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Hunker Down with Kes

You Can Go Home Again

By Kesley Colbert
Posted 12/7/21

It was 34 degrees and dropping when we turned on to Bell Street; pretty cold for a guy who’d lived in the Sunshine State for the past 50 years. We parked just inside the chain link fence, behind the visitors’ bleachers, in what was deep leftfield when I played baseball here two eons and a light year ago.

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Hunker Down with Kes

You Can Go Home Again

Posted

It was 34 degrees and dropping when we turned on to Bell Street; pretty cold for a guy who’d lived in the Sunshine State for the past 50 years. We parked just inside the chain link fence, behind the visitors’ bleachers, in what was deep leftfield when I played baseball here two eons and a light year ago.

I squinted into the darkness toward what used to be centerfield. I saw Tommy Thompson make a throw from the deepest part of this “stadium” all the way to home plate on the fly in 1961. And after all the years, and all the subsequent games and all the water under the dam, I can still see that ball whistling through the air.

Like it was yesterday!

As I tugged on my third pair of pants, pulled my toboggan down tight and double wrapped a scarf around my neck, I questioned my sanity.

I’d travelled over six hundred miles to get here. At least, as I kept telling myself, this wasn’t just another high school football game. It was the semi-final state playoffs. McKenzie was an undefeated13-0. Trenton had won three State Championships in a row and was vying for a fourth. They had lost one game in those years.

It had dropped a couple more degrees as we climbed to our seats.

I played my last high school football game on this field in 1964. But I wasn’t thinking about touchdown passes I’d thrown here, or tackles I’d made, or even games we’d won or lost as I stood for the National Anthem.

I was thinking about the first games I’d seen on this field as a youngster. And some special heroes... Bobby C. Melton had that high leg kick when he ran the ball. Jerry Poston caught every pass that came his way. Dennis Coleman was so smooth. Kenny Bouldin was the anchor in the middle of the line. And Leon Colbert made a play or two for those teams...

This field was hallowed ground way before I stepped foot on it.

I remember in the seventh grade, we’d go out on the field sometimes for a P. E. class. I felt like a king. I’d slip away from the others and run down the sidelines pretending I was Bobby C. or Dennis carrying the ball for the game winning touchdown!

I also remember my freshman year; in a spring practice game against Milan. We must have been downright awful. Coach Scott made us wait in the locker room, still in our gear, until everyone left the stadium.

He tuned the lights back on and we went out and ran wind sprints, did head on tackling drills and scrimmaged until Coach Scott got so tired he couldn’t blow his whistle anymore. Tommy Herron, Bob Cassidy and David Paschall took turns running over me again and again and...

There was a high price to pay to be on this football field.

As McKenzie scored to take an early lead I thought of John Ingram. Kenny Butler. Marlin Hicks. Bobby Jackson. Jerry Lewis. Billy Barksdale. James Pruitt. Randall Pinson. Classmates I played with. We sweated together; bled on each other; did side straddle hops every day... You don’t forget them. Ever!

I wrapped a blanket around my legs at halftime and remembered an all together different group; Pete Joyner and Dr. N. J. Headden, Mrs. Ethel Mitchum, Hollis Hopper, Tom Fields... I don’t know that any of these grown-ups ever attended a game I played in.

But I tell you what they did do, along with most of the rest of our little town. They’d see me coming out of Freeman’s Men’s Wear and they’d wish me well in “Friday’s night’s game.” Mrs. Mitchum would hug me at church and congratulate me on a win. Shoot, she’d give me that same hug when we lost.

The whole town encouraged us; supported us; made us feel special.

And it didn’t seem to matter to them that we were more like 5-5 than 13-0. We were THEIR team! You think about being 16 years old and having that kind of backing.

I realize more now than when I played...it was always about the people; teammates, coaches, parents, friends. State Championships are great, don’t you think they’re not! But it’s who you take the ride with that really matters.

I love this little town with all my heart. It was taking care of me when I was too young to notice.

It’s why I didn’t mind the 650 miles.

And winning the game was an added bonus. It has always been thus after a Rebel victory:

The cold is not as cold.

The air is a bit fresher.

Food tastes a tad better.

The girls are all prettier.

Life is a little more worth living.

Respectfully,
No. 45

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