Travelling B.O.B.s : A Halloween Bedtime Story

When I said I had stories for years, I meant it.

In the 16 years we’ve been travelling as a pack, Jefferson, Texas, made it into our top three B.O.B. Girl’s Weekend destinations.

With the official title of the ‘Most Haunted Town in Texas’, Jefferson stole our ghost-hunting hearts years ago when we learned they also have an annual Mardi Gras celebration every year.

So, most years we went there twice – once for the ghosts and once for the beads.

The first time we travelled the five hours (10 hours if you are us) to Jefferson, we stayed in the famously haunted Jefferson Hotel.

We pulled into the town of 2,000 people with two goals: to hunt for ghosts, and to find the legendary Murder Alley where a murder had presumably happened, sometime in history. Nobody seems to know for sure, and anyone who might have is probably dead.

We accomplished one of those things. Murder Alley wasn’t the one, but we stand firm by the notion that we found the hounds that guard it.

It was about a month before Halloween on a full moon night when we went on our first guided ghost tour throughout the town, and it really was scary. In fact, by the end of the tour, we could have been the official spokeswomen for a Depends commercial.

Already primed by the stories surrounding some of the best stops on the tour – the Jefferson Hotel,  the Grove and the Schluter Home, to name a few – it was a natural that we decided in the middle of the night it was time to try and find this Murder Alley without the benefit of a guide, or even anyone who had been to the town before.

What could possibly go wrong?

So, so much.

We set out, all giggles and carrying flashlights and our Bubba mugs filled with liquid nutrition.

After finding some seriously fascinating historical tidbits – a 200-year-old church with a tree growing out of the baptismal pool in the back; an historical ghost giggling in Shawnee’s ear and some natural and very woodsy restrooms, we sensed we were close to finding Murder Alley.

We approached the suspected area which was marked by old stone fences on each side, and body fluids of ghost hunters before us. It was ominously dead quiet.

But that didn’t last long.

Out of nowhere came the words, “you are about to die.” Only it was spoken in loud, menacing barks from the frothing mouths of the hounds of hell that we could not see.

Without speaking a word, all five of us turned around and began running, the ice in our Bubba mugs sounding like festive maracas.

Lynda, the only B.O.B. who regularly works out, passed all of us high-stepping in a way that would make any marching band hire her as a consultant. She beat us all handily, mostly because the rest of us were laying on the ground winded from our first 10-yard sprint in 20 years. But we survived.

Happy Halloween. When you go out there this year, arm yourself with a workout plan, a flashlight, a Bubba mug, and a slow friend … just in case.

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In honor of women, specifically funny women, I want to share with my readers my favorite blog of the week.

Click here, y’all! —->True Confessions of a Soccer Mom

This week’s funny woman is Kathryn Mayer, whose hysterical and socially-aware blog is entitled Writing Out Loud.

I met Kathy, a native and resident of Newtown, Connecticut, at an Erma Bombeck Writer’s Conference a few years ago. I am obsessed with her humor, her humanity and her grit. I encourage you to check out her piece on soccer moms, because really, there’s a soccer mom in all of us.

To support these writers, I ask you to share their work on social media, your own blog, email or here in the comments.

I’d love to hear your favorites, because we all need more funny in our lives.

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Traveling B.O.B.s: That time we babysat a horse

Well, it’s that time of the week again.

The time where I bang my head against stationary objects until I think of something remotely entertaining to write. Sometimes I even bang it on stationery objects, like a pen.

That is just the first phase of the process for a writer like myself. Eventually I move on to sitting down at a keyboard and typing, crying optional.

It’s not that I lack subject matter – my life is usually highly entertaining, just not reportable to the masses.

Still, I am surrounded by the most amazing women – every one of them – and I have stories for days, maybe years. With that in mind, I gave the stationary objects a break.

I have a group of friends I travel with every year, and we just returned from our 16th annual weekend away.

We call ourselves the B.O.B. Club, pay dues every month and use that money to fund the weekend trips.

In the past 16 years we’ve travelled through Texas and Oklahoma. We have seen and done things that prove real life is, indeed, stranger than fiction.

One of those trip was to the Fort Worth Stockyards a few years ago. We stayed at a hotel in the the middle of the stockyards, all five of us in one room.

For some reason, there was no hot water that morning for showers, which was noted by a shrill scream of the first one in and followed by four more.

We left the hotel around noon, looking like we hadn’t seen daylight since 1642.

After lunch, we parked ourselves on a large picnic bench in front of the famous White Elephant Saloon armed with a Michael Jackson t-shirt we bought on a clearance rack for $2 and a fresh Sharpie. We then proceeded to ask strangers to sign the shirt as their favorite celebrity with plans to give it to somebody really gullible or list it on Ebay next to the Virgin Mary cheese toast.


One of our celebrities

B.O.B. Lynda pets the dog of another celebrity

We had more takers than anyone could believe, and thought we were going to get Wyatt Earp for sure when a cowboy rode up on his horse and dismounted in front of our picnic bench.

Shawnee, the clairvoyant of our group, said, “I hope he doesn’t ask me to babysit his horse.”

So, he did.

A reasonable facsimile of the horse we cared for

We babysat a horse in the Fort Worth Stockyards while his chaps and spurs wearing owner went into the White Elephant Saloon for a cold one. I guess we technically horsesat.

While Shawnee charged a fee for people to pet the strange horse, the rest of us continued asking strangers to sign the t-shirt that was eventually lost anyway.

Things like this are why we keep doing it year after year.

These memories, and so many more, are the tapestry my highly entertaining life is made of.

B.O.B.s Shawnee and Janice during one of our more serious discussions

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Iowa Park – 48 years in our hometown

It was 48 years ago this week that my family moved to Iowa Park and started this newspaper, the Iowa Park Leader.

I was four.

You could say I grew up in the midst of all things journalism and  Iowa Park, and both are part of who I am.

In these 48 years, we as a family and staff,  have been honored to serve this beautiful, quirky and proud town – what we call our hometown – through some bright and beautiful times, as well as a few dark and desperate ones. The latter is always hard, but history has a right to have honest record of those as well.

In this almost half-century, we have made, and a few times sadly, lost, life-long friends. We have been inside almost every business in town, attended close to every public meeting, and have served on councils and boards to do our part to inform and be a part of the fabric of  Iowa Park. We have recorded Iowa Park’s history as it has heppened and is happening, and it makes us proud.

Like most newspapers, we’ve have had death threats – luckily, few – and we have seen people at their worst. That makes us sober and I think, pragmatic.

More often, we catch people at their best – this is what keeps us in the newsroom, and around the community. The generosity and spirit of our students; the outpouring of love, time and resources I have personally witnessed consistently in my time here when someone local or not needs a helping hand. Iowa Park has quite a heart, we are happy to report.

Both are what keep the balance, I’m just glad the good side of the scales are always heavier.

 

Because this is my space, I get to brag on our staff just a little.

The publisher, Dolores Hamilton, has been at the helm the entirety of our existence. As she is my mother, I have seen her during this time not only raise five extreeeemely well-behaved children, but also work the tremendously long hours required to keep a budding newspaper afloat and feed a family. I am proud of her for this. She has, in her career, done every single job in this newspaper and done them well.

Some other things most people don’t know, but I do, make me even prouder than this. When I was young, in the middle of all of this, Mom also took painting and piano lessons for herself. She planted the seed that made the Gordon Lake Walking Track project grow, and then continued to water it. I know because she made me help. I don’t know if she has ever known how much those things impacted my life.

Kevin Hamilton, editor, sports editor, photographer and another heir apparent of many hats, is always the guy in the background with a camera. But never in a creepy way. He captures the best moments Iowa Park has to offer and records them here, each week. He is, I say with great confidence, one of the best photographers in the state of Texas and has the hardware to prove it. During his time here, Kevin has covered meetings, banquets, assemblies and spent thousands of hours at sporting events covering our athletes all the way to state competition, much of that in his personal time. In addition, he is a helluva writer.

Also, he’s my brother and he didn’t pay me to say any of that. Seriously, Iowa Park, you are lucky to have him.

Last but not least is reporter and feature writer, Sherrie Williams. She is also a photographer and circulation manager. We have a small office with many jobs, and she has managed to be worth five times her weight in gold.

Sherrie has worked with us for 20 years and covers events, writes features, serves on the city council and some state boards. Over the years I regularly see her work all day at the paper, then work several evenings a week either for the newspaper, or for civic organizations to raise money to help other people. She has headed up 9/11 ceremonies, July Fourth events, and worked more Whoop-T-Do’s than anyone I know. She truly loves Iowa Park. She also has the best memory of anyone I know – it’s scary.

This week also happens to be my 33rd anniversary at the paper.  For those wondering, I got a brand new iMac on my desk.

But, so did Kevin, so … I’m still working out what that means.

I also publish these columns on my blog, www.onefunnybroad.com. I encourage you to check it out.

I mention this because I was looking at my stats for the year this weekend, and I noticed that I have readers from literally all over the world.

I’m not bragging, though. It was cool because some of my most-read blogs are those about Iowa Park, which means people from around the United States and  dozens of countries around the world have heard of Iowa Park, Texas.

My hometown.

Our hometown.

Thank you for a fun and heartfelt 48 years with you. It is a pleasure to be a voice for our community.

 

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Welcome to Iowa, Park in Texas (where commas are important)

Although I moved to the fair community of Iowa Park, Texas when I was a worldly four years old, I consider it my hometown.

For some people reading this, it will be preaching to the choir to lay out the logistical nightmare of ordering something on the phone when the town you’re from has the name of a state in it, just not the state you reside in.

When the early settlers from Iowa arrived in what is now known as Iowa Park, Texas, their first inclination was to name the town Daggett Switch, which had something to do with the railroad but sounds suspiciously in the same neighborhood as Possum Holler.

Ultimately, it was decided that a nod to their home state was warranted, and tacked “Park” onto the end because the original city plat boasted nine. Iowa Park today officially has 8.

The year all that took place was 1888, and how were they to know that more than a century later it would cause people like … us … massive confusion any time you have to order something over the phone and have it shipped.

My experience while ordering things to be shipped to our office in the past month has been:

Order Taker: City, please?

Me: Iowa …

Order Taker: No, city first please.

Me: The city is Iowa Park.

OT: Iowa Park?

Me: Yes.

OT: (Deep sigh) Zip Code?

Me: 76367

OT: But, that’s in Texas. I thought you were in Iowa?

That my friends, is why commas are important. As are patience and forgiveness for our town fathers and mothers, in my experience.

For instance, I want to scream my zip code right after I give the company name but decorum prevents that. They also won’t let you give your zip code first and work backward. I’ve tried.

I thought one time about pitching the current city council a few different ideas for memorable, yet un-confusing names. My favorite, yet unsustainable, name was “I’m From.” That way you can answer anyone who asks you where you live with “I’m From, Texas”. It’s efficient, right in your face and equally confusing.

It just won’t work because the next question will always be “Where in Texas?” It would be like Abbott and Costello’s* Who’s on First routine, only with a heavy drawl and weaponry. I’m getting old and I don’t have any more time for that than I do the original problem.

So, Iowa Park it is.

Salute!

Seriously though, we love visitors. Our official slogan is truly “The Town of Friendly Living.”

We don’t care where you park – Welcome to Iowa Park, in Texas.

In the spirit of give what you’ve got, your prayers, love and thoughts are sought and needed by those affected by Hurricane Harvey in the coast of Texas and Louisiana, as well as Puerto Rico, Haiti and Florida which is expected to bear the brunt of Hurricane Irma this week..

I have friends and family affected by both, and it is heart-breaking and life-changing. In that spirit, please give what you can of things people need. Lately when I’ve been shopping I’ve been asked if I want to give a dollar of my purchase to hurricane relief. I do, and I do. It’s not much, but if enough people do it, it adds up. And the need is great, and about to be greater.

Give what you can, when you can. It is showing me the good in this country in the midst of political discord. No questions are asked because people need help.

In that vein, I want to thank the people from Iowa Park who have worked to help people – some they might know, most they do not – in a time of dire need. There are far too many to name, and I would leave out a name (I know me), and they don’t do it for a pat on the back anyway.

Our city has given money, and generously. They have filled a semi-truck and more, and they have offered their homes for refuge, all of which is the primary spirit of this country.

Many communities are doing this, thankfully. But I don’t come from most communities,

I come from Iowa Park, Texas, The Town of Friendly Living. A town that is not in Iowa.

 

**** For six hours, everyone who read this knew that I don’t know my comedy acts from days of yore. My hero was Gilda Radner. Thanks to my now editor-at-large Richard for  setting me straight that it was not, in fact, the Three Stooges who did that brilliant bit. This isn’t the first time he has saved me from myself.

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Look for the helpers

With all eyes seemingly on the coast of Texas and Louisiana, I have been no different, keeping close watch on several good friends from high school who now live in Houston or the greater Houston area.

The historic hurricane Harvey made landfall Friday in Corpus Christi, and the result since has been record-breaking rainfall on United States soil, most of it in Houston and the surrounding areas.

News and social media coverage has made it much easier to get accurate news, and check on friends and family. Luckily, most of those I know have escaped injury and a significant loss of property.

Some have even been able (and more importantly, willing) to leave their homes and neighborhoods and help others deal with their losses.

We got word at the newspaper yesterday that several residents from Iowa Park left for the coast to aid in the rescue efforts. Some were sent with their jobs, and some went as private citizens and took boats with them. One of our locally-owned gas stations donated the fuel for the trip.

A locally-owned pizza restaurant, Ken’s Pizza, raised in one day $7,100 for the Red Cross to aid victims. Even more have begun collecting necessary items to truck south.

At tragic times like this it is important to look for the helpers, because it is far too easy to find the problems. There is still more good than bad, my friends.

One of my friends who lives in Port Arthur used humor to make it through the worst days, sending me a picture taken in her back yard of a croc … Seriously, a shoe – that Croc – that had ended up in her back yard,  and said, “some people might not find this funny, but …”

Finding a bright spot, something to smile inside about, in tragic times is a healthy coping mechanism, I think.

And because it is my lifelong vocation and passion, I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge the local media who are covering their respective communities, many of whom I’ve known most of my life.

Not only have several had significant personal and business losses, but they are also charged with accurately covering the damage as it is occurring. And they are doing it in many cases with no electricity and with their staff scattered all over the state, helping remotely. Their own homes will have to wait, but the newspaper will be printed for the good of the community.

With national rhetoric as of late tearing down this honorable profession, it’s important I think to cast a light on the importance of what they are doing.

It’s important to send prayers and love and thoughts to these people on the Texas coast, but if you can, send more.

Many reputable news organizations are publishing lists of what is needed by the victims – and what is not needed – with organizations all over Texas taking donations and getting them to the proper place. Check that out and do what you can, even if it is only $10, a box of diapers or some feminine hygiene products.

And to my friends and family who live there, or who have travelled there to help out, stay safe and keep making sure that love bats last. Your spirit is healing in many ways.

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The nostalgic streets of a small town

I’m a huge fan of music, and its many genres.

And because music affects my moods – or maybe it’s vice versa  – I tend to binge on an artist for days at a time.

The first time I heard Beyonce’s Lemonade album, I was hard to be around for a couple weeks because I wanted to get in Formation and talk about Becky with the good hair.

I act like I’m Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers if I listen to too much Maroon 5; and I am the most empathetic being on the planet after a day with Adele.

Last week, after meeting Lynyrd Skynyrd and Carlo, I was feeling a particular amount of southern pride and gorged myself on their music, with T for Texas hitting me in  feels.

Of course it did.

This week began my in-car relationship with John Mellencamp, which has made me nostalgic, particularly about my early days in Iowa Park.

I made out to many of his songs when I was in high school, because that’s about all there was to do in small town, USA, on non-football game nights. But that is both a different and highly-edited column.

Coincidentally, his song Small Town is what made me think of Iowa Park – both how it was when I was growing up, and now – in that our town can be incredibly simple and charming.

My friend, Gary, was talking  to me this week about growing up in the 1970s on Kathleen Street, just off the access road.

He said the place to be back then was the ditch between his street and Louisa. It was where he and several others I know spent vast amounts of time swimming after a rain; building forts when it was dry;  and reading girlie magazines and committing  other nefarious acts undetected.

They are likely the reason parents  today are worried their kid will end up in a ditch.

I don’t see kids in ditches here so much these days. Probably because we have a top-notch water park and beautiful lake with a walking track, playground, basketball court and pavilion in our town now. Our city is literally keeping kids out of the ditches, in my opinion … good work, city and taxpayers.

But back in those days, without video games, cable TV or computers, our version of Facetime was showing up at a friend’s house  in the morning while their parents were at work to eat burritos and watch Green Acres before the swimming pool opened. That’s what I was doing, anyhow.

We played on our neighborhood streets  in the evening like small, harmless gangs organizing pickup football and baseball, until just past dusk when our parents forced us back inside.

Things are different now, only not so different.

We have nicer public offerings for our youth, for sure. Also, technology, social media and summer sports camps have changed what summer looks like in communities like ours, at least on the outside.

But our youth still need contact, fun and room to grow, which they still get even if they aren’t getting it in a ditch or from watching Green Acres.

The same, but different.

Thank you, John Mellencamp, for the reminder of my years on earth, and particularly in this small town.

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I wrote this just before a 4 day nap

I just spent a gloriously exhausting week with my daughter and grandson.

They flew back home to South Carolina Wednesday, so if you need me, I am taking a nap that should last somewhere around four days.

During the week, there was lots of food, love, and remembering going on.

And exhaustion, which is what brought about the remembering.

They say you forget, and you do. But there is no replacement for a toddler in the house to make me think, “Holy crap. I lived through that … twice.”

My almost two-year-old grandson  climbs like a mountain goat and runs like a Weeble with a track star’s legs. In addition he has the quiet determination of Jaws, and the mind of an engineer.

I don’t know how his mother is still standing, as I now need some assistance. But admirably, she is.

In retrospect, I probably should have been training for American Ninja, but I’m sure they wouldn’t want the responsibility of getting a grandma ready for the toddler olympics. “Too much, too soon,” they would say. And they would be right.

A lot has changed in the 30 years since I’ve been completely in charge of keeping a tiny human out of harm’s way. Food has changed, rules have changed and my ability to read a toddler’s mind has wavered more than a little

There’s now a thing called “Almond Milk,” and I didn’t even know you could milk an almond. But you can, and I have a half gallon of the stuff in my frig.

As a matter of fact, from what I can tell so far, almost every single thing I did with my kids should have rained certain death upon them, from letting them sleep on their stomachs as infants to never, ever feeding them green peas.

My children should never have survived me.

We had front-facing car seats, for God’s sake, but at least we had car seats.

In retrospect, I do remember my own mother driving around Littlefield, Texas, while three-year-old me stood in the front seat of her Country Squire station wagon wearing only panties and singing Downtown by Petula Clark. In the event of a sudden stop, her arm was my seatbelt. Every generation has it’s shame.

We’ve gone from free-range tots roaming in the front seat (1960’s) to sort of strapping them in the front seat (1980’s) to a four-point rear-facing seating system that faces backward in the back seat, today.

And yet we all survived.

Now they are home safe, and I am finding sad reminders that they were here – Cheerios in the couch cushions, a back that may never be straight again and that feeling in my heart that I cannot wait to be this exhausted again.

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Iowa Park really does rock, y’all

Plainview has the cows. Wichita Falls, the horses.

But, Iowa Park?

Iowa Park Rocks.

If you are one of my out of town/state readers, in Plainview and Wichita Falls, Texas, part of the art culture is the existence of  life-size cows and horses at businesses around town – all painted by local artists.

Personally, I love them.

But the rocks? They were new to me, and I love them also.

The rocks have captured a lot of people’s attention, including mine, and I have a notoriously short attention span.

But this phenomenon has people all over town looking up, at least for a while. It also has people interacting in person  by doing something called art. It’s all kinds of amazing.

A woman named Julie started this unlikely madness last week when she and her equally artistic family painted a bunch of rocks and put them all over town for people to find, and rehide. Or, keep and make another to put out.

It seems a lot of people are getting involved – local stores are running out of paint and smooth rocks have become the hottest commodity around town.

Local families are now communicating in person, instead of by text, and they are putting down their cell phones to paint.

Seriously.

Then they’re leaving their homes and hiding the rocks to bring somebody else a little happiness and spread their art.

Julie started something that matters.

It’s kind of a really cool “pay it forward” that jars us into the present, where most of us forget to live.

As someone who is genuinely surprised when a newly-constructed house pops up on a route I drive daily, I’m very bad at paying close attention, so this is good therapy.

Monday, Leader reporter Sherrie Williams and I found one of the painted rocks – a bumble bee! – hidden in a tree next to our office. I felt like I won the lottery, I got so much happiness out of that.

The rocks come with instructions, written in Sharpie on the back, to take a picture of your rock and post it on the Facebook page Iowa Park Rocks. We re-hid the bumble bee, by the way.

It’s a thing, and I’m feeling participatory. So much so, that my little masterpieces took four days to conceptualize. That’s a very long time for me considering I list instant gratification on my resume as a skill.

My rocks will be hidden as soon as they dry.

If you find a rock and feel the spirit move you, take a picture and post it on Facebook. If not, take it home and thank Julie for the gift.

Thanks, Julie. This has been a breath of fresh air the first week of Spring.

Iowa Park really does rock. Keep paying it forward, y’all. We need your art.

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Seriously, Frank, I’m almost over it. Almost.

 

I almost had closure.

Iwasthisclose.

Then I was robbed by those contagious allergies I wrote about last week.

It was about this time of year in 1973 in Mrs. Thompson’s third grade classroom at Kidwell Elementary School that Frank Johnson and I had an impossibly long and intense week-long romance that involved going steady and seeing each other at school.

Frank Johnson was my very first boyfriend.

I cannot remember how that romance began, but I can definitely remember how it ended. I got over it, and eventually recovered enough to get married to another man … but I remember.

Frank’s best friend, third grade wingman and apparent Texas Longhorn fan Kent Roberts sat in front of me in class.

At some point, Kent turned around and broke up with me on behalf of Frank. Then, he gave Frank the “Hook ‘em Horns” signal to indicate that the deed was done.

Like I didn’t notice.

I was sad for a number of reasons. We had never skated at Sand Beach Skating Rink because we weren’t in junior high yet; he had never been my homecoming date; I had never even ridden on the back of his bike.

I asked Kent, who is now an attorney in Arkansas, about it this week and he didn’t specifically remember the incident, but did not deny it. In fact he said, “I was kind of a sensitive kid, and I hated hurting anyone’s feelings. I was probably so relieved to have discharged my friendship responsibilities, I gave the ‘all clear’ sign without, um, full awareness of context. This is why I’m not a litigator.”

He added, “I was just a third grader, but guys really don’t get much better at some of this stuff.”

I got my chance at closure last week when I found out that Frank, who is now Athletic Director and head football coach at Holliday High School, had picked Iowa Park to play for their Homecoming.

Holliday is only 20 minutes away from Iowa Park, which some would say is within stalking distance. I developed a plan for closure with the help of friends.

In an act of platonic love that should never specifically be compared to stalking, two of my best friends and I ordered Frank a garter mum and had it sent to him at school last Thursday.

frank

Coach Johnson, y’all.

Coach Johnson’s Homecoming dates for 2016 were no doubt his wife, myself, Darla Flick Inglish and Shawnee Henderson Raines, as well as the entire IPHS Class of 1983. The streamers on his garter mum confirmed that.

In the interest of full disclosure and to prove that none of us are tarts, we did this with the full awareness and permission of Frank’s stunning wife, Tammy.

I was fully prepared to go to the game Friday night and scream, “something bad is about to happen!” if any of Holliday’s play calls involved the “Hook ‘em Horns” sign.

But it didn’t happen.

This time I was robbed by contagious allergies gifted me by my sister, who is suspiciously a University of Texas fan, and spent Friday night listening to the game on the radio while floating in a sea of Kleenex, nose spray and Lysol fumes.

Frank told me the next day that he waited to see all of his dates after the game, and was stood up. He was a little hurt and I was resisting the urge to chuck up a double-handed “Hook ‘em Horns” in support. I’m sure this won’t still be haunting him in 45 years, but you never know.

I’m not going to say anything about the football game because my momma always said it was rude to talk about another person’s religion, but you can read about it on page 2B of this week’s Iowa Park Leader.

Obviously, I don’t give up hope so easy – there’s always next year if Iowa Park chooses Holliday for our Homecoming.

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Friday Night Lights & Texas Homecomings

It was brought to my attention this year while talking to a marketing rep out of Washington State that not everybody ‘gets’ homecoming and football in Texas. He needed something from me – specifically time on the phone – in the last two weeks, and I didn’t have it to give. When he didn’t understand the words “homecoming has thrown up all over my desk,” I asked him if he’d ever seen the show Friday Night Lights. 

He had.

Then I said, “so you understand that football is close to its own religion in Texas, right?”

“Riiiiggghhht,” he answered, but I could tell he still didn’t understand that preparing for homecoming week is like preparing for the Pope to pop into town for the weekend once a year every year.

What this market rep does know is that he won’t get to talk to me until next week because, Homecoming in Iowa Park.

I never really considered that everyone didn’t grow up with Homecoming and bon fires and parades because it’s all I’ve ever known. I suppose all small towns have multiple generations graduate from the schools and have Friday night community reunions at the stadium.

It’s really easy to take that for granted, I think. I totally forgave myself when I realized this was my 47th consecutive homecoming in Iowa Park, so it is kind of like breathing.

This year, I decided at the last minute to take pictures at the game and really pay attention like I had never seen it before. Of course, I got distracted … a lot … by talking to people I hadn’t seen in 35 years (Shout out to Richie Haschke and Jeff Dietrichson!) and of course, by the FFA Corn on the Cob Stand.

This is for anyone who has never lived this charming spectacle called homecoming, unique in its own ever-evolving tradition and what it looks like to each generation. Absorb the glory, y’all.

Last week, I wrote about what I anticipated the weekend would hold. I think I hit the nail on the head on several counts but nothing was better than when my mother said, “I have never seen so many fanny shorts.” Also, pickle pops were 2 for $1 at the concession stand.

 

A couple of disclaimers. All I had was my iPhone, so you get what you get. I played with filters. More accurately, I took liberties with those filters. I never said I was a photographer … enjoy.

 

 

The Town

Welcome to Iowa Park, Texas, Population 6,355.

Itinerant merchants should consider themselves warned.

citylimits

Every year, Iowa Park has a Homecoming weekend in which reunions are held; alumni meet; and there are parades with fire trucks and floats, and bon fires and pep rallies, and a football game and a fabulous southern festival we Iowa Parkans call Whoop-T-Do. This is in a three-day period, and working at the newspaper it makes me tired and I need many naps.

The Crowd

The Homecoming Crowd (second disclaimer of the the post, and most likely not the last: Our stadium is not shaped like this. It seems that the iPhone panoramic shot can manipulate time and space) I have no idea what the capacity is, but rest assured it was full.

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The Tradition

Robert Wilcox, Iowa Park Hawk announcer for more than 65 years and considered by many to be the cornerstone of Hawk tradition around these parts.

He has the best announcer’s voice, and has never missed a game.
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This picture is what I meant when I was talking about generations. I know these fine people and that sweet baby boy is a third generation (maybe fourth) Hawk and the grandfather who is holding him played on the state champion football team the year my family moved to Iowa Park in 1969.

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The Mum

I’m going to be blunt here, and most likely indelicate. But in the words of my grandmother, you couldn’t swing a dead cat without seeing  mums. I could have taken pictures of mums forever. (Disclaimer: The Iowa Park Hawks beat the Bobcats 37-24, and there was no pun intended. I swear.) I’m sure you’re going to see glimpses of  mums in pictures to come, but the one below is the only full-on mum picture I took, for a few reasons.

wes_edited-1Wes and Kelsie of Chicago came home for Wes’ 10th class reunion at IPHS, which is so cool. Kelsie, is from Lubbock and had never had a mum because it was a large school. This was Kelsie’s very first mum, and the fact that Wes is wearing his high school football t-shirt, and Kelsie is wearing his Mom’s football pin of him from high school dead center in the flower is freaking amazing and so creative. For those who don’t know about mums, here are few fun fact:

  • Names of you and your beloved are on the streamers.
  • There are bells. Lots of them. If you hate casinos because of the noise, you will be allergic to homecoming.
  • You will see all kinds of things on mums these days, including feathers, tiny little helmets, and my personal favorite and seen for the first time this year … lights. Like little LED lights. If I ever get to luge in my life, I want to do it with waterproof and shock-proof LED lighting, for effect.

(Yet another disclaimer. Wes is not only one of my very best friend’s son, he was also one of my son’s roommates at Texas Tech. Am I playing favoritism? Absolutely not. I don’t think so. I like to think of it as serendipity. I made a mental note to be on the lookout for interesting mums and I happened to run into them in the parking lot before the game. If that’s not serendipity, I don’t know what is. )

Pre-kickoff Star-Spangled Banner by the Iowa Park Mean Green Marching Machine.

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This is the view of Hawk Stadium from the concession stand about 10 minutes before game time. The band plays their beautiful rendition of the National Anthem; folks stop what they’re doing and place the nachos they just purchased between their knees and place their hands over their hearts. The sun may not set in the West (just kidding, it will) but this will always be what the start of a home Hawk Football game looks like.

And while we’re on the subject . . .

The Food

Oh Lort. The food.

The concession stand in Iowa Park is run by the Iowa Park Band Boosters, and really has a big variety – the largest I’ve seen in all my years of attending games. However, Homecoming night, if you only want popcorn and a coke, it takes about 30 minutes and that is not during peak time.

Smart people plan ahead:

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Corn on the Cob by the Iowa Park FFA … ’cause it’s roasted in the husk then dipped in butter. Also, it is ridiculously good. Like this one:

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And, because in Texas one must season with wild abandon …

cornfixins

The Selfie

I don’t normally do selfies, but the irony in this did not escape me. I’m taking dinky pictures with my phone (and I will admit I shamed the family with my selfie stick), and this guy sitting next to me is one of the best photographers I know. Seriously. He’s my brother, Kevin, but he’s also one of the best photographers in the state of Texas (and has hardware to prove it). He and my dad before him (newspaper family thing) have walked these sidelines almost 50 years documenting the Hawks as a passion and vocation. In Iowa Park, the two of them would be considered a tradition.

 Kev also played football on this field when he went to IPHS.

(Disclaimer: I think he hated this)

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My favorite picture of the night.

I call it young love meet homecoming meets cell phones.

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The Game

I use to shoot football for the paper and know full well that getting a really good live action football shot with an iPhone is as likely as me eating a Brussels sprout. So please, if you’re expecting to be wowed by my mad action football photography skills, lower your standards.

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This is really the best I could do, which was get a good, sharp picture of a duffel bag of footballs. Only it was accidental  the footballs alone turned out that good. I kind of was going for the many elements of a football game in one picture  –player action, crowd, referee, coach, trainer and bag of balls – proving you can never have too many.

Apparently everyone in the picture below was being relatively still since they don’t look like they’re in the witness protection program. Much. Some of them, anyway.

ahawk

I took this picture of the referee coming out onto the field at the beginning of the third quarter. I felt of sudden pang of empathy for him, realizing that both sides equally cuss the referees. So, hats off to you guys….don’t know why you do it, but thanks. (Disclaimer: I’m not real sure that holding call in the first quarter was legit, but I am letting it go. )

refIt appears my iPhone chose to focus on the Hawk instead of the  man in stripes because he is moving waaay too fast for an iPhone to focus. I’m fine, I tell myself. It’s artsy.

No, it’s not.  But remember, I didn’t promise you a rose garden.

However, things are about to improve.

Because, yay touchdowns!

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The Spirit

Although I was never a cheerleader after having early problems with confusing claps and stomps , I have mad respect for the these ladies and athletes. These are the 2016 Hawk Cheerleaders.

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I got worried early in the night when the flag corp (students that run with flags that spell H-A-W-K-S after every touchdown), when the K and the S were missing. However, K and S found their way back and helped announce the last four touchdowns.

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The band. This one took me back because until the end of my freshman year in high school I played bass drum. I only quit because I had to march sideways with it, and at 90 pounds, a strong wind could blow me and my bass drum into the visitor’s parking lot.

Truly, no homecoming or football game is complete without the band. Iowa Park’s Mean Green Marching Machine is as much a part of the tradition as the game.

bandThe Queen

What we’ve all been waiting for. The announcement of the Homecoming Queen. This year was incredibly special as Alex Van Natta was voted the 2016 Iowa Park High School Homecoming Queen.

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This photo was provided by Iowa Park Leader photographer and this blogger’s brother, Kevin Hamilton. I told you he was good. Also, even my iPhone knew this moment was too special for it’s limited skills. Not one photo I took of Alex came out. Thanks Kevin; congratulations Alex; and I hope each of you enjoyed spending Homecoming in Iowa Park even it was through this blog.

One more, because

This was one of my more favorite shots because, the look on this little guy’s face says it all.

crownbearer

 

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