Wednesday, June 20, 2007

TCC: The Fifth Crumb, Part II

No, Scouting was not the only thing unto my life back then. For I continued to excel academically.

Proof of that can be found in the fact that I was chosen to be a member of the "National Honor Society" in the first year of eligibility; and in the 1975 Edition of "Who's Who Of American High School Students": you will find my name, along with a brief profile.

There were a few hiccups, however. Some worse than others; and a D- in the fourth quarter of my sophomore year in Algebra II kept me from finishing in the top 10 of my graduating class.

Now, reading and (w)riting had always been a lot easier for me than (a)rithmetic; but that grade that cost me so dearly had more to do with my attitude than an inability to pass any tests. For I just quit on the class.

During the summer: my parents administered an attitude adjustment upon me; and that was the end of any grades below a B. That is: at least for the time being.

Nonetheless: the damage was already done. For the grade average of the Class of 1976 was very high; and I wound-up graduating twenty-first out of 114.

Thankfully: The damage was not scholastically fatal. For I received letters of inquiry from dozens of schools that wanted me to give them some consideration.

One of those letters even came from Harvard in Cambridge, MA; and even though they did not offer me a scholarship outright: I still found the letter quite flattering. For it did say that they would see what they could do for me if I would come up there and check them out.

After all was said and done: I found myself enrolled in the University of Missouri at Columbia (around 200 miles north-northeast of Cassville) for the fall semester. For they had offered me enough scholarships and grants to avoid having to take-out any student loans.

A job in their "Work-Study Program" was also included in my financial-aid package at Mizzou (mostly for the purpose of giving me a little spending money while school was in session); and that was where I had my first experience with computers. For my job involved feeding computer cards into a key-punch machine, along with sorting them after they had been processed. Yes, it was certainly a different world back then.

I imagine that it was a combination of things that kept the door open for me to pursue a higher education. Not the least of these was undoubtedly being a member of the bands at Cassville High School. For both the concert band and the stage band were perennial state champions in both the Class 2 and overall categories; and the marching band received an invitation to compete in an international competition being held somewhere in Europe.

No, we did not get to go to Europe. For the cost was just too prohibitive.

Nonetheless: we did have our moments. For providing the half-time entertainment for a Arkansas Razorback football game (at Fayetteville, AR, around 75 miles southwest of Cassville) once a year was certainly a thrill.

There were, however, some moments that were not so thrilling. For I came to despise having to march in Cassville's annual Christmas Parade; and I did not feel much better about performing at all of those high school football games, neither.

It was a different story with being in the concert band. For we got perform classics like: Rossini's "William Tell Overture" (The Lone Ranger TV Show Theme) and Tchaikovsky's "1812 Overture"; and we performed them well. In fact: it could be said that we performed them very well. For one would be hard-pressed to distinguish between our 1973 recording of the William Tell Overture and some made by full professional orchestras.

The same can be said of being in the stage band. For we got to perform arrangements of both contemporary hits and classical jazz by musical greats like: Maynard Ferguson, Stan Kenton, and Buddy Rich.

Another one of those things that helped to pave a way for me to formally attain higher learning had to be joining the debate team in my senior year of high school. For Russell Brock and I made it all the way unto the State Finals before losing unto St. Louis Parkway East and St. Louis Parkway West (which were over 10 times larger than Cassville) in the first-round.

Sports participation was probably not a factor. For I did letter in golf for 3 years; but I never did place very high in any tournaments.

Nonetheless: I did show some talent. For I averaged 9.7 putts per 9 holes in my senior year.

Needless to say: it was getting into a position to putt that was the problem. For it does not matter if you can putt with your eyes closed if cannot see where your ball went along the fairway more times than not!

No, it was not only on the greens of a golf course where I displayed some potential. For in the first semester of my freshman year (1972): I could run a 4.6 (seconds) 40 (yards); and the head football coach asked my father to let me play ball for him.

Oh how I wanted to be on the field with pads and a helmet on instead of blowing my horn during half-time; and I do believe that I would have been very good at it. For aside from being really fast for a white-boy in that day and age: I could leg-press at least 440 pounds (that was as high as the equipment went); but in the end: none of that mattered. For my parents were afraid of me getting seriously hurt (Rheumatic Feveritis, no doubt); and the subject was not open for discussion.

I could have played basketball; but that was not a viable option for me. For I was just plain not good enough.

Evidently: my father was good enough in his day. For he was a 4-year starter at Blue Mound High School; and the University of Kansas offered him a full scholarship to play point-guard for Phog Allen (generally considered to be the "Father of Basketball Coaching") and his Jayhawks.

Sadly: he turned-down their offer. For the call of the pipeline was too strong to resist; but he did have a story that few could tell about themselves.

He also had some stories about his playing days at Blue Mound to share when he was in the mood. One of them was about him making 2 free-throws in a game at home during his freshman season.

No, it does not sound like much of a tale to tell; but when the rest of the story is heard: the plot most definitely thickens. For those 2 free-throws were the only points made for Blue Mound in a 100 - 2 loss!

The next day the School Principal called for an assembly of the entire high school; and then he announced that he would disband the team and forfeit the rest of the season if things did not change for the better in a hurry. For he was not about to let a bunch of loafers make a laughing-stock out of his school.

No, this was not an idle threat; and in many eyes of the community: the time for such drastic action was undoubtedly at hand. For with the starting line-up of that team being: 6'11", 6'11", 6'10", 6'9", and 6'0" (my father), there was no way that it should ever lose a game so badly.

Much unto the joy of all concerned: the players heard the message. For they went the rest of the season undefeated.

Yes, they must have been feeding those boys the "really good stuff"; and Blue Mound does not appear to be an isolated case. For I observed a gentleman (who appeared to be of the same age as my father would be) in Liberal, KS (around 400 miles west of Blue Mound) having to duck in order to pass through a 7 foot tall door.

Despite the bitter disappointment of not being allowed to play football: my high school days were most enjoyable for the most part; and this was especially true of my senior year. For I averaged being in class only 3 days a week because of all of the school activities I was in.

Yes, one would think that being so busy would lead unto some logistical nightmares; and one week-end in April of 1976: it did. For I had a concert and stage band competition, a golf match, the Missouri State FBLA (Future Business Leaders of America) Convention, and the Missouri State Forensics (Speech and Debate) Finals to participate in.

Needless to say: I had a lot of people upset with me. For I had not figured-out how to be more than one place at one time yet.

I finally settled upon going unto the Debate Finals in Kirkwood, MO (suburb of St. Louis, around 275 miles northeast of Cassville). For that was where I was the most needed.

The Debate Finals was not where I most "wanted" to be, however. For that was in the presence of my girl; and who could blame me? For she was the fairest in all of the land.

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