Homecoming time in Texas

It’s homecoming time in Texas, the time of year where you should be wearing a sweater and drinking pumpkin spice lattes, but instead it’s so hot you have to wear fanny shorts and suck on frozen pickle juice to avoid a heat stroke.

It’s the time of year for class reunions where there will be a certain awkwardness because Facebook has outed all the liberals and serious Candy Crush addicts, and everyone there will know who you are.

It’s the time of year when navigating your way around Hawk Stadium requires an absolute lack of personal boundaries or aversion to the sound of bells, specifically those attached to homecoming mums. It’s so crowded at the homecoming games that I understand it’s possible for children to be conceived with less physical contact than you will accidentally receive on your way to the fried corn on the cob wagon.

But even more noteworthy, it is a time of tradition; and rekindling of friendships; and of understanding change and reliving memories that shaped our lives.

You might notice the fact that the school you walked a mile to get to each day – uphill and in blizzard conditions – has changed.

Yes, the kids have it good these days, with a beautiful updated campus and a brand-new auditorium, gym, stadiums and more. They now carry their schoolbooks inside of a freakin’ iPad and enjoy stadium seating on the home side at basketball and volleyball games.

That mile is getting longer and the snow deeper, isn’t it?

But before you start shaking your fist like the old codger you swore to never become, think about this:

When the lever is thrown Friday night to turn on the lights at Hawk Stadium, you will be home.

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You will hear the familiar voice of Robert Wilcox, who has announced Hawk football games more than 65 years. You will hear your fight song and your school song; and you will not remember way too many names of people who have fond memories with you, but you will nod and smile like you do remember.

You may see turf in the place of the real grass you remember from your glory days, but there is a player on the field with the same drive and love for the game you had when you played.

Like me, you may remember sitting in those stands as a student . . . then a parent of a player, cheerleader or band member, and now as a nice return to all the goodness about small towns, including the fried corn on the cob the FFA sells at the home games. Mostly because it is home, but also because it gives us a human contact social media will never replace, and shouldn’t.

I fully expect it to be scientifically proven someday that the only cure for Facebook will be Texas homecoming games, which will give us a rather cool tourist industry. Mums would make great souvenirs and hot canned cheese poured over nacho chips from Sam’s  and sprinkled with  jalapeño slices grown in hell will be a destination favorite for people who still actually want to talk to other people face-to-face.

And that’s not all. There will be the annual bonfire Thursday night, Homecoming parade Friday afternoon; and Saturday promises a Whoop-T-Do, alumni activities and reunions. Add to that the many great restaurants and shops in town, and I smell the perfect weekend.

We will all be at the largest community gathering of the year where politics, religion and Candy Crush don’t matter. What matters is tradition and respect, and it’s already here.

Welcome home

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Iowa Park’s defacto community center

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Welcome to Iowa Park, Texas

Many of you know that for the money, I work at a weekly newspaper in Iowa Park, Texas. During my hours toiling at the newspaper office, I write a weekly column, sell advertising and utilitize my skills as a graphics artist. I often share my column on this blog, as I am today. The topic of it this week is welcoming Iowa Park High School alumni home for the biggest weekend of the year, Homecoming and our famous Whoop-T-Do festival.

Being a lifelong Texan, I sometimes take it for grantedthat all smaller towns consider high school football a religion, with services held each Friday night.

This is not necessarily the case.

It occurred to me that many of my blog readers and subscribers are not from around these parts, and never have been. It also occurred to me that many of you don’t even know where Iowa Park, Texas, is. (Shout out to Brazil, where I have my highest number of international readers!)

This is my introduction and welcome to Iowa Park, my hometown.

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I moved to Iowa Park when I was four years old and my parents started the newspaper here.

My first Homecoming memory in Iowa Park was the homecoming parade that year. I remember being so blown away that they had real horses in the parade. And those horses pooped on the streets, which further blew my four-year-old mind. I mentioned it to several contemporaries at my pre-school the following Monday and that was the first time (of many) I got in trouble at school.

(Fun fact: my favorite curse word is horseshit, which may or may not be related to that incident.)

But I digress.

We moved to a community that continues to have fall festivals, is proud of it’s home-owned businesses, and will help people out in need whether they are sick with mounting bills, or hungry. Iowa Park is my hometown, and I have a great love for the community and her people, although I moved to Wichita Falls four years ago, and commute back every day.

2015 marks my 46th Iowa Park Homecoming and Whoop-T-Do, which is to say I have probably eaten the collective body weight of the Green Bay Packers in sausage on a stick, funnel cakes and deep fried corn since I’ve been here. With it, of course, comes parades, homecoming queens, football games and bonfires.

……and great memories.

A newspaper is a recorder of a community’s history, in real time.

In the perfect world, community newspapers mirror the ebb and flow of life in the town they serve – births and deaths;  laws made and laws broken; meetings and dissenting opinions; victories and losses; and ultimately, the good and the bad.

We always hope for more good than bad, for the record.

A big part of Iowa Park’s tradition and history is the annual Homecoming and Whoop-T-Do, so it is a big part of our year here at the Iowa Park Leader.

And it’s here …. so welcome home to all of you who don’t live here anymore. We are truly glad you came back.

I’ve never lived far enough away from Iowa Park to have to actually “come home” for homecoming. I live in Wichita Falls now, so I drive 30 miles round trip to my hometown almost every day.

Even if you come to Iowa Park fairly often, you probably don’t notice the subtle, and even not-so-subtle, changes over time.

This week I was thinking about what it would be like to look at Iowa Park with new eyes, so to speak.

So I tried to look at what life is like in Iowa Park on my way to work from Wichita Falls this week with those new eyes.

I’m here every day but somehow the changes don’t register because they are a part of the daily grind while they occur.

But when you come back after not being here a while, you notice those things.

A new housing addition. You can buy a beer or margarita in town for the first time since actual saloons were a thing and we had one in downtown Iowa Park. A growing mountain (lovingly referred to as Mount Trashmore, since it is our landfill) on the main highway. How beautiful Gordon Lake has become. Iowa Park has a McDonald’s? All of these things and more.

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Gordon Lake

Our school campuses and Hawk stadium have changed in some fairly remarkable ways.

So look around and enjoy remembering the way things use to be.

Also, embrace the changes. Even with the changes you don’t like so much, it shows that Iowa Park is not in a rut – we are moving.

Of course, some things have not changed. Iowa Park still lives up to it’s name as “The Town of Friendly Living.” The spirit of giving and helping is still a cornerstone in this community. Our school pride and Hawk tradition remain as strong as ever. We are one of the few towns that has a full-service gas station and a home-owned newspaper, and our school cafeterias still serve hamburgers every single Wednesday.

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Ray Copening, owner of City Cafe, and my Mom and owner of the Iowa Park Leader, Dolores Hamilton, sitting in front of City Cafe

After 46 years, the Iowa Park Leader still covers the history of Iowa Park as it happens, something we are proud of. With computers, social media and advanced technology, the method of covering the news has changed, but our dedication to reporting it has not.

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Welcome to Iowa Park, IPHS alumni. We are glad you are a part of this week’s history.

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The oldest building in Iowa Park, and office of my sweet husband, Bobby, BMC Retirement Planning

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This is on the corner of that building, where I cut my name (with a heart over the i) when I was in junior high.

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