Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Chapter 30: The SMHS 50 Yard Line “Park”

(The photo above as it appears in the 1983 SMHS Yearbook--Page #170.)

A Story of Loyal Friends...Growing Up in a Small Town
(Tom “stickman” Hill arrived into Richmond today prompting me to post this story...)
Back in high school we tended to have good clean fun. Many people would ask how you define good, clean fun. Everyone has their own definition. This next chapter will explain how a handful of my close friends and I defined small town “fun” when we were growing up. I want to stress that in all our years we never did anything to destroy property of others. Our actions would be more than just frowned upon these days and frankly would not be acceptable nearly anywhere. For us, it’s just the way it was. This particular story goes back a lot of years and shows how good friends handle things and shows the level of trust I have in these men to this day…nearly 30 years later. Thankfully, we got this sort of thing out of our system a few years ago.
Cross Country Begins at SMHS
In our hometown of St. Marys, West Virginia in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s there were only a couple thousand people in our entire county of Pleasants…and our high school (St. Marys High School) had less than 400 total students in grades 9-12. The West Virginia Secondary Schools Activities Commission (WVSSAC) grouped high schools based on the number of students within the school. Most sports within the state use the A, AA, AAA classification. We were placed into group “A”, the smallest classification. Even though we were a small, class “A” school we competed against the largest schools (class AAA) within the state during the cross country season. Back then, there was only one classification in our state for the high school cross country championships (AAA). We always felt like underdogs as a class “A” school and always felt we had to earn and fight for everything we achieved against the bigger, class AAA teams. Those roots still run through my blood as a coach and I still love slaying the megalithic.
SMHS started a cross country team my freshman year of school (1979). Our high school track & field coach, Jerry Rea asked me and a handful of my cousins during the summer of ’79 if we were going to run cross country that fall. It was a new sport to our town and my cousin asked, “What’s cross country?” I had no idea. Actually none of us had any idea what cross country was. Coach Rea replied, “Well, you run through fields and creeks and jump logs and that sort of thing.” As we stood there on the high school steps leading into the hallway next to the gymnasium we just looked at each other. Then we nodded that “yes” we would run and concluded that this ‘cross country’ thing sounded like what we did practically every day anyway. Coach Rea is a man of few words and as he left us standing there in front of the school we began to talk with excitement about this new sport to our school.
Summer Running
During my four years of high school, SMHS jumped in to the sport with great success for a school of our size. The first year we even had a cross country program our team placed second at the state championships…Again, in the AAA division. As we all moved through the years our cross country season officially started in early August, but a group of us would meet in our hometown on Rt 2, the road next to our high school, every afternoon at 5:00PM during the summer months to train and prepare for the fall season. It was not mandated by our coach…There was no fixed training schedule…No one forced us to do it. No one called us to make sure we were there to run at 5:00PM. It was just expected by each of us and what we wanted to do. It was as regular part of our day as getting out of bed each morning. For me, my brothers and my cousins (Rob and Jim), we would work on my dad’s sawmill from 7:00AM until 4:00PM and head home to change out of our work clothes for our afternoon run. By the time I reached high school age my 4 brothers (Mike, Cliff, Matt and Vernon) had all graduated and had state championships titles to their credit. They all 4 ran a bit following high school...only Mike and Cliff continued to run in the years following. They both coach at SMHS today.
Back in those days we had a hard core group that met daily. The group included my brothers Mike and Cliff…my cousin Larry, our good friends Lee Haddox… Tom “stickman” Hill…Don “Beets” Harding...and in the later years Danny DeMoss, Gerald Bookman and Doyle Monday joined us. We’d even have runners from across the state and other schools like Mark Nichols (Elkins HS), Denny Love (Charleston area), Jeff Hammons (University of Wisconsin) who is the nephew of Randy Hammons of Kings Redge and the Sarver brothers (Joe and Roger) from Marietta, OH stop in to run with us. Mark Nichol’s grandmother lived in Belmont; the town next to St. Marys and he moved to live with her for the summer of 1981 for the sole purpose training with us. In an age before cell phones and the internet it was not uncommon to have a group of 8-10 people meeting on any given day of the week in our small town.
We trained hard and treated every day as an opportunity to prove something and to improve ourselves. At the time we didn’t know or understand what it was we were trying to prove and we certainly did not understand training or the physiology behind it, but rest assured every run ended in a race back to the high school. One day it would be the last mile of the run and the next it was the last 800M. Every day someone would push the issue (i.e.- the pace)…every day someone felt good…everyday someone in the group felt they could prove they had the stronger will. Everyday someone was right and someone was wrong. It was simple, uncomplicated and pure to its heart.
St. Marys sits on the banks of the Ohio River within the rolling hills of West “By God” Virginia. It’s not western Virginia as some outsiders that do not understand our state might want to call us. Its beautiful country and I recall the sun setting on the Ohio side of the river and the views we would get from running the “old pike” which is a mile long hill that winds its way from downtown St. Marys uphill to Rt. 16 before we would hang a right and head down “Shadow Hill” back into town. Those views of the Ohio River and those crimson red sunsets are etched in my memory.
The Smoking Area at SMHS
Sometime in September of 1982 our school administration decided to make some improvements to the grounds around our high school. There were some students and teachers that liked to have a cigarette or otherwise a smoke-break during school hours. They were allowed to have their smoke-break as long as they stayed in the designated area next to the bleachers. This didn’t work out because some people in the smoking group started slipping under the bleachers out of view of school officials. That’s when the administration decided to move the smoking area to a more open position on school grounds. Someone within the school decided to purchase 5 concrete benches and a couple of trash cans to place within the newly designated smoking-area, which was under a light tower on school property. The light tower was actually an old oil rig derrick that was used at the turn of the century for drilling natural gas and oil wells within our county. The central and southern parts of West Virginia have coal while our county to this day has oil and gas. After SMHS was built and the oil derricks were abandoned they were converted to light towers and placed at the high school for lighting the football field. The oil derrick I write about has since been taken down but 4 remain at the football field giving our stadium distinct character, which I like. Again, this area was designated the new “smoking area” for students and faculty and was located right outside, at the time, the Vocational Agriculture/FFA and the Band Rooms. In addition to the newly designed smoking area, our school also planted 4 nice, new trees in the area outside of the gymnasium where buses pick-up and drop-off students. The trees were small maples about 7 feet in height.
This was big news in our school and the majority of our cross country team didn’t think it was right or a good idea. Our school was basically promoting smoking in our eyes by providing this “official” smoking area. A few of us cross country runners were also members of the FFA and we would sometimes get the 2nd hand smoke as it came through the windows of our classroom. It was simply change and we didn’t care for it.
The 1981 & 1982 Seasons
As the 1982 cross country season began our weeks were filled with hard workouts held in the Pleasants County Park, our one and only County Park. Our school was coming off several consecutive successful spring track season where we won the class A-AA state team title numerous times for the boys. As a junior I captured a few individual high school state titles…AAA XC, the A-AA 1600M, 3200M and 4x800 Relay. During the 1980 fall cross country season, my sophomore year; we placed 3 runners (Lee Haddox-3rd, Me-5th, Tom Hill-7th) in the top 10 in the class AAA cross country championships. Then during my junior year Tom Hill and I finished in the top 5 in XC with me narrowly claiming the state title in a race that I rank as one of the most painful in my career, but that’s another story. No other school matched our 1980 XC performance… unfortunately, we did not have a team qualified…only our three individuals.
Coach Rea was a great coach and as inducted into the Mid Ohio Valley Sports Hall-of-Fame a couple years ago. He had us train in the park most nights. It’s a hilly place with lots of steep up and down hills. We ran “figure 8’s” on a 1.1 mile loop that offered very few flat spots. On the rare occasion we would head to “Middle Island” for a flat run. The Ingram family owned Middle Island, a 2.2 mile long stretch of land at the convergence of the Ohio River and Middle Island Creek and they allowed us to run there. We were fortunate that they let us have free reign of the island for running. It’s a great place and is now a wildlife refuge filled with trails throughout. Every time I go home to visit I go for a run on Middle Island.
I was coming off an undefeated junior season within WV and Ohio and a win at the Kinney Northeast Regional Championships at Van Cortlandt Park in NYC and a 7th place finish at Kinney (now Foot Locker) National XC Championships in Orlando, FL. As our season moved into October our team was on fire having a lot of success defeating the “AAA” schools we faced each weekend. Each weekend we traveled to an invitational somewhere in West Virginia or Ohio. We raced hard and then listened to the “Sugar Hill Gang” and the first mainstream rap song (Rappers Delight: on 8 tract tape on the way home as we planned our Saturday night. We had the song memorized from the year before and to this day me and my cousin Rob can break into the tune at will. We did the same thing nearly every weekend following our meets…We’d pile and cram 7-8 of us into a vehicle…usually my brother Cliff’s green CJ-7 Jeep and then drive 25 miles to Parkersburg to go bowling at Emerson Lanes or to grab a pizza at Pizza Hut... The typical crew on Saturday night included me and my first cousins Rob and Jim, relative John “hair head” Hashman, Lee Haddox, Jennings Illar, Tom Hill and Don Harding.
Bowling on the Big Night
We went bowling at Emerson Lanes on Saturday, October 23, 1982 after a meet at John Marshall High School in Moundsville, WV. It was a night to bring our old team back together. The night was typical and filled with a lot of laughs and reminiscing. Tom Hill…Hillba, Rudy or Stickman as everyone knew him…was always funny and made you laugh. I weighed 120 pounds at the time and “stickman” certainly seemed a lot smaller than me. He got his name because he looked like the stick people you draw when you’re 8 years old. I don’t think the man could have weighed more than 112 pounds. He was a hell of a runner and is still on the top 10 All-Time List for the 3200M in WV. Don Harding was a little more serious but always poking fun. He’d get riled up making us chuckle along the way. Get him and Mike Cunningham together and oh my goodness what a riot.
We laughed and laughed but throughout the night our conversation came back to the new smoking area at SMHS and to the idea that our football team was getting all the headlines. We all grumbled to each other as normal kids do. We were getting ourselves all worked up. It wasn’t directed towards our friends and classmates or a specific sport, but towards the people in charge making these decisions. After all, we were in high school and thought we knew just about everything….Read in my sarcasm. First we’d grumble about the benches and the trash cans…and then about the smoke...and then to the pictures of 3rd Team All-State players who were getting their photo on the wall at our high school. In our minds 3rd team All-State was like getting 3rd place in an event at the state track championships. In track you had to win a state title to get your photo on the wall. In our minds it wasn’t fair and we weren’t getting a fare shake. Again, we were in high school and thought we knew just about everything.
Defining “hood-la-mize-ing” and the Hoodlamizing Club
As we finished our 2nd game of bowling at $1 per game we decided to head for St. Marys. We had a long run the next morning so when we got to the high school where we started our car pool for the trip to Emerson Lanes everyone headed their separate way. That is except for me, Tom Hill and Don Harding. We were still standing there talking when I said, “Man, I just don’t feel like going home yet.” Both Stickman and Beets looked at me and said, “Well, what do you want to do?” I had no idea. I just knew that it was 10:30PM on Saturday night and I didn’t want to go home. That’s when one of them said, “You want to do some ‘hood-la-mize-ing’ for old time sake or what?”
You see Stickman was the master. He would come up with ideas that just can’t be explained. His brain worked in a way like no one else I’ve ever met in my lifetime. He would come up with these ideas he termed “hood-la-mize-ing”. The rules for hoodlamizing were simple: a) come up with a unique idea to make a noticeable point… b) destroy no one’s property outside of pumpkins at Halloween… c) never steal someone’s property…d) never ever, ever get caught….and e) and most important… do not breath a word to anyone else... take it to your grave…tell no one. We knew Coach Rea would kick us off the cross country/track teams with no questions asked if we’d ever got caught...Then we’d also have to face our parents…No way… getting caught was not an option!
There were 3 of us in this private little club of fun that we called “hood-la-mize-ing”. Once in a while my brother Cliff would join us. I watched in amazement one night as he climbed a field goal post while holding a car tire in one hand. He climbed to the very top of the field goal post lifted the tire over the goal post upright…Let it drop onto his hands…kicked his butt out letting the tire drop….slid back down the goal post upright and moved the tire to the middle of the goal post. To our amazement when we saw this we told him he could never do that again. He replied, “Sure I can.” Then he proceeded to do it again with another tire repeating the process. To this day I wonder how someone got those steel-belted tires off the goal post….As Don Harding said this week, “Probably the greatest feat of shear strength I've ever seen even today!!!” Thankfully it was not in football season… Also, Mike Cunningham, Matt Bailey and JB Abbott joined in on some of the great pumpkin smashes each Halloween. The good stuff though…The genius that was hoodlamizing usually started with an idea from our Stickman.
The Making of a Park
At 10:00PM on weekends the 1 city policeman on duty in St. Marys would come to the high school to lock the 2 gates that allowed entrance to the school property. We’d scoped it out plenty of times. We knew the loop the 1 policeman on duty drove on his rounds and we knew when the neighbors around the school came home. We scouted it out…we were thorough. As we stood there outside of SMHS, Stickman, Beets and I talked about what kind of hoodlamizing we could do. It needed to be original…It couldn’t be just any old thing…It needed to have some bite to it while not damaging property. As we bounced ideas back and forth we came up with it. It was genius in our minds…Genius on so many levels we thought.
Here’s how we saw it: The high school administration decided a few weeks before to make a new smoking area and plant some trees at the school. The trouble was the benches and trash cans they placed in the smoking area under the big light tower just didn’t go with the asphalt surroundings….And the maple trees they planted just did not go in the little squares holes within the concrete sidewalk next to the school. No...No…No…We concluded then and there this was ALL wrong. This mess just didn’t feel or look right. We could right this wrong and we would do so on this cool October night.
Let’s see we thought…the smoking section was too close to the school…The maple trees needed more space to grow….It was simply wrong. Then it hit us. It smacked us in the forehead like we were shot with a diamond bullet. It was crystal clear. The high school football team was losing class A games, but still getting all the headlines while XC was winning class AAA invitational’s…The smokers within the school were stuck under this big light tower. Nope, this was no good. Our smokers needed their own PARK. Yep, they should have a park where they could sit down and smoke with green grass and plenty of open space. That’s when we decided to turn our football field into a park for the smokers. It wouldn’t hurt anyone and yet it would get the smokers further away from the school…They would be in the middle of the football field where the administration could keep an eye on them. Plus it would make another unspoken point at the same time. We’d take a trash can and the benches out to the 50 yard line and set them up in park-like fashion. It was settled.
Getting Started and the Park Design
We realized a couple years earlier that even when the chain link gates to the school were closed and chained they were not always locked. Sometimes our 1 city policeman would close the gates and make the chain and its lock look like they were locked. Upon closer inspection you would find the chain was just looped back on itself and the lock not fastened. On this night (October 23, 1982) the gate was locked, so we had no fear of anyone driving through the school and seeing us….perfect
Even with the gates locked, the one on the North end of the school had space under it that we could lay down on the asphalt and crawl underneath. Next to this gate was a large green building with a large set of sliding doors (This green building is no longer there…long since torn down and replaced with a red brick Vo-Ag/FFA Building.). It was the maintenance building and was always locked….On the school grounds there were two night lights…one on the north end of the football field connected to a large light tower…and the other was on the south end of the football field next to the football concession stand. The point…The 50 yard line of the football was prime real-estate for a new park to be built under the cover of darkness.
The Benches and the Trash Can
We moved our cars to a back alley near Sam White’s house so they were not near the school. Sam was the local judge. Two of his son’s were good basketball players for SMHS and Stickman and Beets knew them both. After parking our cars we stripped off our bright shirts and replaced them with black ones. I always grabbed a dark shirt when we went out, knowing it might be needed later. If you hoodlamize in a white shirt you’re asking to get caught.
After changing shirts we quietly and stealth-fully proceeded to the high school gate. We rolled under the gate and went right into action. We grabbed a trash can and carried it out to the 50 yard line of the football field and surveyed the area. We went back to the smoking area and grabbed a concrete bench. We thought these benches would weigh 100 pounds or so. Wrong!! These concrete benches were straight up heavy. I could stack 6X9 railroad ties on the sawmill and these benches had to weigh 250-300 pounds. We all three grabbed one bench and toted it out to the 50 yard line. Then we laughed our way back to get another bench. After the third bench we sat down on them to get a feel for our new park. We sat there for a few minutes but our Park just did not look or feel right. Something was definitely missing!
The Missing Piece to the New Park
Again we looked at each other knowing this was not good enough. Come Monday morning a couple of people would have the benches back in place in minutes. Nope this just didn’t have the bite we were looking for. That’s when we realized what our little park needed. Call it, in modern terms…going green. Our park on the 50 yard line of the football field needed……..a …………..TREE. Yes, it needed a maple tree. That would top off our park design nicely.
Making a Pact and our Trust in Each Other
In order to plant a 7 foot tall maple tree we were going to need to dig a big hole. The root ball on a tree of that size is nearly 3 feet in diameter…That’s a large hole when you have nothing to dig with. We knew if we took this step and planted this tree we had to say nothing to no one. It would be very, very bad if anyone found out. We looked each other in the eye and made a pact that we would say nothing until all three of us agreed it was OK. I contacted Tom Hill, who is now an Assistant Director of Athletics at Baylor University and Don Harding who works in the Preston County, WV Board of Education Office and we agreed that 29 years is long enough and that the statute of limitations has passed on our little prank. I trusted these men then and to this day would do anything for them. 29 years and they have kept our hoodlamizing story quiet. We each knew the three of us could trust each other to stay quiet and we each knew what we stood to lose if anyone found out it was us. To this day they are true and loyal friends and have said nothing of these adventures. Loyal friends, as you know, do not come along often.
Digging the Hole
With the decision to plant the tree on the 50 yard line of the football field we moved into gear. The next thing we did was get the maple tree. We went over to where they had been planted a few weeks before. The first one we grabbed was too big. We tried to pull it out of the ground with no luck. The second tree was not quite as big and with some digging through the mulch with our hands we got enough of it out of the way to pull the entire tree and burlap covered root ball out of the ground. The major concern here was the night light. The trees were located next to the school near one of the night lights. We were in trouble if someone drove by on the side street and looked into the school area. We moved quickly and pulled the maple tree out of the ground and out to the 50 yard line.
As we stood there laughing we realized we had no way to dig a hole big enough. We looked under the bleachers and found nothing...We went over by the concession stand and found nothing we could use to dig with. Finally one of us looked toward the old green maintenance building down by the gate (It’s now a red brick Vo-Ag/FFA Building.). We went over to it but it was locked. We soon realized that we could push the sliding door outward and slide behind it. There were probably only a handful of people in the school small enough to slide behind the door. Regardless, it was a tight fit but we slid inside looking for a digging device. It was pitch dark and we didn’t dare turn on a light. All we could do was feel-around with our hands in the dark. We found nothing except 3 short pieces of angle iron, each about two feet long. Angle iron is a piece of metal “L” shaped and roughly 3 inches wide on each side of the “L”. We realized this wasn’t great but it would have to do.
At 11:20PM we slid out of the green building and eased back to our 50 yard line park. We got down on our knees and started digging. Stickman, Beets and I worked in silence. We were on a mission…We’d made a decision to do this and moved into action. The deeper we dug the harder the earth got. We dug with the angle iron to loosen the dirt and then we would pull the dirt out of the hole with our hands and a coffee can we found in the green building. We dug and dug and dug some more. This was no different than a long workout we thought. We worked in silence…getting the job done. Finally at 1:30AM we decided the hole was big enough. Our knees hurt…Our backs hurt…Our hands hurt from digging…Our finger nails were worn down to the quick. We slid the tree into the hole and it was nearly a perfect fit. Then we placed some dirt around the burlap sack covering the root ball. Tapped the dirt down with our angle iron making sure we left not foot prints…and no hand prints. Then we sat down on the concrete benches and admired our work. Yes, we concluded, this was the perfect park for the football field.
The Angle Iron
The way we had it figured the angle iron was the only thing connecting us to the digging. As we left I asked Tom and Don to give me the angle iron. I told them I would make it disappear. We got into our respective cars and each headed home anxious for Monday to arrive for news of our new park and to see who would take credit for…in our minds…our masterpiece.
As I headed north on Rt. 2 towards my home on Mt Carmel Ridge I crossed the Middle Island Creek Bridge. I stopped my parent’s car on the bridge and quickly tossed the angle iron over the edge into the Middle Island Creek below. Middle Island Creek is more like a river at this point so there was no fear of anyone ever seeing the angle iron again.
School Monday
On Monday, a day and a half later I arrived at school nervous and anxious. What would happen? Stickman, Beets and I made a pact and our pact of silence was in place. We would tell no one. Heck we’d hoodlamized numerous times over the years and no one ever suspected us. This would be no different. Someone else would take credit for it. Why were we confident of this? Someone else always took credit for it…and that was just fine with us.
Robbie Prim, the Hurdles and his 3 days of Vacation
We were confident because we remembered the time we set the hurdles up on the school roof. Our coach required our hurdlers to carry the hurdles into the locker room each Friday after practice for fear something would happen to the hurdles if they were left out over the weekend. On this particular weekend we were in the mood to do something and we knew the hurdles had been left out…again. Actually this made 2 weeks in a row they had been left out. We felt obligated to confirm our coach’s fear. So, we carried each hurdle up the outside stairs that serves as a fire escape for the 2nd floor of SMHS next to the Chemistry room (Back then these stairs were just outside Ms. Barnhart’s room. Ooooh yea...We boys liked her class a lot and it wasn’t because we liked Chemistry.). Near the top of the stairs you could, with little effort, step over onto the roof of the school. The cool thing about this roof was that when you were in a room on the 2nd floor on the northeast side of our school you could look out any window onto this roof. So we carried the hurdles up these stairs onto the roof…hurdle after hurdle. Then we set them up as if someone planned to hold hurdle practice on the roof of our school. We knew Coach Rea would be very upset and consequently our hurdlers would have some extra running and bear crawls on Monday.
On the Monday morning following our setting up of the hurdles on the roof, I sat in my homeroom wanting to look out the window. I couldn’t be the one that discovered the hurdles…someone would surely know it was me if I spotted them first. So, I sat there waiting for someone to look out our homeroom window. As I talked to Richard Steele, who sat in front of me in homeroom, I noticed he was looking towards the window. He then stood up and started laughing pointing towards the roof mentioning the hurdles. I never even got out of my seat…I looked like little Billy in the movie “Christmas Story” when they challenged their friend to stick his tongue to the flag pole and the teacher asked Billy where his friend Flick was…. “Flick...Flick who?” he responded. Anyone paying attention would have thought it odd that I just sat there looking at the chalk board. Eventually I joined in the laughter and people started speculating who had done it. Oh it was funny to everyone and I laughed along. It was a good way to start a Monday.
Later in the day I ran into Tom Hill in the hallway. He came up and asked me, “Did you hear?” “Hear what” I asked? “They caught the person that put the hurdles on the roof”, he said. I was confused as I looked at him. He was looking at me with a more serious face than I was used to seeing. I started feeling the pit in my stomach as he continued, “All day Robbie Prim has been bragging about putting the hurdles up there”, he said. I looked at Tom as we started to laugh. We knew someone would claim credit which is one of the things we got the biggest chuckle out of. Stickman continued, “Yea, I think he’s in trouble.” “Mr. Smith (our principle) just pulled him out of class”, he said. Later that same day we found out Robbie Prim got 3 days out of school suspension for telling people he set the hurdles up on the roof and then subsequently lying to Mr. Smith that he didn’t do it. He went around school claiming credit for something that he did not do and then when Mr. Smith called him on it he denied being the guilty person which Mr. Smith did not believe. His denying it to Mr. Smith made our principle mad and led him to give Robbie 3 days out of school suspension. We really felt bad that he got 3 days suspension for something he did not do, but we always thought he should have never taken credit for something he did not do in the first place. We did think it ironic that he got 3 days suspension for actually telling Mr. Smith the truth…because Robbie really did not do it.
23 Years After the 50 Yard Line Park
Amazingly, no one within SMHS took credit for planting the tree and making the park in the days, weeks and months that followed. It was presumed that folks from Frontier HS, our rivals across the Ohio River, had snuck into town and done the deed. The folks from the yearbook did take a photo of our park before it was dismantled. The photo made our 1983 SMHS yearbook (page #170--see photo top of this story). Tom, Don and I still laugh about it today. A few people outside of our little group know the real story. Tom, Don and I thought we’d fess up now that enough time has passed.
From here you must fast forward to Friday, March 25, 2005. I was at a track & field meet with my University of Richmond team when a former classmate from SMHS ran into me. We had spoken the year before and he knew that our team would be there. I really enjoyed seeing him and catching up on his family. I don’t want to mention a name here because I really do not want to embarrass him. As he and I sat there with my wife and my college teammate, Howard Nippert…my classmate from SMHS proceeded to explain how he had planted a tree on the football field back in high school. Of course my wife and Howard had each heard the story from me, Tom Hill and Don Harding numerous times over the years. Their heads jerked as they looked at me and then at my SMHS classmate. I was stunned. I asked my classmate to clarify what he was talking about and he proceeded to explain that the shovel he used to dig the hole is still in his dad’s garage. I was thinking that I wish we’d had a shovel that night… Again, I sat there stunned asking for more details as he added to the story referencing the photo in the 1983 yearbook. My mind drifted back to my loyal friends and the solemn pact we made on Saturday, October 23, 1982…to Robbie Prim…my high school teammates… and the great memories from those days…and just how lucky I was to have grown up in the small town of St. Marys. I walked out of the stadium with my cell phone and called Stickman in Waco, TX to tell him the latest development on our 23 year old “50 Yard Line Park” from 1982. He listened to the story and his laugh was exactly the same as it was that cool October night in 1982….Nothing had changed.


  1. I haven't laughed so hard in a long time. All my life I have been mislead, you were the epitome of an angel to me. What great memories you must have!

  2. Steve,

    I love the West Virginia stories! These are great!

    Hope all is well in Richmond ---

    Diane Kenaston

  3. Steve, I love it. An Elkins kid who saw the football team get all that ink and the emerging XC program as the Rodney Dangerfields of town, getting no respect; this hits home. Lots of stories to tell about Nichols in Elkins (and Will Shaw), too. Thanks.