Monday, September 20, 2010

My Latest Article In The Midwest Producer (

Behind the door

If you're anything like me, you get a little giddy this time of year. Harvest is approaching and we must begin preparations for it. Almost each week of the year brings new duties to farmers and memories of that which happened on this date way back when. When September rolls around, the blackbirds begin their 'schooling up' for a flight to a better clime, the weather moderates and we get that first intoxicating breath of cool, dry, fall air.
My thoughts turn to farm town football this time of year. What a tradition to carry forward for our communities. All across the Midwest the locals have gathered to run and tackle, throw and sometimes 'throw up' during two-a-day practices.
My football career began when I was a freshman. I was a "country school" student through the first eight grades so I had virtually no knowledge of the game save what an older brother had taught me. That and I had learned through eight years of country school recesses that it was a great idea to get rid of the ball as soon as it came into your possession.
I began football as a freshman probably a little bigger than most freshmen, enough bigger that much was expected of me. It was apparent right away that our head coach had great hope for me. Vain hope on his part. Yes, I was big but … that was about it. Our freshman team practiced by ourselves a bit and with the varsity some. I learned to try to act tough like the seniors on the team and still stay as far away as I could from making one of them think I was some kind of threat.
I'll never forget our first game. I had a brand new helmet (special order ... fat head), what looked like a brand new uniform and nicely polished shoes. I had polished my shoes whilst I labored at polishing the shoes of five seniors. The coach always had freshmen shine the shoes of seniors. The seniors got to pick their "favorite" freshman. (Hmmm, five pair, I must have been a popular guy.)
We met at the field house at 6 p.m. We dressed as we had been taught and then assumed the attitude of a really tough guy, but not as tough as the senior boys or for that matter the juniors, but by golly almost as tough as the sophomores. I had an almost sick feeling as I began to get worked up about venturing out onto a field to hit someone who actually wanted to hit me back. I suppose I shouldn't have worried because the reality was I wouldn't be playing, so all I had to do was look the part.
I did what was expected of me. I was dressed about 30 minutes ahead of time and then did what any good freshman would do. I leaned against the wall by the door to wait for our team to run out onto the field and to try to scare the daylights out of anyone who would dare to be on the same field with us.
As the upperclassmen finished dressing, they came up to the front of the building where we were located and we moved down the wall. Since I was the first one dressed I was closest to door but hadn't planned on being first. Maybe second, but for crying out loud a senior should go first. I thought we were ready to go when the coach came out to the middle of the big group but then it got quiet. Very quiet. He began quietly to deliver what was probably a carefully choreographed speech complete with arm waving, foot stomping, fist and teeth clenching, and some swearing. Boy, we were going to have to keep that from our mothers.
What started out as a quiet dissertation on how much time we had spent together and that we had become family through the last three weeks and no one, absolutely no one, would get in our way, turned into a wild and dramatic ending. Nothing ever equaled the crescendo of that speech. He finished by screaming, "Now let's go get 'em." He pounded his fist on the overhead heater nearly knocking it off of the ceiling and the seniors all yelled like they were chasing hogs up a loading chute, then rushed to the door.
That's where I was standing. They shoved me to their left which was the corner behind the door, they slammed the back of it in my face and everyone ran out while I examined the doors backside. My plan to be one of the first ones out of the door turned into dead last. Even the 7th grade student managers beat me onto the field carrying their big bags of footballs and athletic tape.
In spite of trying to play high school football, I still love it. High school athletics is easily the best value for your entertainment dollar, AND you won't need to leave someone a tip.
This weekend, shut down the farm equipment and go watch your local team and cheer real loud, especially for the kid who trots onto the field last. He may have had some recent trouble.


EV said...

Wow, you can write! You brought back a rush of memories, Cliff. Wasn't that just yesterday?

Paul Nichols said...

I know an excellent publisher. She'd be much interested in stories like this, all neatly bundled up in "Cliff's Notes." (Or something like that.)

Great article, Cliff. A lot of folks have been where you've been, including behind the door, they just never said it so well. I'll bet that article is hung up on many a refrigerator already.

Shannon said...

Cute story. We have been shelling corn since the end of August. And now we are having beans falling out of the pods, so the hubs had to change the header and hit the worst spots. Hasn't rained here much this summer, and hasn't rained at all in about 8 weeks. Not looking good.

Shannon said...

P.S. Your football players must not be treated like celebrities like the boys are around here. Terrible attitudes and back talking abound so much so, that my boys won't even walk near a football. It is quite ridiculous. It didn't help that our seventh grade team won the first ever championship in the history of the middle school last year, this year year as eighth graders they are unstoppable. They have all been playing since they were five. The high schoolers have practiced all summer long early in the morning to lunch time.

Ralph said...

Man, that is a great article.
I would have loved to see you behind that door.

Peter said...

Just maybe you shouldn't have posted that story Cliff.... well not so soon after "Dad I've never been prouder of you" on Aug 30.

Marty Morrow said...

cliff - I've noticed that your output has dwindled. Please don't deprive your readers from your wit. It is God given and should be shared.

Granny Annie said...

Cliff, once again you have told a fantastic story. As well as athletics, the band holds great memories and is a good experience for kids. My son was the high school drum major and one night he stepped in a hole leading the half time show and tore the ligaments in his ankle. At the hospital he was surrounded by injured football players and one of the fellows ask him what position he played, thinking it was a game injury. When my son replied "Drum Major" the kid said "Wow, I didn't know band was so rough!" LOL

Jim said...

This was a nice article, Cliff. I think the Messenger should pay you a bonus for this one.

I have a hunch that you learned politicking from that coach. He sounded better than Obama on the big sell.

Rachel said...

Great memories of your football days Cliff! I could see it all as you told that story!

Hope all is well with you, Marilyn, and the rest of the family.