story about Alice’s great adventure.  They are the same, right? No, they are not.  I did not know that.  Shame on you biology teacher!

Several years ago, I decided to attempt to bring my maddening thoughts under control by writing and created the blog Ravings of a Mad Southerner.  It was a failure …but I’ve enjoyed the trip along the pig trails even though my thoughts are under no better control than they were seven years ago when I embarked on the storm-tossed sea of blogging.

Symbolically, the title of my blog, Ravings of a Mad Southerner has nothing to do with anger but is related to the madness experienced by Alice’s Mad Hatter or March hare…and the madness experienced by the author of the blog. 

In all fairness, my madness has nothing with the production of felt hats or crazy hares at the beginning of their mating season.  I get my madness honestly, I was born this way it seems.

Most of the rabbits I pursue resemble Elmer Fudd’s “wascally wabbit”, Bugs, or Gary K. Wolfe’s bumbling, Roger Rabbit.  I admit sometimes I encounter monster rabbits resembling the fanged demon Kevin McCarthy pulled out of his hat in Twilight Zone: The Movie, but it is rare.

While I search for my rabbit holes, I tend to get lost. Mostly I like it that way.  To quote Yogi Berra, “If you don’t know where you are going, you might wind up someplace else.”

Pig Trails and Rabbit Holes is now live and may be purchased in both Kindle and Paperback at https://www.amazon.com/dp/B09GQSNYL2

Switch ‘dem Legs

“Suffer the pain of discipline, or suffer the pain of regret.” – Unknown

The young boy-child held a long privet branch, stripped of its leaves, maybe three-eights of an inch at its broken base before tapering to nothing at the “business” end.  It needed to be a “keen hickory” as in “Go out yonder and break me off a keen hickory and be quick about it.”  My grandmother was quite specific concerning her needs…much to my dismay.

The young boy that was me, was hesitant but even his young brain realized that waiting was only postponing the inevitable…and possibly making things worse. My legs were going to be switched no matter how long I waited and often the wait was worse than the punishment.

Punishment was to be swift and the question, “should the punishment fit the crime,” was never asked.  It was to be corporal and somewhat “Old Testament.”  “Spare the rod, spoil the child” was a guiding principle.

Rarely was I sent to my room without my supper, never did I stand with my nose in the corner.  Discipline was a thick privet brach applied to the bare legs.  Whelps that faded quickly while the lessons did not…may be.  All were accompanied by “this is going to hurt me more than it hurts you” and while it was being administered, “quit that cryin’ fore I give you a reason to cry.”

Spare the rod…” actually never appears in the Bible but my Nannie had memorized Proverbs it seems.  Six verses speak to disciplining children with a rod in Proverbs beginning with Prov 13:24: “He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him often” and ending with Prov 29:15: “The rod and reproof give wisdom: but a child left to himself bringeth his mother to shame.” All from the King James version of course.

My parents were shift workers at a nearby textile plant and my care along with my brother’s and three girl-child cousins’ were primarily in the hands of my grandmother.  Care and discipline along with many life lessons.

We would spend the night at my grandparent’s house and would spend the morning and early afternoon with them until my parents returned from their first shift work or their morning sleep when they worked the third shift.  I only mention this to emphasize that we had ample opportunity to run afoul of my grandmother’s wrath…or a lesson or five. 

Not to say I couldn’t incur the wrath of my parents, I did, but it was different.  The line I had to toe with my parents seemed a bit more crooked than the line my grandmother had etched in the sand.  Her line was a sharp, thin line like the crease on a Marine’s dress trousers. Not to say my parents weren’t disciplinarians, they were.  But they took a different tack. 

My father was a talker, an explainer…a pontificator reminiscent of a Southern diplomat stumping for reelection.  Many times I thought, “Please get to the beating, you are killing me.”  He would eventually, a thin belt across the buttocks, done with a purpose but without any emotion other than disappointment.  His disappointment might have been the most painful of all.

My mother…her’s was a reaction to emotion…and her first emotion was raging anger.  She was the stereotype of the explosive Scot Irish redhead.  She went off like twenty sticks of dynamite, swiftly and violently, and then it was over.  The whelps might last a bit longer and some may not have landed where she aimed, others might be a bit weepy with blood.  By today’s standards, the word abuse might have been used but this was a different time.

If you are over fifty and reading this, my guess is you can relate.  If you are over fifty and from the Bible Belt I know you can relate.  Corporal punishment was, maybe is, the Southern way but it is not the only way.  As I’ve gotten older I wonder if it was just an easy way to address the behavior without the cause.

Understand, I hold no deep seated animosity for the discipline I received and am reasonably well adjusted. Any maladjustments were not due to the “whoopins'” I received. While the discipline was swift so were demonstrations of love and when I heard, “Now Donnie, this is for your own good” deep down I knew they were correct.

I began my teaching career in the last decade or so of teacher dispensed corporal punishment and while I dispensed many “licks” with a wooden paddle, I was never comfortable with it.  Early on, I learned I had a good bit of my mother in me and that punishment, like revenge, was best served cold and without a side dish of anger.  I’m proud I had this revelation.  I tried to become a happy medium between my mother and father…no, I became my father complete with pontification.

I was once assigned a classroom across from the principal’s office.  The principal was an imposing woman, the best principal I ever had.  When a male student ran afoul of the system her secretary would step into my classroom and inform me, “Ms. Koon needs your assistance.”  Those were code words that I needed to administer a paddling.

I found those paddlings much easier to administer because I was emotionally detached.  Three firm licks across the buttocks of a young man who hadn’t made me mad.  There was no “this is going to hurt me more than it is going to hurt you,” lie. 

Some I can remember that make a smile cross my face.  One crawled across Ms. Koon’s desk while I was in my backswing.  “Come on, I haven’t even hit you yet.”  Another, I found had padded his backside with notebooks.  Chortle.

I hear assurances that what is wrong with America is we have gotten away from “whoopin’ our youngins’.”  I don’t know.  I believe there is an absence of limits and discipline being taught but discipline takes many forms beginning with teaching what is right or wrong and what is expected.  We seem to lack self-discipline.

I spanked my daughter once.  Not even a spanking, a light tap on a bare leg.  I don’t remember what it was over and it doesn’t matter.  She cried like I had hit her with a rock.  I’d like to think her tears were over being disappointed that she had disappointed me.  I think we are a lot alike in that area.  Most of my pain was not from the rod but from realizing I had disappointed my parents or grandparents or teachers.  I had fallen short of their expectations.

Deep down I wanted to be the perfect child and repeatedly, due to my lack of self-discipline, fell short.  I hope they forgave me for my many transgressions.  Hopefully, I made them proud. 

My dearest Ashley, you did not fall short.  You were almost a perfect child.  You have made me proud.

***

Don Miller is a retired teacher and coach who writes on many subjects, fiction and non-fiction. His author’s page may be accessed at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM?fbclid=IwAR3vG_2EfWcuXYSOufYCAOFURnisANCQjCQITPrds5zWwlSO8MKkBqFFhJo

Hooray For Me…

And the hell with everybody else.

I grew up in a world where people were supportive of each other, regardless of political viewpoint.  If you were a liberal, conservatives might look at you side-eyed and shake their heads, but they supported you as a human being. They might talk about you behind your back, call you a ‘quare’ bird, but it was usually in whispers and in all honesty, where I grew up there were few liberals…still are few liberals.

I don’t know where that world has gone.  I hope, pray, that it is just a vocal minority but they seem to have developed a loud “hooray for me and the hell with everybody else” attitude.  Sounds selfish to me but then who am I to accuse?  I’ll just say if the shoe fits wear it. It is my opinion.

The most vocal don’t believe that falling sick to Covid is worse than getting the vaccine or the “jab” as they like to call it.  I detest hearing “I don’t need it. God will call me home when he deems it is time.”  I hate hearing “It is no worse than the flu.” Some three hundred and fifty thousand more were called to their heavenly home in 2020 than in 2019 and we seem to be on a similar schedule for 2021.

Where does free will fit into this?  If I choose to roller-skate on a crowded boulevard during rush hour and am crushed by a beer truck, is that God’s will?  Where does “data” figure into this? “Oh, don’t waste my time with data, my mind is made up. There is a chance I’ll survive and if I don’t, it’s God’s will.” Not my god.

It appears that some of the same vocal minority believe storms, wildfires, and changes in climate patterns are a symptom of an angry god rather than the prodrome of a sick planet. Yep, science is for sissies, and New York got flooded because of liberal leadership despite the fact Ida traveled from New Orleans to New York over several conservative states.

Somehow the liberal media and all the world’s liberal leaders have figured out a way to keep a secret.  A worldwide plot to eradicate conservatism with facemasks, vaccines, windmills, and solar panels.  Covid and Climate Change are all hoaxes or a plot.  All we must do is take vitamins, exercise, eat well, and sweep out our forests.  If that doesn’t work, animal dewormer…yeah, I know they make it for humans too…for parasites. Just say no to windmills and solar panels while you are at it.

I’m trying to picture my parents, Ernest and Eldora Miller, members of the “Greatest Generation”, standing in a picket line, or screaming at a school board about the evils of Satan’s mask mandate and waving placards denouncing returns to Marx’s virtual learning. I can’t picture it because it would have never happened.  It is almost too humorous to consider.

Lord help us if someone mentions “lockdown.”  Oh, that slippery slope toward communism.

How did wearing a mask or getting a “jab” lead us to arguments about freedom?  Do you want the freedom to infect your family, friends, and the old guy you passed in the checkout at Wally World? 

Why are we not supportive of humankind?  Somehow humankind has become a triggering word too.  Why should we worry about people in other parts of the world not named Afghanistan?  That pesky, “Love thy neighbor” thing in the Bible? 

Does this mean my parents were unaware at best or stupid at worst?  No, they were concerned about their family, friends, neighbors, and people they had never met.  Old Ernest and Eldora saw a way to make life better for all.  They were concerned about the human collective except the most vocal will take offense to me using the word collective.  Collective is just too close to communal, and we all know where communal leads. To the great communist devil hiding under our beds.

Somewhere in the dimly lit past, I remember loading up after church into our 1953 Ford Customline and driving to our small school, standing in line with all the people I had just been in church with at the cafeteria.  My parents, grandparents, brother, and me.  Why?  To eat lunch? No. To receive the Salk vaccine on a sugar cube.  No one was protesting and polio disappeared.  Imagine that and I grew up in a most conservative place.  There was no discussion of mandates.  There didn’t need to be.

What happened to us?

Commander Spock of Star Trek fame uttered these words in the movie “The Wrath of Khan,” “Logic clearly dictates that the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.” Captain Kirk answers, “Or the one.” I agree with Spock even though he was a fictional character.

Many will say that Spock’s utterance is too utilitarian, the doctrine that an action is right if it promotes safety and happiness, and that the greatest happiness of the greatest number should be the guiding principle of conduct.  I certainly believe sacrificing oneself for the greater good is an individual choice but no one, not me or anyone else, is asking you to sacrifice your life.  I believe the data supports that and they are not going to take your guns either.

Do some people have potentially deadly issues with the vaccine and is it worth the fear?  Sure, but a very small percentage, 0.0017 percent have died after taking the vaccine through June 14, 2021.  People died from the polio vaccine.  Look up the Cutter Incident and it was caused by a mistake. 

Do the vaccinated still catch Covid? Yes, but look at the vaccination numbers versus unvaccinated and the recovery rate.  YOU LOOK IT UP. The data shows you are much more likely to recover if you do get it and are less likely to get it, period.

For those from the “Don’t confuse me with the facts group”, it would appear, logic has disappeared, worse, it appears logic is purposely being distorted. That worries me the most. People are getting sick. People are dying because hospitals are being filled with the unvaccinated.

To be clear.  Do mandates take away freedoms?  Of course.  What I’m saying is, we shouldn’t even have to mention mandates.

Don Miller writes on various subjects, mostly uplifting non-rants. His author’s page may be accessed at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM?fbclid=IwAR1smB-fmScUP0JbtXJZaCzDQXYPuJKLT-n4oLUE6ojWkNkHcug5ZFWD8DE