Thursday, December 10, 2009
Tis the night be for the final
Poetry is coming due
And I sit her writing, rhyming—chatting with my roommate too.
“Poetry?” he says, “You’re gay man. Do you do ballet as well?”
Smack! My fist conveys my answer as I ring his dull thick bell.
Nonet form 1
Sitting Surrounded by cold blue steel
Pent up power ready to kill
Speeding, Spinning through the path
To be delivered
With sudden flash
Sound comes late
Too late now
Final judge waits
For his speeding soul
Memorie’s ghost will haunt
The foreign lad who shot him
To save his Mother and Kinsmen
A thousand miles removed from reflex.
Haiku form 2
National Forest in Utah, Early December
Midnight finds warm pools
Lights and screams disrupt solace
Nude or Lewd? Unknown
When do we yield?
Do these allow us to run past old fences?
Justification, can it be had, should it be had?
Is if found
In the mind,
Does it matter. Who make laws?
The mind hurts, the answers are not found.
But the questions abound.
Is this the last slice?
Oh the humanity.
Why did I share my
stash with my family.
Now it is gone, The game has not begun
I’m just a poor boy, I have no more money
So shall I watch the game with no food,
I’ll ask for more, Is that rude?
My mother loves my, she’ll by some more for me?
Momma, the foods all gone
My friends are on the line
Plans changing not to mine
Momma, the game has just begun
And now my parties done before it began
Momma, oo-oo-o-, I don’t want to cry,
But it that makes you get me some I will,
Please I’ll be really good,
Cause pizza’s all that matters
I see the pizza guy, he’s driving down the road,
Over here! Over here! Did you bring the cheesy bread sticks?
He just keeps on driving, very very frightening me.
Momma why, momma why
Why oh why didn’t you call it in.
My friends will go-o-o-o.
They all have gone, I’m out of the group for the rest of the year
Now she comes with a pie, get out of here I don’t want to hear.
Wait, Suzies her? Well send her on down, we’ll watch Glee,
Just her and me.
Cinquain Form 3
Sitting, Hugging, Loving
Miss you, so much
Kyrille Form 4
Meek and lowly, the King of kings
Pain feeds on who your praise sing
Dost thou care when your children fall?
Oh Myst’ry King who cares for all?
My soul was saved, but still felt lost,
Wand’ring, wondering the true cost
Of following who came to Paul
Oh Glorious King, who cares for all?
My soul is light, my mind is free
Others must know, Oh Lord, of Thee
Whose trails threaten them to fall
Oh Glorious King Who Cares for all.
Heavy Burdens lift, mountains move
Still your loyal people must prove
To follow your every call
Oh Glorious King who cares for all.
I t I s
Magnets, or blessed unseen power,
Become my force and see others cower
V e r y h a r d
Still lake of morning
Skier cuts across you glass
Boat breaks he is stuck
T o p a y
Processes strive to steal the soul
Of the workers stuck below
The surface of the earth
The work and toil but just for spite,
Their mind dampens and loses sight
Of their great worth
P A Y A T T E N T I O N
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
My love affair with Blackfoot High goes back to my earliest memories and before. The first house our family had in Blackfoot was on Fisher Street, directly across from the high school’s main entrance, and next door to the LDS seminary. I remember seeing those high school kids as they would leave school, or mess around at lunch. They were so old, so mature. They would park on the street in front of out home. In a picture album located in the study of my parents’ home is a picture of me at about two years old. The candid shot is taken from inside the house; I’m blissfully unaware of mother’s camera. I’m facing the high school, staring at it, and am naked from the waste down. Apparently it was more important for me to stare at the high school than to get clothed.
Mom and Dad share much of the blame for my infatuation with this school. They are both Blackfoot natives and high school sweet hearts. Mom was a cheerleader and Dad was the football and basketball star. Our young family would go to the football and basketball games after half time so we could get in for free. One special occasions such as when we played our arch rival, Snake River, we would go to the whole game.
Now there is something you must understand about sports in a small Idaho town before we go on. I didn’t even realize this was the case until I went to college. In small town Idaho, and many other small towns across the nation, the dedication to the sports programs rivals or surpasses the dedication college and professional teams have. In a small town, its pretty common for the only entertainment on a Friday night to be the football game. Going to a basketball game is a community event where you see neighbors, friends and community leaders. The local paper gives top billing to high school contests, and the radio broadcasts the play by play. The community rallies behind the school because it is the pride of the community; the school bares the community’s hopes, fears and name.
So it was in the Blackfoot High gymnasium, pack to overflowing, playing tag under the bleachers that I started to fall in love. When the pep band played the school song, I got chills down my spine, and when it ended with the refrain “we’re the best in all the west we’re Blackfoot High” I believed it. No one was better. We were sending our Broncos to do battle with the Idaho Falls Tigers, the Bonneville Bees, the Pocatello Indians, and the most hated Snake River Panthers. When we won, I was reaffirmed, when we lost the natural order of things had been upset.
As you can guess Blackfoot High is not a new school. Than again you can’t really put an age on it. The main building was built in the 1950’s, with major additions nearly every decade afterward. Possibly the most handicap unfriendly building in the world, it contains 23 staircases, some leading to a whole wing, others to the cramped weight room. To young Jake this building was a castle to be explored. I remember the smoking lounge right outside the men’s bathroom. Or the time I found the door unlocked to the rest of the high school and scampered around the multiple levels until some janitor caught me.
Well I grew, and went to Blackfoot schools. I always envied the letterman jacket wearing jocks when I’d see them around town. I couldn’t wait for the day I’d represent Blackfoot on the field of battle. I finally made it to middle school and was annoyed they had changed the school colors from green, the color of our high school, to blue. But they just didn’t understand the true order of things. Blackfoot was supreme, and the color was green.
The day finally came to enter Blackfoot High. I was a young freshman, and scared to death of all the traditions. The seniors could do whatever they wanted to you. We had pep rallies and assemblies put on by the coolest kids in the school, and my older brother was already doing battle on the field and court as a Bronco.
The SuperFans were a big part of Blackfoot athletics. They were an unofficial club dedicated to the supremacy of the Broncos. We would have 50-60 crazed fans at home games and 20-30 that would make the long drive for away games. My friends, Tagg, Ryan, and I joined our freshman year. We had our own set of chants, our own run ins with the administration, and at least one upper classman who was suspended from attending games after he mooned the entire opposing student section at the annual Blackfoot vs. Snake River basketball game. There were 30 games that year, and I lost my voice 30 times.
I can’t go into all everything about Blackfoot High, but I aged, and went from under classman to upper. Along the way I was elected Student Body Vice-President, my junior year, and Student Body President, my Senior Year. Student government was where I took things to a whole new level. I didn’t make the impact my brother did in sports, so I saw student government as a way to be a part of the school and leave a legacy. Jonny, my older brother was on the wall of fame for sports. When I was elected I made in on the hall of the presidents, where a picture showed each student body president dating back into the 1930’s
Tagg and I, along with a new friend, Clint were rabid supporters of the school. In our student government offices we work tirelessly against the administration, who didn’t have the vision of Blackfoot high. I remember the night we “repurposed” some Kelly green paint from the student government closest to paint the spirit rock of Snake River. I remember getting up at 3 in the morning to hang fliers on every locker in the school for my student body campaigns, and I remember the bonfires, pep rallies, and new activities we planned to make the school year awesome. We even planned the most successful senior sluff day in school history with 85% truancy. Blackfoot High School was my every breath, thought, and action. If I was doing something else, my mind was wandering to how we could make things even better.
Graduation came, and I went to college. But I didn’t really leave. I would come home on the weekends and attend games. People wondered why I was in the student section. I’d meet someone on the campus of Ricks College and immediately judge them based on what high school they attended. Really though I started to feel empty. I had spent my whole life waiting to be the upper classman with the letterman’s jacket. I’d achieved it, now it was over. What’s next? Every now and then I’d pop into my old school, but the sense of pride was replace by bitterness, old teachers and friends, wondered why I was hanging around. It was time to move on they would say.
But Blackfoot was me. It was my identity. I couldn’t let go.
It was a crisp winter night, before the snow had started to fall, but after the grass had become frosted. I drove my old Ford pickup in front of Blackfoot High. I walked up to the main entrance, passing the granite slab our class had gifted to the school, my name etched on the back. I stepped up, looked in the locked front doors. I could see my locker. I had given this school my unquestioned loyalty. I gave it my energy, busting my butt on the football field. I had given this school my sleep. I had never betrayed it. I was always trying to make it better, improve it. It had been the most important thing in my life. In return I had found meaning, status, and belonging. But that was gone now. No one at college cared that I had been student body president. No one cared I had started on the football team. At college my loyalty was ridiculed. It was a wedge between me and others.
I had been betrayed! Betrayed my the school I loved. For 19 years I had given it my heart, now in return I received nothing.
I yelled. I hit her my knuckles scrapping against the aged orange brick. The still air swallowed my cries. I told her what I thought of her. I had given her everything. Now she was silent. When I was finally worn out, I looked at her, waiting for the response. There was nothing. Silence. After all it was only brick.
Years went by. I spent several away from Blackfoot. I found other objects for my loyalty, BYU-Idaho, the Boston Celtics, but it was never the same. I never loved with the same fervor. I came to realize that the problem wasn’t really Blackfoot High, it was me. She had given me, memories of glorious victories and unjust defeats. She’d taught me about leadership, friendship, and plenty of knowledge. I had grown from insecure little boy, to big man on campus. I’d just never realized it had to end. I didn’t know it was time to move on.
I made up with Blackfoot High, oh sure we don’t have the same relationship we used to. But I see younger siblings go through her, having the same growth I did. I see my older brother coaching there, leading the mighty broncos to glory. And I see the same dedicated teachers, raising the next generation. I honor her for what she gave me, and what she continues to give Blackfoot, a place for the sons of Blackfoot to become men, and the daughters, women. A team the town can follow with pride, and one of my connections to youth. She isn’t my only love now, but I look back with fondness for what we had. It sure was quite a ride.
Thursday, November 5, 2009
About four weeks later I was awoken with a thud. I groped for my clock. It was 1 am. I was sure the thud came from upstairs, Bill’s Apartment.
Bill just looked at us. He wanted to say something, but couldn’t get it out. Finally after stuttering he said, “Its kind of bad isn’t it”
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
You know, a lot of people view the guillotine as some sort of barbaric torture device. It’s quite a simple machine really, a large metal blade suspended in a wooden frame waiting to be release so gravity can drive it down into the neck of the waiting soon-to-be corpse. There is a thud, and—well you get the idea. After all, the guillotine only plays a small part in our story. A much larger role is played by a teenage boy, a certain kitten, and the boy’s mother.
I must confess, I am the teenage boy. We always seemed to have a surplus of cats growing up. Not that I minded. It started shortly after we moved into our house located on the edge of town on Reed Drive, a street that is now, as it was then, a farmer’s field. I remember we kids begging the parents for a cat. Our old one had come on the move with us, but decided she preferred her previous home and left. I was about eight. Dad called us all in for a family meeting. We had just gotten a new Siamese cat, and needed a name. My siblings and I thought long and hard, suggesting many names, finally deciding on Black Paw. An amazingly original name if I’ve ever heard one.
Black Paw was a normal enough cat. She ate mice, left mice as gifts for her masters and fought off dogs neighbor dogs when they’d come after her litter. We, her diminutive masters, took great care of her, lugging her around the yard, taking her bungee jumping off the fort, and even baptizing her in a puddle after a rain storm. We may have been a little rough on her, but we didn’t know it at the time—well, we might have known, but we didn’t hate her, we were just young boys. Anyways Black Paw didn’t seem to mind and she always kept us in with a fresh supply of kittens. However the never ending stream of kittens, from Black Paw and her successors was the problem. We just didn’t know it.
Through the years, our family grew to five boys and one girl, the house grew to accommodate and the litters grew. We pick up our story again when I was the oldest boy at home, after my older brother had left to play ball at the College of Southern Idaho. The matriarchal line of our kittens was unbroken. Foxes, disease, and old age took some of the cats, but we always replaced them. Our names got better as well. We had, What, Akomode, Anakin 1,2 and 3, Fatso and The Cat That Threw Up, among many others.
The best part of having so many cats was there was always one around to grab and hold. One night I grabbed What and headed down to the basement to watch a movie. While I was sitting in the beanbag, rubbing What’s belly I felt a sticky liquid. It pooled up in my hand. What was salivating, and not just a little, it was like a spigot had been turned on. I quickly wiped my hand on the beanbag, took What outside, and returned with Meow Meow, selecting a different chair. My brother came down and was excited to see the vacant beanbag. He launched himself quickly into the beanbag, and—well lets move on; he’s just a minor character.
The problems weren’t just confined to What. We had other cats with problems, none as bad as the continual salivating. One would per as loud as an engine, but only when he as mad. One had a leg about twice as long as the others, but soon died. As best as we can tell, the same tomcat had been the father, for so many generations the DNA got all screwy. Whether or not that is the case we had some messed up cats. What had her first litter shortly after she turned on her mouth faucet most of them were stillborn.
What got worse. When I picked her up her hair would fall out. The droll as so incessant holding her was a chore. Then tumors started showing up. By this time What had another litter of kittens in her. She was clearly in pain. My heart ached as she tried to move around and get food. I knew she wasn’t well.
It was a fall afternoon. I came home from football practice and walked into the kitchen. Mom was standing there, her normally cheerful face creased with lines. But at least she was still making some yummy cookies. She told me What had tried to go into labor, but a tumor had kept the kittens from exiting. It was sick. I didn’t want to go anywhere near that cat. I wanted to throw up when I got close, and could see the fetus’ head sticking out. Then Mom told me that I needed to take care of it.
Me? Why not Dad? Why can’t we just take her to the vet? Why was Mom, who wouldn’t let me take hunter’s education, asking me to kill my cat? I guess, because I was the oldest home. I was the man of the house. The one who did what had to be done. Sure my Dad could do it when he got home, but this needed to be taken care of now, before the younger kids saw her. I’d never felt that responsibility before. I’d never felt like I was where the bucked stopped. But that day it did.
“It’s time,” she said. I was left, not only to do the deed, but to figure out how. I looked down at What. How do you kill your pet? Maybe I’d drive out to the Arco Desert, and leave her. She would be dead in a day or two. It’d be easy. I looked down at her. Two days was too long. A bag! Yes I’d get an old potato sack, put rocks in it, and throw What into the river behind our house. But drowning? I looked at what. I picked her up. I didn’t care about the saliva that got all over my arms. I could tell she was in pain. We didn’t own a gun. I thought about getting my friends and shooting her, but what if I missed? What if she didn’t die right away? I needed to honor What in the way I ended her life. She needed to know that her master wasn’t looking for the easy way, but for the best way.
Then I remembered something I learned at school. The guillotine was actually a revolution in execution. People look at it as and think its dreadful, but in a time when one might be drawn and quartered, or burnt at the stake, the guillotine offered a quick death, with only a split second of pain.
I looked at What in my arms. I carried her with me as I went to get the shovel. Then I carried her to our back berm and dug her grave. I picked What up, stroked her a few last times, and placed her on her back, looking up at me. I said a few words, placed the shovel where it needed to go, and pressed down hard.
I felt strange walking back to the house. I don’t know how one should feel after putting down their pet. Somber, morose, come close. There was also a sense of honor that I had taken care of my pet. I didn’t leave it to some veterinarian. Nor did I abandon her in a hopeless situation. I knew what needed to be done, and I did it the best I could.
I didn’t talk much the rest of the day. I didn’t go down the basement to play Nintendo with my brothers. Mom told the other kids what had happened. And while I missed What, I remember sleeping well that night
Thursday, October 22, 2009
The climbing Sun gives birth to a day
Fortune, and Glory await the bold
Diligence brings contentment
Pleasure for the glutton
Sorrow for the damned
The Bed comforts,
Ripped From Dreams
There once was a class dedicated to art
The prof brought in a hussy and tart
The boys eyes did gleam
In trance they did seem
Until the art tart let rip a fart.
The mountains strive to hold back the day,
Keeping her hidden, behind the solid shadows
The closer you are, the more comfort you find
From the days searing heat.
Where can I find pizza
When my gut needs it
When all the stores are closed and It’s half past one
Where is the pizza man
To stop my anguish
I need some greasy bomb
To fill my hole.
Wal Mart, it calls to me
With cardboard options
Yes lower quality but still has some sauce
They’re open all hours
My tires are screeching
In and out in a flash
With my great prize.
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
And I wanted to give up. I'd forgotten how hard football could be. Sitting there in tryouts for the BYU-Idaho football, league carrying another lineman on my back, doing whatever torture the coaches dreamed up I thought I was a foolish man chasing windmills. I'd walked away from a unglamorous sub .250 football carrier at the end of high school. Personally happy with my effort, but frustrated that I never had the experience of truly being part of a team. (if you haven't I suggest you read about it here before continuing.) But in the Summer of 2000 Gordon B. Hinckley gave me another chance. He announced that Ricks College would become BYU-Idaho, and they were getting rid of intercollegiate sports and instituting intra-collegiate sports. In other words the teams could compete within the university. I was on my LDS mission in West Virginia at the time, but it was then that I knew, I would play football again.
I had given up on football when I walked off the field after my 1 and 8 senior season in high school. A lineman doesn't really have many opportunities to perform his craft. Blocking without pads, and a backfield to protect isn't even close to the same. If you don't have an offer to play collegiality you don't have any future. But President Hinckley's announcement had given me hope.
At 6:00 am its hard to feel hope. When you're soaked to the core, doing the bidding of some sadist coach, performing the monkey roll in the mud, its easy to just walk away. Each day of tryouts the group got smaller and the vomiting became more frequent.
The BYFL has a no cut policy. Tryouts are there to weed out the weak and uncommitted. If you make it through tryouts you'll be on a team, but that's a big if.
My first year in the league I was placed on the Titans. Jordon, Our quarterback was a former jr. college QB that was finishing up his schooling in Rexburg. That year was great. A unofficial team goal was to never punt, and we didn't have to. ON the rare occasion we didn't convert on 4th down, our defense could stop them. I remember one game giving the other team the ball on our 20. Our defense held them to 4 and out.
We had a perfect season winning the league championship.
One of things that makes the BYFL different is the focus on becoming better people. All our practices began with a prayer and devotional, and the league had weekly devotionals. It was so different from high school and I loved it.
My second and final year in the league I was drafted onto the Knights. With black and silver uniforms we were the most menacing team in the league. I almost didn't come back for a second year. I'm glad I did. It gave me some of my best memories.
-Our quarterback was Dax Wells. He was a natural leader on the team. When he told you a way to improve, or when he told you you needed to get your job done better, you wanted to do it, and you would.
-I got stats! I thought I was fine with not having any official stats to track what I did in the game. But our coaches let me go out for two passes. The first one was a touch down pass. I was playing left guard and ran a five and out. Dax lofted it up there. But my cursed lineman's body wasn't fast enough, and the ball bounced indifferently off the endzone grass. Later in the playoffs, our coaches called the play again. I went three yards and out, turned, thankfully our quarterback knew how slow I was, caught the ball, and was promptly tackled. But I got three yards receiving, and that was enough for me.
-We were a team. Before games we would all gather close together, while Danny Vanstinkus, would say in almost a wisper, "who's that talking 'bout beating them knights?"
We'd all respond,"who that, who that say what." He then would call again slightly louder, with us repeating, all while in a tight huddle, and jumping up and down. This would continue until until near tumult levels
I'm sorry if I get a little personal here and apply this to life. Like the NBA says, "its just a game, right? But sometimes is so much more than that." Football was my sport, my brothers had basketball and track, and football, but football was really the only one where I excelled. But in high school I had been given a pathetic team with unconcerned coaches. I wanted football to be my sport, my life, but my team had never even won more than one game in a season, never bonded as a team. I wasn't bitter when I walked away at the end of high school, but I was empty and unfilled.
But God gave me a new chance with football at college. Not only did he let me play again, but he put me on two teams that were the exact opposite of high school. Two league championships, one undefeated season. Teammates and friendships. I have to believe that if God in his mercy gave me a second chance at football, and gave me more than I have ever deserved. He will give us blessings that far out weigh the trials we have experienced in this life. Children who are taken while young will be reunited with their parents, the abused will receive the love and caring so sorely missed. Those who long for families, and whose hearts ache from sometimes decades of being alone will have that intimacy so long denied them. Those and all the other tough times, set backs, and things left unfilled, will be rectified with blessings that far and beyond compensate us for the injustices suffered. If God will do that with a simple thing like football, I know he will do it with all the trials in life, for those who remain faithful to him. It may not be until after we think the opportunity has passed, it may not even be during our current lifetime, but it will come.
Wednesday, October 7, 2009
Brick walls, wood floor
Waiting anxiously behind the door.
The storm gathering in the stands
Waiting breathlessly for their fav’rite band,
Not of music, but of men
Come together once again
To battle against the hated foe
Be it panther, Trojan, or Eskimo
The door opens wide
We run with pride
The storm cloud breaks
And yells for homicide
Battle is firey
My innards diaree
Ah, much to my utter chagrin,
I leave the conflict to hide my sin.
Friends come cheering
For our nearing
Vict’ry over life long rival
To my inner sanctum of trial
Half time is over
I have the go-fer
Fetch me new armor
From the old clothing garner
The game comes close,
We might be toast
Jim fouls out
disgusted coach starts to pout
But puts me in to do my thing
I find the ring
I dunk the ball
The warm hurricane engulfs us all
Wednesday, September 30, 2009
Elder White and I just didn’t get along. We didn’t have strong differences in opinion on how the work should be done, nor was one a slob. Neither of us was green and homesick. In fact it was my last transfer, and Elder White was out about a year.
In fact in many ways Elder White and myself were ‘perfect’ elders. We obeyed all the mission rules. We always left our apartment in Princeton, West Virginia at 9:30 on the dot. Each Saturday we had our weekly planning meeting, followed by companionship inventory, a thoroughly unnatural experience for young men where they sit and talk about the good, the bad and the ugly in their companionship. I don’t even do that in my relationships with girls, but a mission has a way of getting you to do things you wouldn’t normally do.
I believe it was in one of these companionship inventories when my frustration finally came to a boiling point. “Elder White,” I said, “what’s wrong here? We’re both good elders. We work hard. We’re obedient; we’re doing everything we’re supposed to do. Why don’t we get along? Why don’t we like each other?”
I want to make it clear, we didn’t have any animosity, or enmity, or competition between us. There was no contest to see who was the best elder; there just was no friendship, no joking, and no love.
Elder White said something along the lines that he was frustrated too. But nothing really came of it. I finished my mission strong in that West Virginia humidity.
I didn’t get why Elder White and I weren’t friends, on my mission, in fact I didn’t make many friends on the mission. I figured it out over the course of several years, culminating when one of my younger brothers left on his mission to England. I was torn on what advice to give him. I felt that working hard was a key to having a successful mission, and I wanted to encourage him in that regard. But it felt like there was a missing piece to the puzzle. Then the equation finally came together.
I was so focused on being the perfect elder, that I had spent the latter portion of my mission suppressing myself. I didn’t see a place for fun. When my companions wanted to talk about non-mission stuff, I would ignore them. I remember one of my greenies trying so hard to connect with me, but I just sat silent as he spoke of his hobbies from home. I lost my ability to connect with people. I was blank.
I told my younger brother to make sure he worked hard, but to not suppress his self. To love his companions, the investigators, and everyone he ran into. It was hard to tell him that, because of how I had programmed myself into denying self.
I think my advice helped my younger bro, but it helped me more. I finally realized why I had struggled to connect on my mission, and the importance of relationships.
Friday, September 25, 2009
I always wanted cancer. Yearned for it actually. Cancer seems so logical. So predictable. The process for dealing with cancer is straight forward. You go to the doctor; he tells you you’ve got cancer, tells you the odds for survival, then he recommends a treatment. You do the treatment, and you live or you die, win or lose. So orderly, it just makes sense. That is how I like my trials, Cause-effect.
Its not just the cancer patients that know how deal with cancer. The friends and associates usually know what to do. Friends and family feel grief. The close family members will spend weeks, months, or years at your side. You’ll be in the hospital, and Mother will come, brightening up the room with her cheery attitude. Of course she’ll also cry. You’ll see the pain in her eyes and feel the acid in her tears. She’ll weep over all your lost possibilities. Because as a mother, everything she’s done has been for you. Father, will probably be withdrawn at first, after all emotions are never easy for men, but he will come. You’ll make small talk, about the football season, or some new project, maybe even the latest episode of “Lost” or “24.” Brothers will come, bringing the bond forged over years of stupidity together. Sister will come, and probably behave a lot like mother. Women are masters at feeling others pain. Friends will come. They’ll do something to show their support, shave their heads, when you lose their hair, wear buttons on their backpack, hold fund raising dances--something. The community will rally around your family. This horrible tragedy will spur them to action, because when a tragedy strikes, we like to do something—to fix it--and with cancer, we know what to do.
Being messed up in the head is an entirely different matter. How do you deal with it? How do you even know if you have a problem? Sure when you start yelling, calling yourself,”Stupid” or “idiot” you know something is wrong, but you can stop that, right. It’s your brain and you can tell it what to do. But you can’t. You can’t focus on anything; you start hurting yourself. Your mind swirls with poisonous thoughts, seeping into your soul with deadly potency.
You slowly lose your joy. Parents tell you to “buck up.” Friends will valiantly try to take you to your old haunts. When their efforts to cheer you up bear no fruit, they’re frustrated. They slowly creep out of the friendship. Even those who stay by you, don’t know you.
Fear comes to your parents face. They don’t understand this monster. You go to different shrinks, each one with a different diagnosis. You try to accept it, but when you’re alone, the voices howl.
There is no easy way to deal with being messed up in the head. No predetermined way to deal with this tragedy. Because it is so foreign, people will withdraw. It will try to destroy you. You won’t know if you’ve beaten it until the end. How do you know if you won?
If something else kills you.
And that’s why I feel at peace, laying on this butcher paper. The Doctor just said those liberating words, “You have pancreatic cancer, less then a month to live.”
I close my eyes, put my head down, and smile.
(Second Note: Please don't take offense over the insensitivity to cancer payments. This is just an attempt to get into the mind of a mentally ill person.)
Thursday, September 24, 2009
Sam’s aunt and uncle, on his mom’s side, lived on and farmed about 100 acres in the middle of the Snake River plain, in East Idaho. It was only supposed to be a two week trip. So he could get to know his cousin Kyle, and see where Mom had grown up. Uncle Dave had barely said two words two him until last Sunday. He came into Kyle’s room where Sam was listening to his iPod. He just stood there for what seemed like forever. Then he finally said, “Well, looks like you’re going to be here a while longer.” Sam didn’t get it, but before he could ask Uncle Dave left. Uncle Dave spent the rest of the afternoon moving the haystack ten feet to the north. Aunt Kathy brought him a slice of warm bread, smothered in butter and homemade strawberry jam. The best part about being here is the food he thought. But even that turned awkward when she just stared at him while he ate it. He’d called Mom and Dad almost non-stop the rest of the day, no answer either on the home phone or their cells.
Then, at some early morning hour Sam had never experienced before, he was torn out of bed by Kyle, saying, “Hey, Dad says you gotta help with the chores.” Kyle was ok, Sam didn’t have a ton in common with him, but they were both 14, both liked basketball, but Kyle loved hunting; Sam hadn’t killed anything, yet. Chores consisted of moving pipe, fixing pipe previously moved, feeding cows, getting crap on your 120 dollar True Religion jeans, tearing your jeans on the barbed wire fence while avoiding a mad rooster, getting laughed at by your cousin, and spitting, a lot, whenever some foreign substance got into your mouth.
“I’m going back to go to bed,” Sam said, as they stumbled back to the farmhouse, the sun barely cresting over the mountains.
“If you thought my mom could cook, wait til you’ve had her breakfast after doing some real work. It’ll be the best meal you ever tasted,” Kyle said as we climbed the back stairs, and took off our cow pie laden clothes.
Only Aunt Kathy wasn’t there, neither was Uncle Dave.
When they finally came back about noon, they took Sam out to the garage. Uncle Dave spoke first, “Look son, I don’t know any other way to tell you this, but your mom’s hurt bad.” Uncle Dave went on to explain that Sam’s parents had divorced, this didn’t surprise Sam. He’d seen it coming. Half his friends had divorced parents. After the divorce had been finalized, Sam’s mom somehow got into a wreck and ended up in a coma. His Dad had split, no one even knew where he was.
Sam’s two week summer vacation ended up being a six month stay. But Sam learned to love the silence in the morning. The stillness before the day started and everything fell apart.
Thursday, September 10, 2009
Applying the cream hurt more than the actual sores. But it was better than dealing with cracked and bleeding skin. Allergies, that’s what mom called them. All Barrett knew was he had been to plenty of doctors, and all they could give him was this cream and told him to stay inside.
But being outside was just so fun. Preston, Barrett’s older brother was down by the river, hanging a rope swing. Just before he left, he taunted Barrett, “Hey why don’t you come? It’ll be fun. We’ll get the swing up; then we can show off for the Bailey twins.”
Mom glared at Preston, and he’d run outside before any words escaped her mouth.
So Barrett had the lecture about staying inside so the sores didn’t get any worse. But now, Mom was distracted. Hidden in the laundry room, the sounds of the house didn’t rise above the swirl and tumble of the washer and dryer. Barrett planed his escape.
The basement window lay hidden behind rose bushes. Barrett slowly opened the window, climbed out the window well, and crept into the garage to get his bike.
He froze! He heard Mom’s distant voice, traveling down the stairs and through the still open window. Ride like the devil, or scamper back to the basement? It wasn’t even a choice. The wind flew through Barrett’s hair, as he rode fast as his legs could carry him the quarter mile to the river. Excitement flowed through his veins. He didn’t even feel the cracking scabs that riddled his skin.
Preston’s eyes widened for a second as Barrett appeared at the crest of the bank. He’d be getting it tonight. “Barrett, I wondered when you’d make it.” Preston grabbed Jimmy, young neighborhood nuisance, who was making a beeline for the swing. “Let’s see how for you go.”
Barrett shimmied up the tree, and the blond Bailey twin squealed as he reached the swing. The flight through the air was freedom, for the normally housebound boy. The river, full or pollen, pesticides and other allergens, was cool bliss.
Barrett made three jumps before Mom came bellowing and drug the two miscreants back to the house. Preston didn’t even care that he lost his freedom for the rest of the week. He and Barrett spent the week drawing plans for a tree house and talking to the Bailey twins through the basement window.
Later that day, after an hour bath and plenty of salve for the wounds, Barrett saw mother, playing the piano. “Well, at least something makes her cry,” he thought as he saw a pair of tears on her face.
Late that night, after a fresh layer of cream, and a scolding from Father, Barrett and Preston lay in their beds. “You know what Barrett; you were awesome on the swing today.”
Barrett, mumbled half way to a contented sleep, “yeah, it was fun… it was fun.”
Saturday, July 18, 2009
Sunday, June 14, 2009
When I inadvertently posted a blog about my dad the day after Mothers Day, i figured I'd better get something about Mom up here around Fathers Day. This isn't a definitive look at the woman we call mother, its just a slice, a look at a tiny part of the home she made for us to incubate in.
Five boys and one girl. That's the family that Mom was dealt. I've never heard from her if she was disappointed or encouraged by the ratio. But knowing Mom, she was fine with whatever God had in store for her. Before my sister came along at number four she might have felt like a member of a fraternity. Our focus was sports, adventure, mud, building forts, digging holes--oh yeah, and fighting. We loved a good fight. I don't know how many times I sat in the wicker chairs at the far end of the kitchen for hours until I'd say sorry to someone I'd fought and I wasn't the only one to sit there.
I've heard its a woman's job to domesticate a man. I think the job is started by the mother, and finished by the wife. Some women think that means emasculate. Not Mother, but she did try to help us appreciate some of the finer things, that most young boys avoid like cooties.
I hated Hymn Sing. Each Sunday evening in the Packer household we would gather around the piano and each would pick one song from the Hymn Book. We learned very well hymn 61 one of the shortest hymns in the book. Of course every now and then someone would pick a long one like A Poor Wayfaring Man of Grief just to tick everyone else off. And we never took it too serious, Mom at the piano knew that young boys would absolutely hate singing eight hymns at the same tempo some comatose wards sing them. Mom played the songs with life and exuberance. Some people would compare it to being on an illicit substance. But it worked. Somehow she got us teenage boys to sing songs like Master the Tempest in Raging, The Battle Hymn of the Republic, There is Sunshine in My Soul, and others in our best opera voices. It might have come from our tendency to turn everything into a joke.
(Sometime I'll have to write about the time we choreographed a musical number for a youth fireside, without the choir directors knowledge. Somehow she didn't kill us when we sprang it on her during the meeting.)
Mom also used Hymn Sing to help us with songs that would help us through life. She bribed us with dinner at Johnny Carino's if we memorized all seven verses to How Firm a Foundation. Its words have come to me in tough times and helped keep me on the path. When my younger brother went on his mission to England he sang Redeemer of Israel in his head on the plane ride over. That song has been a favorite at Hymn Sing for years.
During the years of doing Hymn Sing, we all somehow gained an appreciation for music, especially sacred. It came along at different times for everyone. Usually somewhere in the high school years. I think it was part of her strategy all along. She knew that by exposing us to music, even with all the push back she got, we would eventually feel the music, and realize how empowering, enlightening, and enriching music is. She could have mandated voice lessons, or forced us to sing the dirges that some think make up the whole of sacred music, but she customized it to us. Kept it lively, and threw in a reflective piece every now and then.
Now all her kids sing regularly. 5 of us have been in school choirs, high school or college, and most of us play the piano. Not bad for a family that is known throughout town for their athletic prowess. By coming through the back door, Mom soothed the savage beast, and gave us a gift to help us through life.
Here are a few of my favorite parts of Hymn Sing,
-The rules don't change. One song per person. When there's only three at home it gets over pretty quick; when the extended family comes over it can go for hours.
-Mom makes guests come in and pick a song. From stake presidents, to teenage girls bringing over cookies and cakes, if you come during Hymn Sing, expect to wait until its over to conduct your visit. President Rose our stake president came one week, he picked The Wintry Day Descending to its Close. Talk about a dirge! He might have been surprised to see we all knew it. (My dad has since instituted a rule that song can only be picked if there is snow on the ground and the sun is setting.)
-Hymn No. 342. Its one of my favorites. I probably pick it every time I'm in Idaho. Go check it out. You'll see why.
-In the Summer we have the window open. Our house in an acoustical oddity. Everything that goes on in our yard can be heard all the way down the street. Usually the neighbors hear our late night games. But in the Summer when we get the window open some of our neighbors have commented how much they enjoy the singing.
-Dead kids. The oldest teenager at home always brings in the beanbag chair, and lays like a corpse.
-We sing all the verses. You just do. Now I get irked when people don't sing the extra verses. Excuse me for a short mini-rant. But when did music in the Church become some sort of necessary evil. If you ask people to sing more than one verse in a meeting other than sacrament meeting its like you asked them to donate a kidney. Even in sacrament meeting if you want to sing the verses printed below the song, people act like you'll chase members into inactivity. Its just music. Its not some trial that if we make it though we'll receive blessings, its actually supposed to be a blessing to us.
-Knowing the hymns. There are some real jewels in the hymnbook that arn't sung very often 103 Precious Savior; Dear Redeemer is one of my favorites.
Thanks for music Mom. Without you I wouldn't have one of the biggest joys in my life.
Thursday, June 4, 2009
There are some things that just need to be done in life. Babies need to get potty trained, birds need to mate in the Springtime, and High School Seniors need a graduation prank. I never asked for the responsibility to help in this final high school rite of passage, but it needed to be done, so I helped. And once enlisted in the struggle, my high school career came to a climax I had never expected.
Simple plans are the best. There is less to go wrong. Our plan didn't involve cows, or lack of clothing or a cacophony. Earlier in the day I'd procured 200 marbles, and we had distributed them to the members of the class.
Unfortunately there was that women. Mrs. Stowell, was part of the committee of old women at the high school. A group of three elderly women who were the embodiment of crabbiness and the status quo. And if there is one thing young men crave its to break out of the status quo. Mrs. Stowell was the student government adviser, and over my three years of student government we had had epic struggles over homecoming activities, bladder busters, donut sales, and my refusal to give her back my keys.
I'd been nervous all afternoon that one of the old women would catch wind of the plot. The old women held the power of graduation. Like some unholy oracle you had to please to continue your life quest. If you did anything to displease them they would ban you from the graduation ceremonies, if your sin was during the ceremony they would hold your diploma until penance had been exacted over the course of three weeks community service.
Someone cracked! Minutes away from entering the gymnasium, Tagg, my co-conspirator gave me word that Mrs. Stowell was on the war path. She'd found out about the plan and was coming to ban me from the ceremony. So I hid-- I hid where she would never find me, the senior girls restroom.
The girls restroom in the senior hall is decorated in a nice shade of pale green. Its like twilight zone version of the boys restroom. Its got plenty of stalls, but missing my favorite toilet implement. I know this isn't news to anyone, but if you've ever had a chance to experience the other side you'll see how strange and alien it is to be in a restroom, so similar to what you're used to, but at the same time so different.
I don't remember how, but I got from the bathroom to the processional line without running into one of the committee of old women (henceforth referred to as COW). And finally I was seated in the gymnasium with 180 of my fellow classmates in the sweltering May heat. I was temporarily relieved. Mrs Stowell, and the other members of COW took their perches on the upper deck of the gymnasium to compile their lists of offenders. At least I'd made it to graduation. If they wanted me to endure three weeks torture I was fine with it.
Commencement started as usual affair. Speeches the top ten. Every now and then a marble would hit the floor, the sound ricocheting off the wooden floor and brick walls. Finally the time came to read off the names. The COW had impressed the importance of conformity as the names were read. No showing off, making gestures, or even having an expression that conveyed anything than the utmost reverence for being allowed to participate in their graduation.
As our class crossed the stage and received diplomas from the superintendent our plan was hatched. As we shook his hand we each slipped him a marble. At first he had now idea what was going on and put the marbles in his pockets. Soon his pockets were bulging, and Betty, the school's super secretary sprang into action and started taking the marbles from him. I'll admit the worked like a decent team, and were able to keep the decorum of the meeting. Soon Betty ran out of places to hide marbles and they were scrambling to find new places to put the marbles. All the time the COW members were writing furiously.
Finally the meeting was over and the race began. COW raced to Mr. Woodfin, the principal to get their list of over half the class approved to withhold the diplomas. We raced down to the commons to get our actual diplomas. As I descended the stairs I quickly scanned the room for the P-Z line. In the front was Mr. Torgeson. A jolly man, with a kind temperament. They were supposed to hold off on issuing the diplomas until COW got there. Torgeson knew better. You see once the school has given you your diploma there is nothing they can legally do to get it back. It is a legal document, and belongs to the graduate. I'd never seen Torgeson act so quickly. He went passed out diplomas like a man possessed. Like a machine gun he called out names and passed out certificates. I got mine, and stood triumphant in one last battle against Mrs. Stowell. Having succeeded not only in graduating, but in adding just a little bit of spice to the ceremony as well.
Our class partied way into the night and slept in the front stair case of the school, forcing all underclassmen to enter through a side door. Within a few years COW's reign of terror ended, old age finally forcing the women to leave the school. I later learned that when Mrs. Stowell had presented her list to Mr. Woodfin, he looked at it; looked at her and said, "I can't stop all these kids from graduating," crushing her last chance to exert power over these newly minted adults.
Saturday, May 30, 2009
What was the first video played on MTV when it debuted in the early 80's?
Answer: Video Killed the Radio Star by the Buggles.
The songs basic message is that once the world of the music video came about, there would be no more music superstars who succeeded based solely on their musical talent, but now the music world would be ruled by looks.
The song was sadly prophetic.
Since MTV began we haven't had musicians like Mama Cass who weren't lookers but sure could sing. Looks are manufactured in the surgeons office, and music is manipulated in post production. This isn't to say there are no musicians left. But there are no ugly or plain or overweight musicians left in pop culture.
Quiz Question 2
What is the most viewed video on the internet ever?
Answer: A radio star. Chances are you've seen her video linked to below, but in case you haven't take some time to get to know Susan Boyle, single forty something women from Scotland, never been kissed.
Susan's first performance
Now tell me, is that someone you'd expect to see on MTV. But one hundred million people have watched her original performance. Her voice is so preciously exquisite it cuts deep into your soul. When she sings, she forms an instant connection with the fortunate audience, from her vocal cords to there heart.
Think she is just a one hit wonder? Check out this audio of her from 1999.
That is the hottest voice I've ever heard. She'd turn Dumbledore on. She has the gift; she is the Scottish Siren; the voice that could launch a thousand ships.
Let Susan Boyle stand as a testament that talent can be divorced from looks; that diamonds can lay hidden in the rough, and if a forty year old spinster can achieve her dream so can you.
Friday, May 29, 2009
The temples were even more powerful to me as a youth than the other old structures I explored with the thoroughness of Holmes, such as the Old Faithful Inn, or Blackfoot High School. I couldn’t gain access to the temples. I remember scanning every intricate detail on the exterior of the Salt Lake temple for seeming hours. Quizzing my dad on what the different symbols meant; my obsessive mind trying to extract clues as to what went on inside from the stars, suns, moons, constellations, and the All Seeing Eye.
I knew these buildings were more than just structures by the way they were treated. Everything about the temples was cloaked in reverence. The intonation when the word temple was spoken, the special suitcases taken inside, the recommend one must hold to gain access; these were no normal buildings.
As I grew old enough to gain access to these holy buildings I gained a deeper love for them. And my love expanded to all the temples built by the Latter-Day saints. The warm glow that the temples give off at night I found was a type and shadow to the peaceful assurance that could be gained in their walls. I realized that the carved railings in the spiral stair cases, or the huge murals on the walls, or the intricately constructed ornate rooms, were just man’s best effort to build a house worthy of the intricate plan our loving Father has given his children.
As I have grown, and entered many of these temples, both ornate and subdued, one prime thought comes to mind: “It is good to be here.”
These temples hold everything necessary to have a complete and rich life on this Earth and through the epochs and ages afterwards. As a young boy I would try every door when I had a chance to, heck I still do. I love the nooks, crannies and crevices. Sometimes I’ll find a door that has always been locked before. Behind the door could be a service closest or an entire new wing to explore. The knowledge gained in the temple is much the same way. You never know what spiritual door will be opened when you go to the temple. Sometimes it’ll be some morsel that helps you get through a particularly trying time in your life. Sometimes you’ll gain access to a new floor or tower that expands your knowledge immensely. Sometimes you’ll just go sit in you’re favorite corner with a view, relearning the same doctrines that have been so important to you in the past. There are so many different ways the temple helps us on our adventure back to God, but there is one thing I am sure of. They always help.
That’s why the thought “its good to be here” comes to my mind as I sit in the temple, whether by comfort, instruction, revelation, correction, exhortation, strengthening, or a litany of other ways the temple helps me. Every time. And I implore you to let it help you. If you don’t have the paper that lets you in, get one. Go to the temple, ornate or plain, and learn of the masterful plan our God has built for you. The spiritual journey of your life will become more intricate, complete and beautiful as you do.
Note: This isn't one of my best articles, but its the only one that was actually published thus far.
By: Jake Packer
For many teams, there is one game that is more important then any other. One game, which can make or break an entire season. If you go 1 and 8 but you win this game, you can look back on the season as a sort of success. On the other hand no season is complete without a victory in this game. The game is the one you play against your arch rivals
Rivalries are as important, if not more so, to the fans that attend. To a true athletic supporter they can be all encompassing. I still remember the traitor who dared to go on a date with a member from our rival. He was ridiculed, and disowned. When a rivalry is cross town it can be particularly strong. Even mature adults will bare a grudge when they run into a member from the “other school.”
East Idaho has some of the best, most heated rivalries in sports. Most games feel like a rivalry because you have been playing this teams in little league for years, but there strong rivalries that are there year after year, sometimes for generations, we call these arch rivals. Here are a few:
Black and Blue Bowl
Who: Pocatello Indians and Highland Rams
Where to Watch: Holt Arena, Pocatello
When: October 5
Classic cross town rivalry. With an attendance of about to 10,000, this game gets more fans then some of the college football games. Both Pocatello and Highland are traditional football powerhouses, and the games are always intense and fun to watch. Especially since Coach Harrison’s arrival at Pocatello. What makes this game great is the high level these teams play at. Pocatello is the 4A defending state champions, and Highland is coming of being the 5A runners-up.
Of coarse this rivalry extends to all sports. The following story comes from the book Nash and Zullo's Believe it or Else!!
"The all-female cheerleading and pep squads from Pocatello High decided to get even with a rival basketball team - by holding it's players hostage! In 1972, Pocatello's football team lost to cross-town rival Highland High. So the Pocatello cheerleaders sought revenge. Early one morning, soon after basketball season opened, all 16 Highland players received telephone calls inviting them to a surprise "come as you are breakfast" for city athletes. They were told to arrive at a local church within the hour. The site of the breakfast allayed any suspicions over the mysterious dawn phone calls. Obligingly, all 16 sleepy-eyed Highlanders showed up for the breakfast, which turned out to be a hoax. Once inside the basement, the 30 Pocatello High girls barred the doors and kept the players hostage while serenading them with Pocatello's school songs and cheers. The embarrassed cagers were finally released two hours later."
The Civil War
Who: Bonneville Bees and the Hillcrest Knights
Where to Watch: Thunder Stadium, Iona Idaho
When: September 7
The Civil War came about in 1992 when The Bonneville school district built their second high school, Hillcrest High. While this is one of the newer rivalries in East Idaho, it doesn't lessen its intensity. One of the great elements of this, and other rivalries is the shared football field these teams have. Both want to call it home but only the winning team gets to paint the goal posts in their team colors.
Blackfoot Broncos Vs. Snake River Panthers
In my house growing up there was no greater contest in all of sports then the annual Blackfoot vs Snake River football game. This game was the end all of game. Victory, we owned the town; a loss kept the family up all night rehashing the contest. This rivalry was so ingrained in my family that we developed an aversion to the color purple. I still remember the day my little brother came home from kindergarten in trouble for telling all his classmates to break their purple crayons. One of the only things I remember from art class is that green and purple are opposites. It just felt right.
The football game seemed to bring out half the county. The bleachers would fill up, and the standing spots along the fence would be several people deep. The game was a common bond that city and country folk shared. So many families had cousins living in the other school district it was always a source of pride for the team that won, even if they had no kin playing in the contest. In my day, for a kid growing up in Blackfoot beating Snake River, was just about all that mattered. The floats at the fair parade would have the final score on them, while the losing team would make promises to get them next time.
Sadly, for some never explained reason, the Blackfoot/Snake River game is no longer played. The kid who broke the purple crayons will never get to meet his rivals on Hartkopf Stadium or Harrison Field. But just because the game is gone, doesn't mean the rivalry is dead. All you have to do is go to a little league game, or a summer jamboree, to realize this rivalry will never die.
The Buck Bowl
Who: Blackfoot Broncos and Madison Bobcats
Where to Watch:Hartkopf Field, Blackfoot Idaho
When: August 31
This year the Buck Bowl is the season opener for Blackfoot. The Brothers Buck coach the two football teams, Stan for the Broncos, and Mitch, for the Bobcats, and that makes for great drama. The towns may be separated by sixty miles, but that doesn't stop large crowds from coming to the game and rooting for their team. Blackfoot won this year's game 35 to 14.
The Emotion Bowl
Who: Idaho Falls Tigers and Skyline Grizzlies
Where to Watch: Ravesten Stadium, Idaho Falls
When: October 12
The battle for supremacy of Idaho Falls has it all. A shared stadium, split school district, and multi-generational fans who have been there since the beginning. Aptly named, this game is all about emotion. It doesn’t matter the records of the teams going into the game, either team can win, and they do. In the last seven years, no game has been decided by more then 11 points, and while Skyline leads the series 24-17, in the last 30 years the record is virtually split. The game is so big ESPN has even covered it. With great support from the students, community, and administration, this is the standard for a great rivalry. If you are a fan of high school sports, you owe it to yourself to check this game out. (http://www.d91.k12.id.us/skyline/sports/football/history.htm)
Tuesday, May 26, 2009
The fire took what disease, windstorms, and harsh winters had been unable to scathe. It took the patriarchs, and with them it desired to take the grove. Its flames ravenously ate the thick bark that had stood through the floods of spring, the droughts of summer and the frigid bite of winter for years. Maybe their time had come, but the grove, it seemed, was forever changed.
Gone were the paths that lovebirds had meandered down. Gone were the forts of childhood. Gone was the campsite, where the generations of man had met, where the wisdom of the ages had been imparted. All that was left, was a charred landscape, still smoldering days later, whose blackness seemed to chase away the rays of the sun, on even the most pleasant of days. The bodies of the patriarchs still remained, stripped, and disfigured. The grotesque forms mocking the memories of the grove. So man left.
He left the grove, because of the pain. The pain of what was lost, seemingly never to return. He left because he couldn’t walk the paths. He couldn’t crawl through the tunnels of the briar patch and he couldn’t listen to his ancestors anymore, for they were gone, and to enter the grove meant to be covered with the darkness that enshrouded the grove. But the grove was not lost.
Later, in the silence of solitude, a miracle occurred. Feeding on the very darkness that had tried to destroy it, the grove began to return. From the ashes of the patriarchs came hope. It stared as a small green twig, pushing through the darkness. Soon thousands joined it. And, in time, the darkness was destroyed and replace with hope, as a new generation of cottonwoods began to grow, reaching for the sun. But the grove grew alone, for man was gone. And the grove waited.
Years later, man returned. To his joy, the grove was there, though it was not as tall as he remembered. The paths returned and man’s children made new forts, while man remembered the grove of yore. Lovebirds meandered through the grove, and the trees shaded them. The darkness was gone and the sun could bee seen all through the grove. Time passed and man built a campsite. For the grove had returned.
Sunday, May 24, 2009
Bareing me on noble journey,
and valiant quest across our native land,
without complaint or hesitation.
When a knight looses his mount,
more is lost than mail, armor or even sword.
For the mount is not weapon, but comrade.
And while our common enemy
has ended your service for before mine,
I shall not forget you.
Oh stead, You are gone,
taken from me by the unconcerned hand of fate,
never again shall I ride you to quests, mundane or epic,
I shall miss your faithfulness,
I shall miss your strength.
--The Cavalryman's Song
Monday, May 11, 2009
Since 1985 he has coached his and other men's sons in the games of basketball and football. Last Saturday, May 9th 2009, his legacy ended.
You might think such an accomplishment would be heralded in newspapers, this man who has coached scores of young men, five of his own sons, and his only daughter; you might expect a video montage, a gift of a plaque or some other token marking the feat; at least you'd expect the announcer to mention the end of an era; but his journey ended the same way it happened, in the Auxiliary gymnasium of Minico High School, no announcer, just players family members as fans, a pair of local yokels officiating. No newspaper covered the event. As usual he recieved no salary for his work.
The game started poorly for the boys from Blackfoot. Worn out from 4 games in two days, the urgency wasn't there. The star player, his son, was out with an injury leaving him with only six players against an opposing team with ten. A call was made, and a younger player from another team came to bring it up to seven.
The team was comatose on the court. It appeared no amount of cajoling would ignite the fire. Would it end this way; in an ugly blowout? Would the coach who preached hustle, rebounding, defense, and leaving it all on the court, end his tenure unable to coax one more game out of these young men?
Down ten points in the first half he pulled his best two players who were the most unresponsive. Put in the end of the bench and left them in. He called "black" their full court press daring the players to fight. He spoke as a coach of experience, drawing out strength from places his team didn't know existed. And they fought back.
The fans, who until this point had been considering getting an early start on the trip home, woke up, and called encouragement to the team. The whole atmosphere changed on both ends. No longer what this just one more game to get through before heading home, no this was a contest of the wills. The younger inexperienced players didn't know not to try, they dove on the floor, they stole passes, they snatched rebounds they shouldn't have gotten, the the tide started to change. As they tied the game up, the entire gym knew: this was basketball they way it was meant to be played. The venue didn't matter, they players' skill level didn't matter, each player on the court was a convert to Coach's religion of Hustle. Each fan riveted as wills clashed in an struggle for supremacy. The opposing team was also converted and it was a battle.
Two halves weren't enough to decide the clash and so an overtime was played. Eventually the older players caught the vision and were allowed to play. Coach paced the sidelines, making adjustments, funneling years of experience into the players, making adjustments, giving encouragement. He was in his element. They say it takes 10,000 hours to become a true master at something and coach had put that in several times over.
Down five points in overtime things didn't look good, suddenly a player hit a clutch three, tieing the game with mere seconds left. A second overtime was called for.
Overtimes are a thing of passion; a contest of the wills; playing chicken with fatigue. Who will break first? Who will listen to the lungs screaming for air, their legs begging for rest, their mind's desire to unfocus?
Or who will listen to their heart, yearning to win? The teams have proven they are evenly matched, and now it comes down to who wants it the most. Our Coach's team did. They jumped out to a five point lead and never looked back. The other team fought, but with less desire, less precision.
Coach stood, victor one last time. Fate had blessed him with a fitting send off, a contest of method and motivation. You have to wonder if he felt as Captain Kirk did as he died alone, on a strange alien world, his final utterance, "it was fun."
And so what of a memorial to this unassuming shaper of boys. This man who has donated mornings, weekends, and vacations, to help his sons, and those of other men, achieve something. To instill in them more than just proper post technique; to instill in them a passion for challenges and for life. Perhaps the most fitting tribute is what he already has, for it was never about personal glory, the gyms he coached in never even had reporters, but when those young men meet him after years have passed, they still honor him with that title that he has earned so well. That title that symbolizes his unselfish dedication to helping these boys realize their potential. When he meets those he has taught, broken down and built back up, the still call him "Coach." And that might be memorial enough.
As Coach left the gym that Saturday afternoon, he forgot his clipboard. It sits on a bench, in Minico, waiting for someone else to take the mantle.
Sunday, April 19, 2009
We might feel badly for Charlie Brown, or we might consider him a fool. Why on Earth would he keep trying to kick the ball? Or we might admire his steadfastness.
Charlie Brown's football experience reminds me of mine. My football team was bad. Our practices and games were exercises in futility. During my 6 years playing with this team, never did we have more than one win in a season. On the rare occasions where we were ahead near the end of the game we would self destruct. Now if this was a Disney movie we would have at least come together as a team, but we had no unity, we fought amongst ourselves more that the other team, however one teammate did tell me how hot my mother was. Our coaches on more than one occasion would come to practice under the influence Captain Morgan and the glory days. Uncle Rico was Joe Namath compared to these clowns. (note these were my little league coaches, in high school the coaches were better but we were a lost cause.)
Now why did I stay with it; I'm not sure at first, but over time I came to love football. But for me winning was almost a lost cause. That happens to a kid after records of 1-9 year after year. I must have been a glutton for punishment; coming back year after year, losing so much; being a alone with teammates I couldn't identify with.
I can to realize pretty early in life that it sucks sometimes. But you can't control the outside influences, all you can control is yourself. Are you doing what you're supposed to be doing? I was the center. I had two jobs; first hike the ball, pretty easily, secondly keep the nose guard or linebacker from getting to the quarterback. Any you know what I found great satisfaction from knocking the defense on their cans. The joy of seeing a blitzing line backer, pretending you're going to hit him high, then at the last minute hitting the shins and sending them sprawling to the ground. Or the sweetness of holding a guy 5 inches taller and 50 lbs heavier than you off from getting the quarterback on a pass rush for an entire game.
Now it was hard work to become a lineman. I remember late nights with my dad and older brother doing board drills, outlawed for use in actual practice because of the danger of injury, these drills were key to learning how to get lower. I remember when my older bro got me put up on varsity as a sophomore and it was hard going against people two years older than me, but that year is when I gained the skill that would carry me to my senior year.
By the time I got to my senior year, only three kids my age had stuck with it, everyone else had quit, dropped out of school, or was incarcerated. The year below us has some great talent and I wondered if this year we'd finally win a little, maybe even break .500. The first game of the year we lost to our cross town rival in a somewhat close game. That stunk but coming up next we played the team ranked #2 in the state. And we beat them. Man we were high on the hog, especially we seniors who had never really had success. We started to dream of possible winning our conference, and getting a berth in the state tournament. But we lost the next game, and the next and the next and the next. We lost every other game that year. My final chance to have success. But you know what, as much as it hurt to lose all those games, for my team to experience the same futility as Charlie Brown did with Lucy, after each loss I was able to look back, know I was knocking my guy on his can; I was keeping my quarterback safe; and I could block any defender in the conference. In fact I was named to one of the all district teams, a pretty good accomplishment for a guy that plays a position no one pays attention to on a 1 and 9 team.
I believe that sports teaches you lessons you need for life, and I learned some with football. While most people learn how hard work brings wins, and the importance of working with teammates for a common goal, I learned that when adversity comes that you can't control, you just focus on doing your job the best you can and let everything else work itself out. And you know what, that is one of the key things I've need to know in life.