A monsoon front from Mexico at the end of last week made the Southwest corner look a lot like the Augusts of my youth back home.
My usual round of Friday morning golf was played with temperatures in the low 80s, humidity in the high 70s, and cumulous clouds towering in the eastern sky. Inland, like at our home in Bonita, it was ten degrees warmer and almost, almost, a suggestion to actually install air conditioning in our home.
Nah, that’s not going to happen, no air conditioning is part of my bragging rights about the Southwest corner.
It seemed like role reversal. While I was back home in good chunks of July and August, the weather, for the most part, was more like the Southwest corner than my summers in Lebanon. I even commented to several friends that it wasn’t fair.
I remember pre-season “two-a-days” football practices at Castle Heights when the standard daily weather report was 95 degrees and 95 percent humidity. I noted football players should always have to start the season with that kind of weather.
My initiation to Tigers’ football was in August 1960. I packed very little when I moved, for two weeks to the second floor of “Chapel,” the barracks over the study hall, approximately located where the office building above the building housing Rochelle, McCulloch & Aulds law offices is now.
I weighed out at a whopping 128 pounds as I climbed those stairs with Jimmy Gamble and Mike Gannaway on that Sunday afternoon to meet the established football “Townboy” teammates John Sweatt, Jimmy Hatcher, Earl Major, and Bill King, along with post-graduates from Lebanon High School: Larry Bucy, Ed Lasater, Gordon Skeen, Jimmy Byrd, and Kenny Berry. Snookie Hughes and Gordon “Happy Harper, two other post-graduates from Carthage, joined us in those Spartan surroundings.
The next day, we met our teammates, mostly post-graduates from around the South. For this little sapling, they all looked like “Big” Joe Green of the Pittsburgh Steelers, many of them doubling my weight.
Coaches Stroud Gwynn, Frank North, Jimmy Allen, and David Robinson wasted no time in leading us down to Hill Street to the practice field. The Heights of Hearthside’s new development now occupies Height’s old drill field. The old baseball park and football practice field, now overgrown with bushes and weeds, roughly occupied where North Tarver tees into Hill Street.
After the first morning practice session, my 128 pounds went to 118. Jimmy Hatcher, Earl Major, Kenny Berry, and I rode with John Sweatt to Johnson’s Dairy (now Walgren’s occupies that space on the corner of West End Heights and West Main). Each of us drank a half-gallon of Johnson’s Dairy orange drink. Gatorade never tasted as good as Hoyle Johnson’s orange drink.
Weighing in before the afternoon practice, I found I had regained most of the ten pounds lost in the morning. I donned my gear, including the five-pound heavy cotton practice jersey. After that two-hour session, I had shed another 15 pounds.
It has occurred to me on more than one occasion, I need a couple of Castle Heights’ pre-season football practices to get my current weight down to where it should be. Of course, two of those pre-season practices would probably kill me now…if I could get through them.
The weight loss and gain continued for three weeks. The amazing thing was I, and my Castle Heights teammates came out just fine, maybe even better for the experience.
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Two weeks ago before I came back to the Southwest corner, I pulled into Wilson County Motors to have my father’s car get some maintenance. Just after I pulled past the super-automated, high-speed, and impressive roll-up doors, Lebanon got a no-kidding, give-no-quarter gully washer. I mean the bottom dropped out of the sky.
I walked out of the impressive, automated, customer service oriented building and stood underneath an overhang to watch the passing storm.
I inhaled and felt what I had not felt in more than fifty years. I could feel and smell autumn coming with the wind.
I have not experienced that wonderful feeling in the Southwest corner; College Station, Tex.; Newport, R.I.; Norfolk, Va.; Japan, or Watertown, N.Y.
It is real close to the best sensation I have ever experienced.