Archive for the ‘Memories’ Category

I know what you’re thinking – myself and my crack staff here at Shoe: Untied must be running out of ideas. To that we say never! Hey, you said the same thing a few years ago when I ranked numbers 0 through 9 and that story received lukewarm reviews was an internet sensation! If you haven’t read it here you go:

Ranking Numbers 0-9

Seriously, I ranked numbers.

Today, however, we shall discuss oddly satusfying sounds. Before we get to the good ones, though, let’s talk about a few that don’t don’t really fit the “oddly satisfying” category yet they are special in their own way. To wit:

  • The sound the icemaker makes in my fridge can startlingly terrifying, especially late at night. To this day I cock my head to listen, thinking for just a second that some ne’er-do-well is in my kitchen.
  • The Wondering Soul – I came across this horrifying video on YouTube late one night and may or may not have sat huddled in the corner the rest of the night. Also known as “Ghost Tape Number 10” was an audio mix the US military used for psychological operations in the Vietnam War against the North Vietnamese. It played deeply on the Vietnamese belief of ancestor worship, spirits and the afterlife.The Wandering Soul was played on loudspeakers installed on helicopters, PCF boats or by infiltrating infantry ‘loudspeaker teams’ on known enemy areas usually at night deep within the jungle. Diabolical, man. So yeah, bad sound.

  • We have a lot of coyotes in our area, and occasionally you’ll hear their pups all calling out at once. Someone told me their mom is out getting them food and they’re calling to her. Whatever cause it, it sounds like somebody opened the Gates of Hell.

Some sounds can elicit completely different feelings depending on the situation. For instance, there used to be an elementary school about 100-yards from my house and it was always great to hear the kids on the playground yelling, laughing and having fun during recess. On the other hand, one time when I was teaching in a really old school building I had to go to my classroom after scouting a basketball game to pick up something I’d forgotten. As I sat at my desk, looking through a drawer with only my desk light on, I heard a child giggling in the dark hallway. I assumed another teacher had to stop in for something as I had, so I went out and looked around. Nothing. Chills, man. I got the hell out of there.

But on to the cool sounds, the sounds of life that I love to hear. I won’t include music because that’s sort of obvious, is it not? Let us proceed . . .

  • The sound the sweeper makes when it pick up little rocks. I’m right, right? You know that damn sweeper is doing its job when you hear that sweet crackle.
  • A basketball swishing through the net. Of course I love that sound, especially in a quiet gym. Just a little twish or swoosh as the ball drops through. Love. It.
  • A basketball bouncing in an empty gym. I love the little “poing” sound it makes as it hits the gym floor. Of course, I also like the sound of 30 basketballs bouncing during a camp too.
  • Birds. Any birds. I got my love of birds from my mother, and I love any bird making any sound at all.
  • A screen door slamming shut. This goes back to my childhood, and I still love that sound.
  • Baby sounds. Yeah, 3-weeks ago this wouldn’t have been included, but now that I have my first grandchild I’ve been reminded how cool all the cooing and gibberish really is. Amazing.
  • Rain hitting a tin roof. I used to stay with my grandparents a lot as a kid, and they had a tin roof. As I slept in their living room with the windows open the sound of the rain hitting the roof put me right to sleep. So soothing.
  • Crowd, heard from the locker room. Sure, the crowd noise during a game was great, but there was something about being down in the locker room and hearing that muffled roar before we took the court that was always thrilling.
  • The crunch of Fall leaves under your feet. When you live in an area that has an annual Fall Festival of Leaves this has to be included, right? PS- In the Fall southern Ohio is one of the most beautiful places in the world.
  • Whir of a fan on a hot summer night. I’m talking about one of those old-fashioned oscillating fans. Like many I can’t sleep without a fan pointing in my direction.
  • Popping bubble wrap. Ah, the age old favorite, universally liked by almost everyone.
  • Walking through crusty snow. There’s something satisfying about that crunch, amirite?
  • Waves crashing ashore. This, this is why I always leave the windows open when I’m at the beach.
  • Opening an airtight jar. Something about that little “pop” that is cool to hear.
  • Sparky’s nails clicking on the floor when I get home. Of course I love most of the sounds The Spark makes, from his gentle snoring to the way he growls and whimpers while having a dream.
  • Bacon sizzling. This also happens to be a top smell. Bacon is at the top of many a list with me.
  • Fire crackling. Preferably during a cold Winter’s night or around a campfire.
  • Outdoors at night. – Frogs, crickets, it doesn’t matter. I’ve always been a night owl and I love the sound of being outdoors in the country.
  • The electric click of a mosquito flying into a bug zapper. Weird? Come on. You know you like it.
  • Popping open a can of beer or soda pop. Something about that click and hiss, that pffft, that . . . whatever you call it I like it.
  • Horse trotting down a street. That clickety-clop is sort of mesmerizing, no? Plus it gives me an excuse to post one of my favorite videos of all time:

Man, I love that video.

I also like certain words, like hush, serendipity and shenanigans. Hell, I wrote a few articles about words called Cool Beans! Words and Phrases That Need To Make A Comeback , Here Are 7 Words That Are Older Than You Think and Word Up: Snorkel, Curds and Uranus. Check ’em out!

So whaddaya say? What sounds make you happy? Let’s hear it!

We all heard ’em while growing up. Old Wives’ Tales. Some are so embedded in the fabric of our lives they’re nearly impossible to remove.  Without further ado, let’s take a look at 15 of the most popular ones and I’ll promptly debunk them. I’ll start with an Old Wives’ Tale (OWT), followed by the truth. Sorry in advance old wives, but you are about to be debunked.

OWT

You can catch a cold by going outside in cold weather without a coat or with wet hair.

TRUTH

You catch a cold through exposure to bacteria or viruses, not by actually getting cold. It’s just that viruses survive better in colder temperatures.

OWT

Reading in dim light hurts your eyes.

TRUTH

Reading in a darkly lit room might give your eyes some dryness or fatigue, but it won’t cause any serious or long-term damage. Chillax.

OWT

Humans only use 10% of their brains.

TRUTH

In reality, the entire human brain is constantly active—even when we are sleeping. That said, I had a kid in class we called Cheese Cracker who I’m pretty sure only used about  7% of his brain.

OWT

Humans eat an average of 8 spiders a year while sleeping.

TRUTH

Scientists say it highly unlikely that a spider would ever end up in your mouth. Spiders tend to be found either tending their webs or hunting in nonhuman-infested areas. They usually don’t intentionally crawl into a bed because it offers no prey. Why in the world would they enter your mouth? Spiders ain’t dumb. Everybody settle down.

OWT

You should pee on a jellyfish sting.

TRUTH

Uh, that doesn’t work, but this does – first, remove the tentacles (that’s what’s hurting you so much) with something other than your fingers unless you want get stung again. Next, pour something acidic, like vinegar, lemon juice, or battery acid, on the sting. Finally, use a flat object like a butter knife to scrape off the stinging cells. Do that and you have treated your jellyfish sting, all without having Uncle Roger pee on you.

PS- I was joking about the battery acid. Don’t do that.

OWT

Cracking your knuckles will give you arthritus.

TRUTH

Scientists have never actually found a link between knuckle cracking and arthritis. Still, it’s annoying as hell so stop. Also stop popping your gum. And chewing with your mouth open. I’ll stop now.

OWT

Eating too much turkey makes you sleepy.

TRUTH

While meat does contain an amino acid that helps to create melatonin, a brain chemical known for making people tired, turkey does not actually cause more fatigue than other foods. We’re actually tired because of the large quantities of carbohydrates and alcohol that a lot of us consume on Thanksgiving. What I’m saying is that daddy is in the recliner sleeping because he’s drunk.

OWT

Sitting too close to the television will harm your eyes.

TRUTH

This one stems from the fact that General Electric produced color TVs back in the 1960s that emitted up to 100,000 times more radiation than federal health officials considered to be safe—and while the  television sets were recalled almost immediately, the Old Wives’ Tale hangs around (even with our new TV technology and whatnot).

PS- I’m not expert but 100,000 times more radiation does seem a tad high.

OWT

You shouldn’t swim for 30-minutes after eating.

TRUTH

This Old Wives’ Tale assumes that after eating the body diverts blood from your limbs to the digestive tract, thus depleting your arms and legs of enough blood to swim. While it is true that digestion requires extra blood, the body does not drain the limbs of enough blood to work properly. Bottom line, you might get a small cramp. Deal with it.

PS- I fondly remember swimming at the Mead Pool. It was amazing. I also fondly remember a girl about my age named Tammy that swam there. I had a remendous crush on her and would immediately look for her upon our arrival. I long for a simpler time.

OWT

Bulls hate the color red.

TRUTH

Yes!

People believe this because the bull charges at that thing the matador waves around, called a muleta. Actually, bulls are color blind. They’re agitated by the motion of the muleta, not its color. On a related note, I hate bullfighting. I always root for a good old fashioned goring. Leave the damn bull alone.

OWT

The 5-second rule.

TRUTH

This Old Wives’ Tale infers that if you drop food on the floor and snatch it up within 5-seconds it wasn’t on the floor/ground long enough to gather germs. Nobody really believes athat anymore, right? We say that jokingly, right? Right?

PS- This Old Wives’ Tale is sometimes known as the 3-second rule. Or in my case the 3-minute rule.

OWT

It takes 7-years to digest a piece of gum.

TRUTH

Negatory. The truth is gum doesn’t digest at all. It travels through your digestive tract and then, you know. On a related note, who swallows their gum?

OWT

To cure a hangover, just have a little “hair of the dog.” In other words have a drink.

TRUTH

Seems sort of obvious but you can’t drink your way out of a hangover, although many have tried. Der.

OWT

Eating chocolate will give you acne.

TRUTH

I heard this one a lot whilst growing up. It is true that a high fat or high sugar diet can exacerbate acne and sugary stuff can often cause hormone fluctuations, which can increase acne. However, there is no evidence that eating normal amounts of chocolate directly triggers acne. In reality dark chocolate actually promotes numerous health benefits. Snack away kids!

OWT

Rubbing whiskey on you baby’s gums will ease teething pain.

TRUTH

Actually, experts recommend using natural remedies, such as massaging a warm washcloth on your baby’s gums.

I was talking with some friends today and we were talking about high school basketball and how much it’s changed. The subject came up regarding how many times the police actually became involved back in the day, whether it be to remove fans from the gym or to escort teams to their bus. Believe it or not, I know of at least three instances of policemen actually interacting with coaches during a game. Crazy but true, and you probably won’t be surprised to hear that one of those coaches was me. Here’s my story . . .

It was the early 90s, and my team was in a particularly tense battle with a team from a neighboring county. It was a non-league game and our opponent was a bigger school, I believe Division 2 while we were Division 4. The game was back and forth with several lead changes. Of course I was being pretty active on the sidelines, trying to urge my team on and dealing with the officials. And then, near the beginning of the fourth quarter, as I was standing a few feet in front of our bench shouting out instructions to my guys or giving some constructive criticism to the officials, it happened.

Suddenly, I felt someone tapping rather aggresively on my shoulder. I turned around expecting to see an assistant coach or one of my players, but to my surprise I found myself starting into the eyes of an angry policeman.

What the hell?

The next thing I knew he was in my face, pointing to our bench and yelling, “You need to sit down.

What? Sit down? I hadn’t even received a technical! The cop was a young guy, so maybe he was confused? I know I was.

Anyway, I then rather forcefully informed him that I would not be sitting down, that it wasn’t his job to tell me to do so, that it was the job of those three men in striped shirts on the court. Keep in mind that all this was happening with the game in progress, so although the officials may have seen what was happening they were busy doing what they were supposed to be doing, which was officiating the damn game.

The little Barney Fife dude was having none of it and again ordered me to have a seat. It was then that I said this:

“You’re out of line here. You’ll soon learn that you’ve made a mistake. Now you have two choices. 1,600 people in the stands are watching. Your first choice is to pat me on back, smile and act as if we’ve worked this out, I’ll smile and do the same, and you can walk back over to that wall where you were standing. Your second choice is to arrest me, put me in handcuffs, and take me to jail. Your call.”

At that point there was a bit of a pause where we stared at each other, and then he actually patted me on the back and walked away. And although I was tempted to pat him on the ass, I slapped him on the back, smiled, and did the same.

Thank God he listened to reason and common sense prevailed. That would have been a bad night for both of us.

 

 

 

 

Note: Special thank you to Blake Rinehart for loaning me scrapbooks that belonged to the late Dale Haynes. He collected nearly every article the Gazette published in every sport, and those scrapbooks were invaluable. Also thank you to everyone I quote in the article. So many of you brought back memories of a wonderful time in my life . . .

Anyone who knew anything about southern Ohio basketball saw it coming. The fans, opposing leagues, the players, everyone. The Scioto Valley Conference coaches knew and they said as much in the Chillicothe Gazette’s yearly league preview:

  • In 1989-90 it was a good league. Southeastern was a state semi-finalist, Huntington, Adena, Paint Valley and we were all decent. But this year, I don’t see a real weak team.” – Zane Trace Coach Gary Kellough
  • I don’t think it’s ever been as competitive as it will be now. There are seven teams that could win this thing with a few breaks. I think it might be the toughest it’s ever been.” – Huntington Coach Jerry Mowery
  • “I think there are about four teams you could shake up and put them in a hat and let it fall out.” – Piketon Coach Phil Howard
  • “There is no comparing this year to any other. I’ve been watching it since 1965. There hasn’t been anything close to this.” – Yours truly, Paint Valley Coach Dave Shoemaker

Consider the following – four of the five 1st Team All-SVC players from the previous year were returning. 1990-1991 SVC Player of the year Matt Combs was coming back. Three of the five 2nd Team All-SVC players from the previous year were also returning, so that’s seven of the top ten players coming back from the year prior.

And get this – that didn’t include transfers Eric Caudill at Piketon (from Eastern) and Shawn Beuscher at Westfall (from Wellston).

The league had five, five 1,000 point scorers on its rosters that year.

There were seven teams that thought they might have a chance to win the league in 1991-1992. Seven.

The SVC was so good that in the 2-years prior we had a team representing our league in the Final 4 – Southeastern in 1990 and Unioto in 1991. Both teams had seniors with Final 4 experience returning. Both coaches, Larry Jordan and Ron Lovely, were still there.

Today, if you talk to lifelong Scioto Valley Conference followers, some will argue that any of the top five or six teams in the league during the 1991-1992 season would have won the league in any other year. And you know what? It’s an arguable point.

It was a season that saw Unioto beat state ranked Division II Washington Court House and Paint Valley, without a senior on its roster, take #2 ranked D-2 Columbus St. Charles down to the wire without our starting point guard. Zane Trace beat eventual Regional Finalist Wheelersburg, and the Pioneers finished in a tie for fifth in our league. At one point three SVC teams (Unioto, Piketon and Huntington) were ranked in the Top 10 in the Associated Press poll.

Paint Valley’s Black Wave.

1991-1992 was the season where every game was a war, every night saw a packed house, and every student section was insane. From Unioto’s Section 8 to Zane Trace’s Pit Crew to Paint Valley’s Black Wave to Huntington’s Hunch Bunch, those groups were all huge and loud.

And yes, obnoxious, sometimes inappropriate, but always large, deafening, and above all, loyal. Hey, I swear I once saw a member of The Black Wave get a hand on a pass that was heading from the wing to the corner. Unioto’s Section 8? The PV cheerleaders put signs in all my players yards, very nice wooden signs that were professionaly painted. Craig Kerns’ sign came up missing. When we got to our game at Unioto, Section 8 had it sitting right there with them. Heck, our local paper had once called Huntington’s fans “Rude, crude, obnoxious and out of control.”

Huntington’s Scott Keller recalls that at Zane Trace the Pit Crew had Bert and Ernie dolls, complete with jerseys of himself and Chad Lytle. Oh, and they were hanging from ropes. Unioto? Section 8 had a monkey dressed up like Chad. Oh, and later in the game the girl holding the monkey took a “bad pass” from Lytle right in the face.

So yeah. Wild.

So wild that police escorts from the locker room to the bus were not uncommon.

Unioto’s Matt Combs.

Did anyone get offended? Nah, not really. Back then the players took the abuse and played harder. After all, the best revenge is winning.

That year, everyone knew that if you didn’t get to the gym before the freshmen game tipped off, you might not get a seat.

The coaches? You had Larry Jordan at Southeastern, Gary Kellough at Zane Trace, Ron Lovely at Unioto, Phil Howard at Piketon, Jerry Mowery at Huntington, Steve Kalinoski at Westfall, George Barnes at Adena and me, Dave Shoemaker, at Paint Valley. Five of those coaches (Jordan, Lovely, Kellough, Howard, and myself) had or would end up winning SVC Championships.

And the games, man. Like I said, every night was intense. Here’s just a few examples:

  • Huntington beat Paint Valley 44-39 in The Valley that saw the Huntsmen hold the ball for nearly a quarter as the packed house went berserk.
  • Southeastern beat D2 Waverly 80-78 in an early season thriller.
  • Huntington whipped Zane Trace 80-62 as Chad Lytle poured in 41.
  • Unioto defeated state-ranked Washington Court House 80-68 behind a Matt Combs 23 and 10 double-double.
  • Piketon hammered an undefeated but outmanned Western Latham squad 85-70.
  • Unioto dropped Vinton County 76-58, and after the game Matt Combs actually had this to say: “We played kind of flat, really.” 
  • Zane Trace whipped that year’s Regional Finalist Wheelersburg 56-54 using balanced scoring and stifling defense.
  • Paint Valley, with an all-junior starting five and without their sick point guard, nearly shocked Division II and 2nd ranked Columbus St. Charles in the Waverly Christmas Classic before falling 69-61.
  • Piketon defeated Unioto 76-74 on a last second putback by Jason Lamerson before a riotous crowd at Unioto. The Gazette said that it was “A wild, overflow crowd with coaches going crazy.” How crazy? Piketon Head Coach Phil Howard received a technical foul in the reserve game.
  • Southeastern dropped Unioto 93-85 as Mike Collins scored 29 for the Panthers.
  • Huntington beat Unioto 95-93 as Chad Lytle score his 1,000th point. Lytle scored 30 that night, Scott Keller poured in 27, and Matt Combs bombed in 36. Again, the doors were closed due to an overflow crowd. All the doors had signs that read, “SOLD OUT.”
  • Paint Valley won over Southeastern 53-51 in overtime before a packed gym in Bainbridge. Craig Kerns’ 27-points led the Bearcats in this game, which saw a fan rush the court and be taken away by security.
  • Unioto destroyed Adena 87-71 behind Matt Combs’ 45-point scoring barrage.
  • Paint Valley defeated Unioto 60-54 after trailing 25-12 in the second quarter. It was the Bearcats’ sixth straight win and seventh in their last eight games.
  • Zane Trace upset Huntington 58-53, again using a disciplined, balanced attack.
  • Unioto handed Piketon its first SVC as well as home loss, 87-78, once more before a raucous crowd. Jason Thress made five long distance bombs (several from NBA distance) for the Shermans on his way to 23-points.
  • Southeastern again upset Unioto, this time 71-64 at Unioto. Mike Collins scored 23-points and had four threes, and Chad Jordan scored 17-points and had 13-boards.
  • Piketon beat Paint Valley in Bainbridge as Eric Caudill scored 31 and Craig Kerns 23.
  • Paint Valley barely escaped with a 54-52 win over winless Adena in Frankfort as Craig Kerns took over after the Bearcats fell behind by 7 midway through the fourth quarter.
  • Piketon j-u-u-s-t got by Southeastern 58-57 on a game winning shot by Jeremy Tackett.
  • Zane Trace needed two overtimes to beat Westfall 63-57 as Jeff Hanes scored 28.
  • Paint Valley stormed back to beat Southeastern 53-48 in Richmond Dale after trailing by 9 late in the fourth quarter.
  • Huntington defeated Southeastern in Richmind Dale 74-68 in overtime behind 24-points each from Chad Lytle and Scott Keller.
  • And finally, Piketon clinched the SVC Championship with a 77-73 win at Huntington. The game saw Chad Lytle score 27-points to become Huntington’s all-time scoring leader, and Eric Caudill poured in 43 for The Streaks.

Chad Lytle, Huntington.

So yes, anybody could beat anybody.

Here’s what some of the participants remember about that incredible season. Common themes? Crowds, talent and coaching.

Huntington’s Scott Keller was a junior that year and is now back at Huntington as an administrator:

I’ve been around this league my whole life. I’ve never seen it, at any time, where every single SVC game was a battle. Every single team had at least two grown men, and some had three or four. Legends on the sidelines coaching, playing chess while we beat each other up on the court. The gyms weren’t just packed, they were sold out. The first time we played Unioto we were both ranked in the Top 10 in the state poll (along with Piketon) and the doors were locked before the freshman game even started. When we (the varsity) arrived we didn’t watch a second of the JV game because there was nowhere to stand, let alone sit. We all had attitudes, each school’s fans had attitudes, there wasn’t a better show around. I recall that our non-league games were boring and felt like scrimmages.

Paint Valley’s Craig Kerns was a junior in 1991-1992. Craig is now the high school Principal at Huntington:

I remember brutal games night in and night out. You might face Eric Caudill and his Piketon team on Friday night and Matt Combs and his team from Unioto on Saturday. This could be followed by a Tuesday game against McClain, then you’d see Chad Lytle and Scott Keller at Huntington on Friday and Zane Trace’s Pat Beard or Southeastern’s Chad Jordan the next. And let’s not forget the coaches – Shoemaker, Jordan, Mowery, Lovely, and Howard. To top it off you had some of the most ruthless, intimidating and spirited student sections I’ve ever seen in the league. It has to be the single best year in SVC history.

Jerry Mowery, former Huntington Head Coach, now the Superintendent at Zane Trace:

I remember the crowds and how large and enthusiastic they were! The volume of talent that year and how they played extremely hard and for each other. There was much parity and it was fierce competition. Great coaches that had teams prepared night in and night out. I remember the respect we had for the other SVC teams. There were some great battles that played out in ’91-’92. If you weren’t ready to play both mentally and physically you were going to get your brains beat out! Overall, one of the most competitive, exciting and talented years in SVC history. 

Phil Howard is the former Head Coach at Piketon. Phil went on to coach at Western Lathan where he made several tournament runs, including a Regional appearance in 2007. He’s now the Superintendent at at Jackson City Schools:

Without question, that year was the most competitive from top to bottom during my 10-years coaching in the SVC. You had to be ready to play every single night because five or six different teams were good enough to win the league that year.

Matt Combs, 1991 SVC Player of the Year, was a senior in 1991-1992. Matt is now a highly successful coach at Vinton County High School:

I’ve watched SVC basketball since the late 80s and I think it was the toughest league top to bottom during that time. I think the thing that may go unnoticed was the phenomenal level of coaching. I can only imagine how tough it was night in and night out to coach. Think about this: Besides the obvious ones like Larry Jordan, Gary Kellough, Ron Lovely and Dave Shoemaker you had Phil Howard, Jerry Mowery, and Steve Kalinoski. All have been highly successful coaches. 

Joe Abraham, Chillicothe Gazette Sports Editor in 1991-1992, now Head Softball Coach at the University of Toledo:

The thing I remember vividly is the crowds. No matter which game we attended, there was a full house and it filled up early. The athleticism in the league was incredible that year. I couldn’t believe some of the things that Eric Caudill and Chad Lytle could do. And teams had full starting fives of what would be all-league type players in any normal year, like Paint Valley. The league had scorers like Matt Combs and great complementary guys like Jason Thress, Josh Anderson and Jeremy Tackett. The league just had everything that year.

Chad Lytle, Huntington guard, 1991-1992:

How about the conversation you and I had for 5+ minutes during the game while I was standing (well, let’s admit it, I didn’t quite stand, I actually took several steps) while holding the basketball telling you to come out of the zone and get us. Looking back on that game, that was one of your many great coaching decisions. It played out exactly how you wanted it to. Even though PV lost, you had the ball late in the game and a chance to win. I also remember Huntington vs Unioto clearly. Huntington comes in ranked #9 in the state. Unioto coming off a State Runner-up season. Game was sold out at 4:50pm. No one else allowed in the gym. Huntington won in a shootout 95-93.  I scored 30 and got my 1,000th point, Scott Keller had 27 and Matt Combs scored 36 in the loss.

Note: He switched his pivot foot about 7-times while holding that damn ball. The refs refused to call it.

Coach Lovely of Unioto and Coach Mowery of Huntington.

Jeff DiVeronica, former sportswriter at the Chillicothe Gazette and Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, now Director of Information at West Irondequoit Central School District. Jeff had just arrived from New York to take the job in Chillicothe:

The crowds. The amount of passion from the fans, the players and the coaches. The level of talent on so many teams. I had heard there was a lot of great players coming back from the year before, but I didn’t know what great meant in Ohio basketball until that winter. Regarding the league, Caudill really was a Redstreak, a streak of light. So fast. So smooth. And you could tell in Phil Howard’s aw-shucks voice, he knew what he had in that young man. I knew Unioto was coming off a big season. My jaw dropped several times the first time I covered them when Jason Thress started throwing up 3-pointers from the other side of Chillicothe. And Matt Combs knew how to play the game and how to get to the hole and score. What a dynamic duo Huntington had in Chad Lytle and their resourceful big man, Scott Keller. Chad was the definition of a combo guard before anyone really knew what that was. He could beat you so many ways and was built like a grown man. I was amazed by his athleticism. As for Paint Valley, you could tell this group was special – young, but special. They were built to win with kids who knew their roles. The Bearcats were unselfish to a fault and coached by a guy, Dave Shoemaker, who you could tell cared deeply for each kid. Forget that he could X & O with any coach anywhere at any level, the man was like a second father to some of those kids who were going through some tough times. And I absolutely loved how effortlessly Craig Kerns played the game. Joe Abraham (the other Gazette sportswriter) and I used to talk in the office that if we could pick one player to build a team around in the SVC, Kerns would be my pick. I love basketball, and I was absolutely in the right place at the right time to start a 25-year career. I used to literally have dreams after I left to come back to New York that I got the Sports Editor’s job back in Chillicothe. I have only fond memories of my 2-years there. 

Shayne Combs was a freshman at Unioto in 1991-1992. Shayne is now an educator and baseball coach at Paint Valley, and also maintains an SVC website called SVC Sportszone:

I think the 1991-1992 season was a buildup of 1990 and 1991 when both Southeastern and Unioto went to the Final 4. I know at Unioto we got off to an amazing start, then got hit hard in the middle of the season with injuries. The season started to get away a little bit, but it was fun to watch how the leadership kept things together. In my 30-years of playing, coaching, and covering the SVC, we have had great teams that could compete in any era. But, I still don’t recall a year where the league had so much depth and talent.

Jason Thress was a Unioto guard that season:

Jason Thress.

Absolutely loaded teams that year. Crazy group of good teams and probably the worst sports season of my life. And that’s said with a Sectional Title and District runner-up. We were a unanimous pick to win the league. Started off 7-0 and running over everyone. Then game seven happens and our best player (Dan Cox) destroys his knee on a fluke play. Next game we get beat by Piketon (picked 2nd) at the buzzer. First home loss in 17 games. Then we get smashed by SE (yes SE) the next night. Then we lose to Huntingon 95-93 the following week in front of an unreal crowd. Never did recover. Couldn’t get along with the underclassmen. Couldn’t find our identity. Finally got Dan back healthy, but even after walking into Piketon (playing there is hell on earth) upsetting them and that being their only league loss, the season seemed a little bit of a wash. Finished the 14-6, 8-6 in the league and I was kinda pissed off. Like a pimp Coach Lovely went after Huntington (which had just beaten us by 13 the second to last game of the year) and challenged us all to finally shut up and just play. We jumped out of the gate and got them down quickly. Held off the run they made and beat them rather easily, by 12 I think. 63-51 stands out for some reason. (Note: He’s right) We took down ZT again for a 3rd straight year for the Sectional Title, which of course was always nice beating your rival and making it to the Convo. We beat Manchester in a shootout in the semis but then ran into a buzzsaw in Wheelersburg in the District title game. Anyway, not that it may have mattered but once again we were without a healthy Dan Cox. If you can believe it, he broke his hand spelling out UHS on the gym floor at the pep rally before the game. Anyway, Piketon (deservedly so) won the league. They were an excellent team. Caudill, Lamerson, Tackett, they were fast and fun to watch. Huntington was tough as nails and would just run you over if you blinked. Which we did, twice. Zane Trace was always a tough out, especially at their place. They had Beard (just a junior) and Hanes. Paint Valley, you guys were the young, up and coming fun bunch. Very, very tall and skilled. Beat us at your place on my 18th birthday. Worst game I played in my life and that’s not an exaggeration. With Southeastern, Coach Jordan could always get his guys to play us hard, which he did and somehow beat us twice. Out of all those losses that year, the one to this day that sticks with me the hardest is the home loss against Southeastern. It came the night after we beat Piketon at their place. Ugh. I don’t know, most people would probably say I’m crazy for saying it was a disappointing year. Finishing 17-7 with a sectional title and district runner-up should seem like a successful season. But after winning the league in 9th, undefeated JV in 10th, and almost everything in 11th senior year just didn’t go quite like I thought and hoped it would. But as for looking back on the league as a whole? Wow. Yes, it was a very talented and loaded group of teams that year. Lots of fun games nearly every weekend. And that is something I am proud to have been a part of.

And now for the teams, listed in order of how they finished in the league that year:

  1. Piketon – Coach Phil Howard’s Redstreaks were led by lightning quick transfer Eric Caudill, who averaged 26.2 points a game and would garner the SVC Player of the Year Award. Jason Lamerson  scored 14.7 points per game. Add sharpshooter Jeremy Tackett, Jason Dunham, and bruiser Steve Ross inside and the Streaks were tough to stop. Todd Burkitt came off the bench.
  2. Huntington – Dynamic point guard Chad Lytle led Coach Jerry Mowery’s Huntsmen with 21.7 ppg, and 6′-5″ junior big man Scott Keller contributed 16.1 a night. Bryan Carter added 11.6 per game. Both Shannon and Brian Smith played big roles as well.
  3. Paint Valley – This was my team, in just my third year of coaching. We had no seniors and had graduated 50-points a game in the year prior. We were led by All-Ohioan and future McDonald’s All-American Craig Kerns (17.9 ppg), Shane Cawley (12.4 ppg), point guard Josh Anderson, big man Deric Newland, and defensive wizard Jason “The Weasel” Johnson. Kerns, Newland, Cawley and Anderson all stood 6’5″.
  4. Unioto – Coming off a Final 4 appearance and returning three starters, Ron Lovely’s Sherman’s were led by 1991 Player of the Year Matt Combs, Jason Thress (11.1 ppg and unlimited range), and jack of all trades Dan Cox. 6′-5″ Charlie Ward stepped up to average 13.4 points a night, and Jason Tuttle contributed as well.
  5. Southeastern – Coach Larry Jordan’s Panthers, coming off a Final 4 appearance just 2-years prior, were led by Mike Collins (14.0 ppg) and 6′-6″ postman Chad Jordan (13.9). Shane Weese, Stacey Ragland, and Brad Stulley all pitched in with valuable minutes.
  6. Zane Trace – Coach Gary Kellough’s Pioneers were led by 1991 1st Team All-SVC Jeff Hanes, who averages 16.3 points per contest. Pat Beard, one of the toughest defenders in the league, averaged 13.4 and Kevin Seagraves added 11.7. Rob Banks and Jeremy Hammond had their moments too.
  7. Westfall – The Mustangs were coached by Steve Kalinoski, who led the Circleville Lady Tigers to an unbeaten record just this past season. Westfall was a tough out with players like post man Ben Kern, who averaged 17.7 points a game. Wellston transfer Shawn Beuscher kicked in with 15.7, and Brian Dollison and Travis Bigam were good players as well.
  8. Adena – Coach George Barnes and his Warriors were the only team that wasn’t really competitive that year, but they still had some good players. 6′-7″ center Chad Lee was very good and averaged 15.0 points a night, and Brad Ater, Corby Free, David Pettiford all played as well.

Final 1991-1992 Scioto Valley Conference Standings & Recaps

  1. Piketon won the league with a 13-1 record, losing only to Unioto. They were 20-4 overall. In the tournament they beat Southeastern in the Sectional Final (by only 3, another testament to the strength of our league) Minford 70-64 and Belpre (who’d gone 18-2 in the regular season) 82-69, making it all the way to the Regionals where they lost to Wheelersburg by a score of 88-79.
  2. Huntington– 17-4 (11-3). The Huntsmen lost to Unioto in their Sectional opener.
  3. Paint Valley– 13-10 (9-5). The Bearcats started slow, going 0-5, but we won 13 of our next 17 and defeated Western Latham 62-57 in the tourney opener. We then dismantled Portsmouth Clay 68-39 in the Sectional Championship game to return to the Districts at The Convo. There we lost to Racine Southern, but won the SVC the following year.
  4. Unioto started out 7-0 but struggled in the middle of the season. They ended up finishing fourth in the absolutely loaded SVC, but when the tournament rolled around Coach Ron Lovely chose to play Huntington, a team the Shermans had lost to twice in the regular season. His gamble paid off as the Shermans beat the Huntsmen 63-51 and Zane Trace 68-61 in the Sectional Title game to earn a trip to The Convo. In the Districts, the Shermans beat Manchester 94-91 (who says you can’t shoot in The Convo?), but lost to Wheelersburg 78-65 in the Championship game. They finished 17-7, not bad for a fourth place team.
  5. Southeastern– 10-10 (6-8). The Panthers whipped Adena 80-44 to open the tournament, then lost a heartbreaker to Piketon on a last second steal and layup by Eric Caudill.
  6. Zane Trace– 10-10 (6-8) The Pioneers knocked off a very good Lynchburg-Clay team to open the Sectionals, only to lose to Unioto in the final by a score of 68-61 as Matt Combs scored 31.
  7. Westfall– 7-13 (4-10)- No information available. Still looking.
  8. Adena– 0-21 (0-14) The Warriors were throttled by Southeastern 80-44 in the Sectional to end their season.

A lot of people have mentioned the intensity that took place every single night in that magical 1991-1992 season. Hell, I went a couple years where both Larry Jordan and Ron Lovely wouldn’t speak to me, nor I to them. But I’m happy to say we all eventually became friends, partially because of that coaching brotherhood and the incredible competitiveness and intensity we all possessed, and that bond of having shared something so special. Like Jason Thress said and like how so many of us feel, it was something I am proud to have been a part of.

I, for one, will never forget it.

Note: Here is the absolutely loaded All-Scioto Valley Conference teams for the 1991-1992 season. Players are listed in order of votes received:

First Team

  • Eric Caudill (PIketon) – Senior
  • Chad Lytle (Huntington) – Senior
  • Matt Combs (Unioto) – Senior
  • Craig Kerns (Paint Valley) – Junior
  • Scott Keller (Huntington) – Junior

Second Team

  • Jason Lamerson (Piketon) – Senior
  • Jeff Hanes (Zane Trace) – Senior
  • Chad Jordan (Southeastern) – Senior
  • Ben Kern (Westfall) – Senior
  • Shane Cawley (Paint Valley) – Junior

Third Team

  • Chad Lee (Adena) – Senior
  • Jason Thress (Unioto) – Senior
  • Bryan Carter (Huntington) – Senior
  • Pat Beard (Zane Trace) – Junior
  • Jeremy Tackett (Piketon) – Senior

Special Mention

  • Mike Collins (Southeastern)
  • Charle Ward (Unioto)
  • Dan Cox (Unioto)
  • Shawn Buescher (Westfall)
  • Deric Newland (Paint Valley)
  • Josh Anderson (Paint Valley)
  • Todd Burkitt (Piketon)
  • Jason Dunham (Piketon)
  • Steve Ross (Piketon)
  • B.J. McCray (Huntington)
  • Kevin Seagraves (Zane Trace)

PS- Notice that Shawn Buescher averaged 15.7 ppg and Mike Collins averaged 14.0 ppg and only made Special Mention All-SVC. That’s how good the league was in 1991-1992.

The other day I wrote a story called Meeting the General in which I recounted the day I first met Coach Bobby Knight. While writing that one I was reminded of the time I met another coaching legend, Jerry “Tark the Shark” Tarkanian. Tarkananian was largely known as the legendary coach of the UNLV Runnin’ Rebels from 1973-1992 where he won a National Title in 1990. He also had an overall record of 706-198 so yeah, helluva coach. Because of all this it was pretty exciting to meet him one night back in the fall of 1986.

I was attending a basketball clinic at the University of Kentucky with some coaching friends, and after a day of speakers we retreated to the bar of the hotel in which we were staying. At first the place was pretty full, but as time wore on the crowd thinned out to maybe 15-20 people, mostly high school coaches from around the midwest.

Around 10:00pm I looked up and there at the door was Jerry Tarkanian and Dick Vitale. Both had spoken earlier and were apparently looking for some refreshments. They stopped, glanced around, spotted my group at a table in the back, and proceeded to walk right up to us and ask if they could sit down.

Well, hell yes. Have a seat.

We basically just shot the breeze with them for awhile, Tark being particularly friendly and asking where we were from, what level we coached, stuff like that. As time went on most of the table headed off to their rooms, including Vitale, which bothered me not in the least because he’d been a bit of a smug jackass. Tark? Not so much. Like I said, he couldn’t have been more engaging. Bottom line, it finally came down to four people at the table, with Tark regaling us with stories of his years in coaching.

At one point he and I had sort of drifted into our own conversation and I asked him if he had something simple I could add as a secondary offense for my team, which happened to be a bunch of 8th graders at the time. He promptly asked someone for a pen, grabbed some napkins, and drew up a little motion offense that included a coiuple backscreens and backcuts. He descibed some details and options you could run out of it, and that was that.

We then spent another hour or so talking, and finally got up and walked out together. As he started to leave, though, he turned around and said, “You know, I started out as a junior high coach too. It was some of the best times of my life. If you’re ever out in Vegas give me a call.” He then handed me a card and walked away.

Fast forward to the summer of 1989 when I was in Las Vegas with my friend Jigger. We landed, I played some roulette, I lost some cash quickly, and I realized I needed to step away from the tables before I lost my life savings. On a whim I decided to give The Shark a call and see if I could get hold of him. I had no idea if he’d even be in town. His secretary answered, I gave a quick explanation of who I was and how I’d met Coach Tarkanian, and was put on hold. A minute later she was back and told me that he said sure, come on over. Remember that this was nearly 3-years after we’d first met. I was amazed.

Of course I grabbed a cab to the Thomas & Mack Center (also known at the time as The Shark Tank), and sure enough a grad assistant was at the door waiting for me. Long story short I was given a tour of the arena and locker room facilities by The Shark himself. I even got to meet Stacey “Plastic Man” Augmon, a starter on the 1990 National Championship team and future NBA player. All told Tark probably spent an hour that day with me, a guy he’d met in a hotel bar years prior.

Before I left we exchanged information, he gave me a smile and a hug, and I went back to the casinos. He could not have been nicer.

Then, about 2-weeks later, I received a package in the mail. Inside I found an autographed poster, bumper stickers, and some UNLV gear along with a note thanking me for stopping in to see him.

That was the last time I met Tark personally, although we did chat a few times on the phone over the next few years.  And that offense he’d given me back in 1986? I ended up using it for years, very successfully I might add.

We called it Vegas.

Coach Tarkanian ended up being inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2013, 2-years before he passed away at the age of 84. Tark had many a run-in with the NCAA over the years, but his won-loss record and testimonials from the players and coaches who loved him can’t be denied.

As for me, I’ll never forget the kindness he extended to an unknown coach for no real reason, other than the fact he was a good and caring person.

 

Here’s a great documentary on the Runnin’ Rebels of UNLV. It’s worth a look.

Check out the highlights of UNLV’s dismantling of Duke in 1990.

 

So I was perusing a website called Terribly Terrier today and found an article entitled Jack Russell Terrier: The Adrenaline Junkie of the Dog World. It contained info and facts about Jack Russell Terriers, so of course I couldn’t help but see if Sparky fit the stereotype. Let’s take a look . . .

If you’ve never heard of a terrier who can jump 5-foot fences, spend hours tenaciously pursuing a rodent, and keep the whole family continually entertained with its antics, then you don’t know Jack.

The Jack Russell Terrier is arguably the epitome of terrier-ness, possessing in spades all the traits that make terriers what they are.

Jacks were originally bred to hunt foxes in England in the late 1700s. But like other terriers who started as hunting dogs, they have more recently leveraged their intelligence, charm, and scruffy good looks to become beloved household pets.

Jumping 5-foot fences? Check. Keeping me entertained with his antics? Check. Intelligence, charm and scruffy good looks? Yep. That’s my Spark.

Jacks are feisty, funny, affectionate, loyal, smart… and entirely too much for many people to handle.

My Sparky is all of those things and more. In fact, I know for a fact that my little dude is smarter than many of my former 5th graders and more loyal than most of my friends. Affectionate? You tell me.

The Spark, as we speak.

These active pups need lots of daily activity. They a chance to burn off their excess energy in positive ways.

Hence my hikes and trips to the cemetary and soccer fields. Dude loves to run.

Jacks are generally good-natured, especially toward members of their own pack. However, they’re not afraid to mix it up with other dogs – even dogs that are several times bigger than them.

Gee, ya think? Sparky has not only scrapped with dogs several sizes larger than him, he’s had scrapes with possums (it bolted after a quick scuffle, didn’t play dead), nutrias (OBX critter), raccoons (thankfully he didn’t get bitten), stingrays (seriously, in the shallow surf), geese (it attacked first, bad decision), buzzards (it was eating something in a field and Spark took offense), skunks (somehow he didn’t get skunked), snakes (it lunged and was dead in about 3-seconds), and yes, coyotes (he won). Click on that link for the story. We won’t mention chickens due to the Statute of Limitations.

Jack Russells love to dig. If you have a garden that’s precious to you, you might want to consider another breed.

Well, Sparky once spent nearly an hour at my Mom’s digging and trying to get to some sort of critter. He’d still be there if I hadn’t bribed him with a Chicken McNugget.

Some pooches just aren’t cut out for social hour at the dog park, and that includes a lot of Jack Russell Terriers. If they aren’t acquainted with other dogs thay may show aggression. 

Mmmmm . . . yeah. I shall plead the 5th on this one.

Unfortunately, because a lot of people get Jack Russells without realizing how much attention they need, you can also find a lot of these dogs surrendered to shelters and rescue organizations. If you’re up to the challenge of owning a Jack Russell, consider adopting an adult dog that needs a home.

First off, anyone who surrenders a dog to a shelter should be beaten about the head and shoulders with an 18-inch Nylabone Big Chew Toy Bone. Secondly, sure Jacks are a bit of a challenge. They’re energetic and need attention. However, if you want a loyal, affectionate, intelligent, charming and funny companion, Jack Russells are the way to go.

Seriously, rescue a Jack Russell. Sparky coming into my life is one of the best things that ever happened to me.

Nope. Not that Moses. There’s another one.

It all started way back in 1983, when my my brother-in-law and great friend Jigger asked me to coach the 7th grade basketball team at Paint Valley. Jigger had coached high school basketball at Bishop Flaget in the early 70s, and since this was my very first coaching job he gave me some old books about coaching.

Now, when I say old I mean old, like 1940s old. They were so old in fact that I put them on the shelf, only occasionally glancing through them. I mean, what could I possibly learn from a book that was written when coaches weren’t allowed to talk to their teams during timeouts?*

*Dead serious. Coaches weren’t allowed to do this until the 1948-49 season. Look it up. 

Anyway, at some point during that first year I coached we needed a baseline out of bounds play (a BLOB – sideline out of bounds is a SLOB) and on a whim I revisited a couple of those books. Low and behold, in one I found a BLOB that looked pretty damn good. It was fairly unique because it was a BLOB that flooded the baseline. At the time everyone played zone defense while defending out-of-bounds plays, although that’s completely changed over the years. Because of this the top guys on the zone weren’t used to coming all the way down to the baseline and by flooding it with your players you could catch your opponent off guard. Here’s the initial setup, as drawn on an idex card by me a million years ago:

When the play started this was the initial movement, although we added wrinkles that I’ll talk about in a bit:

You put your shooters on the blocks, and they would sprint to the corners. We’d put our best shooter on the opposite block because the corner he ran to seemed to be the one that was open the most. The player in the middle was our best post man and the player at the top of the key was usually our point guard. When the post player screened the point guard, the opponent had to either switch or not switch. If they switched the post man would be open and roll straight to the basket. If they didn’t switch the point guard would be open. If defenders sagged to help that action one or both of the corners would be open. Simple but effective, and it was just as efficient against zones as it was against man-to-man.

Over the years we added wrinkles, such as having the players on the blocks cross and go to opposite corners, or moving the two players in the middle to different spots. We also added extra movement if nobody was open, but to be honest that rarely happened.

I can’t recall what we called the play in its early years, but I do know how the name that stuck came to be. It was in my first year at Paint Valley and of course I was showing it to my players. After explaining how it worked I asked the team what they wanted to name it, and my all-league point guard Todd Shoemaker said something like this:

“Everybody parts like the Red Sea and I go right down the middle. Let’s call it Moses.”

And so it came to pass.

I’ve had a lot of former players become coaches, guys like the aforementioned Todd, Craig Kerns, Josh Case, Clay Archer and others. Many of them have used it and used it effectively. Hey, my team from Montserrat has used it as well.

Not only that, and I won’t name names but college coaches have watched the play at camps, asked about it, and have used it over the years. I’m talking Division 1, big-time Top 10 college programs. Some even call it Moses. In fact, next time you watch a college game look for the set I showed you on a baseline out of bounds play and see if you can hear the player taking the ball out yell “Moses!”

It happens. True story.

I don’t know how many points my teams scored on Moses over the years but I do know it was a lot. It got to the point where our opponents knew the play, so we disguised it. Anytime we yelled Noah, Abraham, Abel, Adam or any other biblical name it was essentially Moses. In reality though, it didn’t matter if they knew. It was that effective.

Yep, a simple little play I got from a book written in the 1940s is still used today in all levels of basketball. And you know why?

Because it works.

 

I’ll take The Block at #1.

“Enjoy the little things in life because one day you’ll look back and realize they were the big things.” – Kurt Vonnegut

Years ago my late father told me a story, a story that most kids today wouldn’t understand. It was from a time long ago, a time of hardship and poverty that most of us cannot begin to comprehend today.

My dad grew up the youngest of seven children, the son of Sadie and Royal Shoemaker. Grandpa was a carpenter and a blacksmith, and he and Grandma somehow raised every one of their kids to be a part of independent and successful families. The oldest was Myrl who ended up in the second most powerful position in the state of Ohio, serving as its Lieutenant Governor and Director of Natural Resources after 24-years as a State Representative. Brothers Hester (Deck) and Leroy were also strong figures who raised amazing families, and sisters Alice, Ruth and Millie were the matriarchs of great households as well.

Dad? His name was Ralph and he graduated from Ohio University and rose to the Head of Purchasing at the Mead Corporation, a large paper company here in Southern Ohio.

Bottom line, Grandpa and Grandma did an amazing job of raising seven children, most of whom grew up during the Great Depression, the worst economic downturn in the history of the industrialized world.

Which brings me to my father’s story.

It was a Christmas morning, probably sometime in the 1980s, and we were all sitting around watching the grandkids open their myriad of gifts, just tearing through the presents and tossing them aside with barely a glance. It was apparent that Dad was amazed at the sheer number of gifts the kids were getting, and he and I were chuckling about it. At some point we found ourselves in another room and he asked me this question:

Do you want to hear about the best Christmas I ever had?

Well, sure. Dad was never one to share a lot of his personal feelings so I wanted to hear what he had to say. Then he began the story. I’m paraphrasing but I remember it well . . .

“It was, I don’t know, maybe 1933 or 1934. It was Christmas morning, although we didn’t have much of a celebration or anything. I think I was in 1st or 2nd Grade. We didn’t have much at all back then, and we all had chores to do around the house each day. One of my jobs was to get up and shovel coal into the furnace. It was cold in the house, so the first thing I did when I awoke was to put my shoes on. They were always right by my bed. When I put one of them on, I felt something inside. I reached in and there, with a white ribbon tied to it, was a red pencil. A red pencil! Some of the kids at school had their own pencils but most of us did not. I was so excited. I cherished that red pencil more than any present I ever got. I promise you I appreciated that gift more than kids today appreciate theirs. And I made that one pencil last the rest of the school year.”

As he recounted the story I could see the excitement in his eyes, even after all the years that had passed.

You see, back then in that space and time for that little boy, getting a new pencil was special. So special that he remembered it vividly decades later.

I guess we should just appreciate and be grateful for what we have, right? And it’s not always the quantity or the price of the gifts, sometimes it can be something very, very simple.

Like a red pencil.

 

So my sister and I have been cleaning out my Mom’s house and property and I found some boxes I’d stored in the pole barn. Some of them had all my old cassette tapes, and there were a lot. Like hundreds. And hundreds. And hundreds. Anyway, included were a lot of mix-tapes I’d made or that people had made for me, and man did they bring back a ton of memories. By the way, a couple of guys made me the large majority of tapes I’d been given, so thanks to Jed and Goose. They both helped form my musical tastes back in the 80s and 90s, the glory days of the mix-tape if you will. Included are quite a few bootlegs, mostly of R.E.M. that were somehow procured by the aforementioned Jed, Goose or myself. Anyway, I thought I might post just a few photos of the tapes because I know they’ll jog some memories of quite a few former students and friends. Let’s begin with those R.E.M. bootlegs.

Trust me, there are some rare recordings in there, and I bet not too many exist anymore. Stellar stuff.

Here are some other notables. Some aren’t actually mix-tapes but just copies of regular tapes. Since these were spread around to a lot of people, anyone recognize anything? Click to enlarge and scroll.

Memories, man.

Over the years I’ve told several stories that involved Jigger. Jigger was my brother-in-law and my principal, but most of all he was my friend. Whether it was going on vacations together, working together, or just hanging out, something interesting was always happening with him. If you don’t believe me, simply type “Jigger” into that search box on the left and hit enter. This site is full of Jigger stories.

For some reason this latest memory popped into my head the other day, and I’ve no idea why. It was the late 80s and Sis, Jigger, Twana and I had decided to take a camping trip through upstate New York.

Were we campers? We were not. Did we have camping gear? Nah. But hey, when Jigger got an idea in his head everyone sort of got swept up in the wave of his personality. It was that strong.

So, we went to K-Mart, bought some cheap gear and set out into the great unknown. The very first night we found a little campground somewhere south of Niagara Falls, parked our cars, set up or cheap little pup tents far away from anyone else, and built a fire. We were good to go.

Or so we thought.

It started around 10:00 that night as we were sitting around in our lawn chairs, having some adult beverages and cooking some hot dogs over the campfire. Somewhere, far in the distance, we heard a strange noise. It was sort of a faint wail, a cry of pain or distress from what sounded like an animal. We listened for a minute and dismissed it as being too far away to be a threat.

We chatted a few more minutes, then Jigger held up his hand to quiet everyone down, cocked his head, and said, “Is that thing getting closer?”

The answer was yes.

As we listened, the noise from the creature was indeed drawing closer and closer.

I guess we all stood up when the thing was maybe 100-yards out, wondering what the hell we were supposed to do. Find a weapon? Climb a tree? Run?

It turned out we didn’t have time for any of those, because before we could act it was upon us. There, bursting out of the woods, was an animal clearly possessed. It was a raccoon, and something was definitely wrong. Maybe it had rabies or something but that beast was crazed, man. It was running awkwardly, snapping its jaws and still screaming like a damn demented forest goblin.

The raccoon did a couple circles around the fire, sometimes on its hind legs, as we all darted around, high-stepping and screaming in panic, looking for somewhere to hide before the freak leaped up, ripped a vein out of one of our necks and killed us.

Then it turned, ran directly through the fire, and disappeared into the woods on the other side.

We all stood there in shock, staring at the smoke, sparks and flames the demon left in its wake as the wailing noises slowly faded into the night.

After a bit of time we started laughing, amazed at what had happened and how we’d reacted to it. And yes, we all decided it might be a good idea to sleep in the cars that night.

Those $12.99 K-Mart pup tents just didn’t seem like a good idea at the time.

PS- The next morning I woke up to the sounds of Jigger frying bacon over the campfire and singing “Rocky Raccoon” by The Beatles, because of course he was. 

Bonus raccoon gif because raccoons are cool.

As many of the local readers of my site know, I lost my mother on July 22nd. I haven’t written anything about it because frankly it was just too difficult. I’d already written several stories involving Mom, including A Right Cross With Love, Traveling Through History With Mom, The Greatest Teachers, and one I simply titled Mom. They all tell, in different ways, what my mother meant to me.

My sister Sara and I have been going through our mother’s house, trying to sort through everything. The other day we found a box containing notes that family members had written to Mom for her birthday a few years ago. My late sister Karen had asked that everyone in the family write notes to tell Mom what she meant to them. I went through them and found mine, and I think they are a pretty good reflection of my mother’s influence on me. Some are funny, some are sad, but together they paint a pretty accurate picture of what my mother meant to me.

Here they are, the notes I wrote to Mom . . .

  • Mom, you taught me to be independent. On my very first day of school in 1st grade I panicked on my way there with my sisters and I turned and ran back home. When I got there the door was locked. I’d just left so I knew you were in there. I knocked and knocked but there was no answer. After awhile I simply turned and went to school by myself. Only when I was older did I realize what you were doing – teaching me independence. Thank you Mom.
  • Mom, I have so many great memories of you as I grew up. I remember that you would let me lick the icing off the mixer after you made a cake. I loved those times.
  • Mom, you were my teacher in 4th grade. I thought I had it made! My Mom was my teacher! Woohoo! You paddled me the 4th week of school. And yes, I deserved it. I was pushing my boundaries and you were sending a message to not only me but the rest of the class. The message was received, Mom. Loud and clear.
  • Mom, I love our regular trips to Jerry’s for pizza. We’ve been doing it for over 20-years now and I cherish every moment.
  • Mom, you believe with all your heart that I can do literally anything I want in life and be the best at it. You always have. Thank you for loving me and for always, without fail, believing in me.
  • Mom, you are always, without fail, happy to see me. That means everything to me.
  • Mom, you are without a doubt the toughest person I’ve ever known. I guess growing up on a farm with two brothers will do that, right? I’m so lucky that you’re always on my side.
  • Mom, I became a teacher because of you. You impacted so many students in your career and I saw that. I wanted to be just like you. I wanted to try and have an impact just like you did. If I have impacted students positively, you are the reason for it.
  • Mom, I love you because no matter how badly I’ve screwed up or how many stupid mistakes I’ve made in my life, you’ve always loved me and supported me unconditionally.
  • Mom, I know without a doubt that you’re the best person I’ve ever known.

Last summer my mother lost her oldest daughter and her husband of 70-years, yet throughout all the loss she stayed amazingly strong. Even recently, as the end neared, Mom remained the same kind, sweet, loving person she’d always been.

I passed by Mom’s bedroom window when I’d go into her house over the past several months. My sister Sara would too. When I did I’d always stop and look in at her, both on my way in and out. When I left I’d always do something dumb, like acting like I was on an elevator, walking down stairs, or just making a funny face or something. Mom would always laugh and laugh. I just wanted her to be happy in her last days, and I think she was.

When Mom finally passed she was in her home with her family, where she was comfortable and where she knew she was loved.

Quite simply Mom was the toughest, smartest, sweetest, most honest person you could ever hope to meet. Oh sure, if I messed up she’d let me know about it but I never, ever felt as if she was disappointed in me. Unconditional love like she gave to me was priceless, and I will miss it.

There won’t be anymore trips to Jerry’s, but the lessons my mother taught Sara and I will stay with us the rest of our lives.

Mom had some flowers she called Naked Ladies, some call them Resurrection Lilies or Surprise Lilies, that grew every year just outside her bedroom. Every year several would sprout up about this time of year. This year just one single Naked Lady popped up, and it’s beautiful. It’s almost as if Mom is letting us know she’s OK, and that Sara and I are going to be OK too. And although Sara and I are the only ones left and we both feel a tremendous void in our lives, we will be O.K. We have to be. We have to carry on and be strong, because you know what? That’s exactly what Mom would want us to do.

Click and scroll for the insanity.

The album “Let It Be” by The Beatles was supposed to be a trip back to their roots – pared down, simple, no orchestration or strings, no overdubs, and no overwhelming production. They wanted the album to have an almost “live” feel. This from a band that had recorded albums like “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” in which the studio work and production were groundbreaking in their complexity. Bottom line, The Beatles wanted to get back to their roots.

Here’s the album track list:

Side 1

  1. Two of Us
  2. Dig a Pony
  3. Across the Universe
  4. I Me Mine
  5. Dig It
  6. Let It Be
  7. Maggie May

Side 2

  1. I’ve Got a Feeling
  2. One After 909
  3. The Long and Winding Road
  4. For You Blue
  5. Get Back

The songs range from the silly (“Dig It”, “Dig a Pony” and Maggie May”) to the rockin’ (“Get Back”) to the almost country sounding (“One After 909”) to the beautifully legendary (“Let It Be”, “Across the Universe” and “The Long and Winding Road”). It was a truly a wonderful album in spite of the cracks that were beginning to show, fissures that would eventually tear the group apart.

Quick note – although “Let It Be” was the last album released by The Beatles, it was actually recorded before Abbey Road.

As I mentioned before, during the recording of “Let It Be” the relationships between all four Beatles was strained severely, almost to its breaking point. It was so strained, in fact, that the guys became so tired of the in-fighting they allowed manager Allen Klein (who Paul hated but John liked) to take over the finishing touches on the album. Klein ended up handing the project over to legendary “Wall of Sound” producer Phil Spector, who proceeded to completely defeat the original purpose of the album by adding orchestras and female background singers (which The Beatles had never used before) to songs like “The Long and Winding Road” and “Let It Be.” Paul McCartney has stated publicly many times that when he first heard the final product he was aghast at the results.

Years later, in 2003, the album was re-released by McCartney as “Let It Be . . . Naked” in an attempt to rectify the mistake and let the public listen to the album as it was originally intended. The result was a beautiful album of simple songs in which the voices and musicianship stand magnificently on their own.

Here’s a comparison of the original release of “The Long and Winding Road” with strings and background vocals, followed by the originally intended pared down, simple version:

Long and Winding Road (with added vocals and orchestration)

Long and Winding Road (original “naked” version)

Big difference. Sure, the first version is beautiful, but I much prefer the second one, especially since Paul wanted it to be heard that way originally. Again, all the added fluff went against the spirit of the album, which was to “get back” to the roots of The Beatles.

Here are some videos from the movie “Let It Be” which was basically a documentary regarding the making of the album. It includes the legendary surprise “rooftop concert”. Great stuff:

Let It Be

The Long and Winding Road

Get Back

Let It Be Factoids:

  • Piano legend Billy Preston played keyboard on the album.
  • During the recording sessions, tensions between George Harrison and Paul McCartney, grew so heated that Harrison left the studio.
  • Although recorded in 1969 and released on “Let it Be” a year later, the song “One After 909” was one of John Lennon and Paul McCartney’s first collaborations, dating back to 1959.
  • In the United States, advance orders for the album were the largest in the industry up to that point – over 3.7 million units.
  • Legend has it that when McCartney sang “Get back, get back, get back to where you once belonged” he was looking directly at Yoko Ono, who was in studio during the recording.

 

 

It’s June, and that always meant a month chock full of basketball. We had Monday and Wednesday night league games, shootouts, our PV Youth Camp, and of course our annual pilgrimage to WVU Team Camp, the Gary Williams Team Camp before that, or even the Bob Huggins Camps at UC and the Ohio U Camps under Billy Hahn back in the late 80s and early 90s. All were always great times.

As you might expect, stories abound from those days . . .

One year we arrived in Morgantown on Friday, got registered at camp, and I got all the guys checked into their hotel rooms. About an hour later my hotel phone rings, and I pick up.

“Hello?”

“Coach, this is T-Bag Medley. I have a question.”

Yes, he gave me his full name.

Because you know, it could have possibly been T-Bag McGinnis or T-Bag Mertz or any other number of my friends named “T-Bag” that happen to refer to me as “coach.” You can’t make this stuff up, kids.

Anyway, I told the guys and for the rest of the weekend and probably forevermore “T-Bag” would be known by his full name of “T-Bag Medley.”

Good Lord.

One time at WVU I heard some of my players being too loud in the hotel lobby. I went out there (pretty upset with them since their were other people in the lobby) and found a couple of my guys in the little room with the snack machines and stuff. They were talking loudly so I ripped into them pretty good, and as I did I noticed a player named Boom slowly disappearing behind one of the machines until he was completely behind it.

Me: “Boom! Why are you hiding behind the machine?”

Boom, in a small, trembling voice: “Because I’m scared.”

Keep in mind this was from a senior and 3-year varsity player. All I could do was laugh and walk away.

Some of my players hadn’t spent a lot of times away from home or in hotels, as was evident one day when one of them took me aside and whispered, “Coach, while we were gone today somebody came in and cleaned up our room. They made our bed and everything. It was awesome!”

The kid was tickled to death, like he’d hit the lottery or something. Couldn’t have been happier.

McCloy vs. 911 Wings.

Draise vs. 911 Wings.

And I’ll never forget a yearly tradition at Hugg’s camp at WVU – the yearly Eating of the 911 Wings. You see, there was a place called Kegler’s that had the hottest chicken wings on the planet. They were so hot they were called 911 Wings. Although we didn’t force players to try one we always told them it was a PV basketball tradition, a Rite of Passage if you will. Almost all the players tried at least one. Those wings were absolutely brutal. To watch them take a bite, then nod their head like it wasn’t that bad, only to see the heat kick in and tears come to their eyes, well it was memorable to put it mildly.

I like to think of it as the ultimate team-building exercise.

Note: 2017 grad Jay Riley could order a plate of those damn things and not bat an eye. Kid had an iron stomach. Or maybe no taste buds.

Once while we were out eating at a restaurant I had a player order extra futons for his salad. The waitress just looked at him blankly and asked, “You mean croutons?” as the table erupted in laughter.

I used to take my teams out to the University of Maryland for the Gary Williams Basketball Camp. It’s a long story but I used to be the Commissioner of the camps there for Gary from 1989 to 2002.

The kids who attended Maryland Camp came from the Washington DC area as well as Baltimore, Philly, New York City and schools all along the east coast. To say my Southern Ohio boys were out of their element was a bit of an understatement. Still, my guys hung out with the city boys, stayed in the dorms with them, and more than held their own on the basketball court. To me it was a win-win all-around. You know, expanding cultural horizons and all that. Not to mention it made my guys better playing against such good competition.

Which brings me to a story that Gary Williams, legendary former coach at Maryland, still tells to this day. Remember that it was 1992, and “trash talking” was in its early stages. Understand that trash talking hardly ever led to violence on the court, it was just a part of the game for players from the playgrounds of the inner-cities. My team, however, was not used to it. It hadn’t made its way to our neck of the woods yet.

With this in mind, my Ohio boys had been in a particularly intense contest with a team from Philly, which we happened to have won. Afterwards, in a corridor outside the Cole Field House floor, words were exchanged between an opposing player and one of my guys. After the other player challenged my player with some unkind words, a punch was thrown.

Somebody got throttled, and he wasn’t from Ross County.

Gary Williams, the aforementioned Maryland coach, happened to be in the corridor and jumped between my player and the other guy who was, well, on the hallway floor. At that point, as Gary will tell you, the following conversation took place:

Coach Williams: “What are you doing, man? Why did you punch him?”

My guy: “Coach, where I come from we only talk like that for a minute. Then we start to hit.”

Gary thought that was the greatest thing he’d ever heard, and he could hardly wait to tell me about it.

Another story at Maryland involved a certain player of mine whose name I’ll leave out to protect the not-so-innocent. This guy liked the ladies, and it just so happened a girls rugby camp was going on the same week as our basketball camp. During our lunch break I was in a car, and as we drove I noticed him flirting with a young lady.

Sorry, but this was too good to pass up. As we passed I stopped the car, rolled down the window, and said this:

“Hey man, we should be getting those STD test results back any time now. I’ll let you know if you’re clean.”

I’m telling you, the look on his face was priceless. Hers too.

Then we drove away.

My last story from Maryland didn’t involve my players, but instead involved me. You have to remember that Cole Field House was a legendary basketball arena. All the ACC greats played there, guys like Len Bias, Michael Jordan, Tim Duncan, Grant Hill, Kenny Anderson, Billy Cunningham, Christian Laettner, Ralph Sampson, James Worthy, Joe Smith and David Thompson. In 1966 the famous National Championship game between Texas Western and Kentucky took place in Cole. Texas Western had an all-black starting line-up and Kentucky was all-white. Led by the legendary coach Don Haskins, Texas Western beat the Adolph Rupp coached Kentucky 72-65. Bottom line, it was a storied, historic arena. Knowing that makes the following story more relevant . . .

It was the last day of camp, the parents had arrived to pick up their kids, and I was announcing the championship game. The contest was nearing its conclusion when I said the following:

After the game all parents and visitors need to go to the tunnel end of the gym so they can watch the awards ceremony.”

Believe me, I said this with all sincerity and honesty. Never gave it a second thought. But then, all of a sudden, future Hall of Fame coach Gary Williams is looming over me screaming:

“Does this look like a GYM to you, Shoe? Michael Jordan did his first cradle dunk here! Lenny Bias played here! An all black Texas Western team beat an all white Kentucky team on this court in 1966! This is COLE FIELD HOUSE, MAN!”

I’m paraphrasing but that was the gist of it. At this point I was laughing so hard I couldn’t breathe, which only made Gary angrier. I mean, he was serious but it was so funny at the time I couldn’t help myself. In the meantime any coach within 10-feet was slowly backing away as to not get caught in the line of fire. As far as Coach Williams was concerned I’d insulted the sacred grounds of Cole Field House by referring to it as a “gym.”

Believe me, to Gary Williams that was sacrilegious, man. 

Being the good guy that Gary was we laughed about it together later, but at the time I thought I was gonna get coldcocked by one of college’s all-time greatest coaches. Whew.

Believe me, there are more stories that will have to wait and be told another day. But bottom line, these few stories are what’s great about coaching. Not all the great memories are from time spent during a game. They’re from practices, camps, on the bus, and when we together as a team far away from game night, developing relationships that will last forever.

Ultimately, it’s all about relationships.

Like many people I’ve seen a lot in my life, been through some things I wish I hadn’t, and have seen friends come and go. Some friends went of their own volition, others I sort of extricated myself from, and way too many died before they should have. My late uncle, a man I had great respect for, once told me that if on the day you die you can count the number of your true friends on one hand you’ll be a lucky man. At the time I was sort of incredulous and didn’t understand it. Five friends or less? Please. After all, I had a plenty of friends at the time.

Or so I thought. Over time though, I’ve come to realize he was right.

You see, as a kid you think you have all these friends that will be there forever. Buddies for life and all that. But as time goes by your circle begins to get smaller. Things happen – people get married, move away, or maybe you just drift apart. Other times events happen in your life that sort of force people to take a side, to stand up for you, and quite often they don’t. That’s the point where you realize they weren’t quite the friend you believed them to be.

For an example, I had a guy that coached for me, a man I’d hired and helped along the way, a man I’d considered a friend. I unexpectedly lost that job awhile back, and I haven’t heard a word from him since the day he’d heard I was being non-renewed. He’d coached for me for 5-years. Guess you never know what’s going on inside someone’s head.

When you go through those experiences, the experiences where people have to put themselves out there for you, the times that taking a stand is required, those are the times you find out who your true friends are. Because for some, friendship is conditional.

And it’s at those points in your life when your circle of friends grow smaller. The good news is that although the circle is smaller, it is also stronger.

You know why? Because real friendship, like real love, is unconditional. A true friend will be there no matter what, right there beside you, even when you’re wrong. A true friend won’t try to lead you or follow you, but simply be beside you.

Here’s what Jim Morrison of The Doors had to say:

A true friend is someone who lets you have total freedom to be yourself – and especially to feel. Or, not feel. Whatever you happen to be feeling at the moment is fine with them. That’s what real love amounts to – letting a person be what he or she really is.”

Jim knew what was up.

Will a true friend tell you when you’ve made a mistake? Point out what an idiot you’ve been? Hell yes they will, and I’d expect nothing less. But when the time comes to pick a side there’ll be no question where they’ll stand.

Years ago I was with an old friend and I’d been going through a tough time. I was in the middle of a breakup and I was explaining the circumstances to him. I’d just gotten started when he put his hand on my arm and said this:

“You don’t have to explain. I’m on your side automatically.”

I’m not sure even he understood what those words meant to me at that moment.

So true friendship is unconditional and can survive anything. A true friend accepts you for who you are, flaws and all. They have your back through anything that may arise, and they love you enough to be honest with you, even if the truth hurts. They want what’s best for you and they won’t abandon you when times get tough or you’re of no use to them anymore. A true friend will also keep you humble. Believe me, my best friends have no trouble in that department.

Given all that criteria, I suppose it’s no surprise that during your lifetime few will qualify. As for those that do, cherish them and do your best not to lose them.

Because as my uncle said, if on the day you die you can count ’em on one hand you should consider yourself lucky.

The 80s, man. What a decade. Big hair, spandex, high-wasted jeans, leg warmers, neon colors, cut-off sweatshirts, mullets, I could go on forever. I taught at a middle school in Greenfield, Ohio back then and everyone looked like they were straight out of Pretty in Pink, The Breakfast Club or Fast Times at Ridgemont High. Anyway, I ran across this gem today and it’s so 80s it hurts. Denim for days, man.

PS- I had no idea Jordache jeans still existed, but damned if they don’t.

PPS- That one guy looks like the lead singer of Fine Young Cannibals. Google it.

PPPS- If I was that denim I’d be distressed, too.

My late sister Karen was one of the most amazing teachers I ever knew. She taught elementary school for 30-years and influenced the lives of thousands of students and fellow teachers. With all her experience came a lot of stories, and like me she enjoyed telling (and retelling) them. I was subbing at a local school yesterday, we had a tornado drill, and while standing outside with the students I was reminded of this one. I hope you like it . . .

It was during one of Sis’s early years in education and she was teaching 3rd Grade. Like most young teachers, Sis always attempted to do things the right way and build a good reputation for herself. Almost always, she did.

Almost always.

Not on this day though. You see, she was in front of her class going over something when the alarm went off, indicating a school safety drill was in progress.

Fire drill!

Sis knew the procedure. She immediately grabbed her grade book and whatever else teachers are supposed to take with them and calmly told her class to follow her outside.

Her class was at the end of the hallway, so all they had to do was exit the classroom, make a right, and go straight outside to their proper location, far away from the school and to relative safety. As they were calmly but briskly walking, one of Sis’s students ran from his spot in the line to come up and tug on her sleeve.

Mrs. Anderson! MRS. ANDERSON!”

“Bobby, be quiet! It’s fine! It’s only a drill. Don’t be afraid!”

“But Mrs. Ander . . .”

“Shhhhh! Go back and get in line!”

Bobby did. Reluctantly.

Once they got situated and Sis was going down the line counting heads, Bobby once again spoke up when she got to him.

“Mrs. Ander . . .”

“Bobby! What did I tell you? Everything’s fine! We’ll talk when we get back inside.”

“But . . “

“Shhhhhhh!”

Thankfully everyone was in line and accounted for, and Sis went back to her spot at the head of the line. There was one problem though- where were the other classes?

Did Sis take her class out the wrong door? Should they be on the other side of the school? What was happening? And then . . .

Out of the corner of her eye, she saw a kid lean forward and pop his head out of the line towards her. It was Bobby.

“Mrs. Anderson, I think this is a tornado drill.”

Yes, my sister had taken her class outside during a tornado drill, which couldn’t be more opposite of what you should do.

Oops.

Needless to say she then gave her class orders to hustle back in the building, on the double if you will.

Luckily she had an understanding principal and they got a good laugh about it later. She was also lucky that, you know, there wasn’t an actual tornado.

The moral of the story? When one of your students is really trying to tell you something, you should probably listen.

Note- We teased Sis about this for years with lines like, “There might be a fire drill tomorrow. Don’t forget to take your kids and gather around the fuel tanks.” Good times.

SCENE

Enigmatic gunslinger Shane rides into a small Wyoming town with hopes of quietly settling down as a farmhand. Taking a job on homesteader Joe Starrett’s farm, Shane is drawn into a battle between the townsfolk and ruthless cattle baron Rufus Ryker. Shane’s growing attraction to Starrett’s wife, Marian, and his fondness for their son Joey, who idolizes Shane, forces Shane to realize that he must thwart Ryker’s plan of taking over the Starrett’s land. Ryker brings in legendary gunfighter Jack Wilson to kill Shane, and the following gunfight ensues.

img_5960.jpgI had a lot of amazing experiences as a kid and have written about them on this site quite a bit. I was lucky enough to have a father (and several uncles) who were into sports and they took myself and my cousins to games all the time. We’d load up and head to Cincinnati to see the Reds, Bengals and Royals (the old NBA team), to Columbus to watch Ohio State basketball and football games, Columbus Checkers hockey games, and even make the journey to Cleveland for the occasional Browns or Indians game.

We almost always had good tickets, for between Dad and my Uncle Myrl we had the connections to make it happen. Myrl was State Representative (and later Lt. Governor) who obtained tickets through political channels, and my Dad was Purchasing Manager at Mead Corporation, a prominent paper company in our area. Dad’s job required buying anything and everything the company required, so as you can imagine salesmen were always bombarding him with gifts to sway his decisions. This was before the ethics laws tightened up, thank God. Anyway, great tickets.

My family had a pretty intense interest in sports, and our traditional Thanksgiving weekend basketball games were legendary. There was no such thing as “friendly” competition, and after one particularly spirited game featuring some broken ribs, a black-eye, some shattered eyeglasses and what might have been a ruptured spleen, Aunt Dorothy put a stop to it. After all, we were aged mid-20s and upwards at that point so it seemed like the prudent thing to do.

But back to high school. Most of us were pretty good athletes, and some were better than good. Among these were Mick Shoemaker, a 1st Team All-Ohioan in basketball, baseball and football who went on the receive a D1 scholarship to the University of Cincinnati, and John  Shoemaker, a terrific athlete who played basketball at Miami of Ohio, was drafted by the Chicago Bulls, but chose to play baseball after being drafted by the Los Angeles Dodgers. There were many others from back then (let’s not forget Mark Litter, a 1st Team All-American middle linebacker football player) and plenty of others, way too many to mention (sorry Mike, Todd, Lisa, etc.).

However, without a doubt the best of all was Greg Cook. Greg was the nephew of my Aunt Dorothy, which technically made him not my cousin, although he always called me Cousin Dave and even signed a football and sweatshirt in that fashion. Hell, he probably thought I was his cousin because I was always with his cousins Keith, Kevin, Brenda, Mick and Deb.

Anyway, Greg played football at Chillicothe, then at the University of Cincinnati, and finally for the Cincinnati Bengals, who drafted him in the 1st Round of the 1969 draft. Because of Greg all of us got to go into the locker room after games, where we got to meet a lot of famous players. I remember meeting guys like Joe Namath, Daryl Lamonica and even OJ Simpson. Pretty big deal for a 13-year old kid as you might imagine.

Bottom line, Greg was really good and a big deal at the time. He was even selected as the NFL Rookie of the Year. Coach Bill Walsh, while talking to NFL Films, said Greg “threw, by far, the best deep ball of any quarterback I ever saw”. Walsh called him “A combination of Terry Bradshaw’s size and strength with Joe Montana’s instincts and feel for the game”.

Keep in mind that Bill Walsh coached the Super Bowl Champion San Francisco 49ers and Joe Montana, kids.

But while going to games, getting great seats, and going to the locker room were all great, those aren’t my favorite memories of Greg Cook. What I remember are the days when he’d come to visit my Aunt Dorothy and Uncle Myrl.

It was always during the off-season of course, and if I wasn’t already at the house (like I said, I practically lived there), somebody would call me with the news:

“Greg’s coming. Get up here.”

And up there I would get, as fast as my 1966 Schwinn Stingray bike with the banana seat, rear slick and sissy bar would take me.

Some days Greg would just sit and watch TV while I would cast furtive glances his way, amazed that a famous NFL quarterback was watching the Reds-Dodgers game with us. But on other, even more special days, he’d ask us if we all wanted to go outside to run through some passing drills with him.

Well, hell yes we did, and we just happened to have a few footballs at the ready for that very thing.

Sometimes we’d go out behind the old Twin Elementary School (right beside the house), other times we’d all pile in Uncle Myrl’s pickup truck and head to our local high school, Paint Valley, where we’d actually play on the field there. Cousin Mike was the high school coach there at the time so we were good to go.

I’ll never forget Greg’s workouts with us. To begin, the man with the strongest arm in the NFL would get on one knee at the 10-yard line, instruct my cousins and I on which routes to run, and begin zipping passes to us. After 20-30 throws he’d move back to the 20, then the 30, and continue on until he was on the 50-yard line, firing passes to us, all the time while on one knee.

So yeah, strong arm.

Those were great days for a Bourneville kid, man, running routes and catching footballs from an NFL quarterback.

Sadly, Greg’s career was cut short due to a rotator cuff injury, an injury that went untreated for too long and, incredibly, could be fixed rather easily by today’s doctors.

Although he went on to be a motivational speaker and continue a lifelong love of painting, Greg was always remembered as the player whose greatness was cut short by injury, a name that begs the question “what might have been.”

Greg died in 2012, and he was only 65. His life, like his career, cut short.

But for me, it’s not only watching him play in Nippert Stadium and Riverfront Coliseum that I remember, it’s those days behind Twin School or on the Paint Valley HS field, long blonde hair blowing in the breeze, smiling as he rifled those passes to a few of his lucky little cousins.

1969 Bengals Signed Football

Great video about Greg:

https://youtu.be/tVzDtrgybjc

Mirror: The Beatles Abbey Road album cover is one of the most famous in the world. The album’s sleeve shows the four members — Paul McCartney, John Lennon, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr — walking across the street outside Abbey Road Studios in North London.

However, if you look closely at the photo of the Fab Four, you’ll notice a suited gent standing on the pavement. For years fans have been trying to track the mystery man down, and it is an American tourist called Paul Cole. He was tracked down and said he was included in the snap purely by chance. Paul said he was standing by the side of the road waiting for his wife, who had been looking around a museum.

“I just happened to look up, and I saw those guys walking across the street like a line of ducks. ‘A bunch of kooks,’ I called them, because they were rather radical looking at that time.”  

He said: “I saw the album and I recognized myself right away. I had a new sports jacket on and I’d just bought new shell-rimmed glasses.
I said to my children, ‘Get a magnifying glass out and you’ll see’.”

Paul Cole died in 2008 at the age of 98.

I cannot tell you how many times I’ve looked at that cover and wondered who the dude was standing on the street in the background. I just figured it was somebody who worked in the area and was used to seeing the boys around. Turns it was Paul Cole, an American who was tired of touristing with the wifey and had gone out for a quiet moment and some fresh air. Little did he know he’d end up being on one of the most iconic rock and roll album covers in the history of mankind. That’s wild stuff, man. Anyway, Paul Freakin’ Cole. Check him out:

Believe it or not I used to coach football. Sure, basketball has always been my true love but I actually coached junior high football for 4-years back when I first started teaching. I coached 1-year at Paint Valley and 3-years at Greenfield McClain. I had a couple good years and a couple that were, shall we say, suspect. Ah, what the hell, I’ll be honest – I had no freaking idea what I was doing, and the story I’m about to tell is evidence of that.

The very first year I coached I had an 8th grader named Donnie. Donnie was a strapping young lad, probably 5′-11′, 200 pounds, in other words a big dude for being just 13-years old. Donnie was a good, honest country boy, simple in his ways and speech.

Anyway, in our infinite football wisdom my assistant and I made the decision to insert Donnie at the fullback position, because hey, the dude was monstrous for his age and could just truck the hell out of any poor 110-pound youngster that might foolishly attempt to tackle him.

On a related note, my assistant had the same football background and experience that I did, which amounted to a grand total of none.

So for the first couple of games Donnie played well, gaining a lot of yards whilst annihilating the occasional player, both on the opponent’s team or ours, that got in his way.

Defensively however, our young squad was struggling. Our guys had a lot of heart but exhibited a distinct lack of interest in, you know, hitting somebody.

Did it ever occur to our brilliant football minds to give Donnie a try on defense? Sadly, it did not. Until one day . . .

My assistant and I were standing on the sideline before a game, lamenting our lack of a defense, when Donnie walked up to us. The words he then uttered not only opened our eyes but changed the football fortunes of the young Bearcat squad from that moment forward.

“Coach, can I ask you something?”

“Sure Donnie, what is it?”

“Coach, I don’t wanna carry the ball anymore. I wanna get that guy what got the ball.”

It took me a second to interpret the words, but I finally realized Donnie wanted to play defense, to get the guy that has the ball.

Well, we weren’t the smartest football coaches on the planet, but if Donnie wanted “to get that guy what got the ball”, then damn it, who were we to get in his way?

Long story short, we put Donnie in at linebacker. On the very first play of the game he steamrolled two linemen trying to block him, grabbed the horrified opposing quarterback by the neck, threw him about 7-yards backwards, then picked up the resulting fumble and lumbered about 40-yards into the end zone.

Like it or not, from then on Donnie did have to carry the ball, but only after he extricated it from the shaking hands of our whimpering opponents.

I would never turn into a great football coach, but I did learn a valuable lesson from Donnie – listen to your players. Sometimes they’re smarter than you are.

 

 

Lord knows I experienced more than my share of injuries as a kid, some my fault, others not so much. And although I have scars, thankfully there were no permanent damages.

I think.

Anyway, I’ve written several stories over the years regarding my misspent youth and here they are, all combined into one glorious blog. Seriously, it’s a miracle I survived. Enjoy . . .

RUN OVER BY A TRUCK

Yep. This happened.

When I was 11 or 12 my buddies and I got on this kick where we built homemade go-carts. We’d take the wheels off of an old wagon or something and attach them to a 2×4, make axles, and go from there. We’d attach the axles with a bolt down through the middle, and in that way we’d be able to steer with our feet.

Make sense?

Anyway, the go-carts became quite elaborate with sides and roofs (we’d use whatever wood, tin, or anything we could find in our parent’s garages) along with some creative paint jobs. For mine, I found a big rectangle shaped board and nailed it to the bottom of my go-cart. It made it look like it had wings, so I christened it “The Flying Dutchman” because I’m part Dutch and part German. And hey, even at my young age “The Nazi Death Wagon” just didn’t seem appropriate.

If you’ve been reading my “Childhood Injuries” series, you know that we didn’t exactly err on the side of caution when I was a kid, so it probably won’t surprise you to learn that we raced our go-carts right down the hill on Twin Road. Yes, it’s a pretty high traffic area, but I don’t recall that being figured into the equation at the time.

So we’d have these races down the hill, two at a time, winners advancing just like March Madness. This was a different kind of madness, but still. Each cart had a pusher that would give you a start, just like the bobsledders in the Olympics. My pusher was Ted, the same guy who knocked me out with a beer bottle and watched me plummet 20-feet out of a willow tree. In retrospect, Ted wasn’t exactly a lucky charm for me, but at the time that hadn’t occurred to me.

One day we’re having our races, and Ted gives me a helluva shove. I’m leading by a hefty margin, hunched over to reduce wind resistance as The Flying Dutchman hurtled down the hill.

All was well until I saw the truck.

It was pulling out of Keran Street, which ran perpendicular onto Twin Road. The guy driving the truck looked right, then left towards me. He didn’t see me, perhaps because he was looking for a regulation vehicle on a public road and not a small wooden contraption built from garage junk. Then he turned left, directly towards me, and it was too late for me to ditch.

I was going to be hit.

At this point I had few options. The truck was going to run right over me. It was too late to roll off the go-cart, so it looked like the end for young Dave.

Listen, if you’ve never seen a truck grill coming at you at 30-mph from a height of about 2-feet off the road you haven’t lived. Without really thinking, I just reached up and grabbed the truck bumper as it went over my head. Somehow, I stayed in the cart but unfortunately the truck kept going. In the background I could hear my buddies yelling, “STOP! YOU’RE KILLING OUR FRIEND!” or something along those lines. The guy probably only drove a few feet with me dragging under his front bumper but it seemed like, oh I don’t know, 43-miles. This was probably so because every second I held on I expected to lose my grip and be crushed by the undercarriage of a 1968 Ford F100.

But I didn’t, and the driver finally stopped. He jumped out and pulled me from under his truck, genuinely concerned that he may have killed a child. Except not really. He ripped me a new one:

“What the hell do you think you’re doing? You rolled right under my truck you %$#*&%$ IDIOT!!”

Yeah, because it’s all about you, bud. Still, he had a point.

Bottom line I was unhurt, miraculously I might add. And I somehow avoided peeing my pants, which saved me from great ridicule on the mean streets of Bourneville, Ohio.

After some more ass-chewing and the extrication of The Flying Dutchman from under the truck, I pulled my undamaged go-cart back to the top of the hill, where the races continued. After all, life went on, fortunately for me.

And hey, it was just another near-death experience for me. No big deal. Just another day in the life of a southern Ohio kid in the late 60s.

THE HOLEY TONGUE

This was one of the stories in a series about my susceptibility to almost getting killed as a kid. I’ve alluded to this little mishap before, so stop me if you’ve heard it already.

On Halloween when I was, oh, maybe 11 or 12, my buddy Ted and I decided to climb the big willow tree in my front yard and scare the bejesus out of passing children. If you have to ask why you don’t know what fun is, folks.

I was climbing ahead of Ted, at least 20-feet up. He was probably 10-feet off the ground behind me. I reached for a branch, it broke, and next thing I knew I was hurtling downward, backwards, towards the gaping jaws of death. You ever fall from a great height backwards? A lot of stuff goes through your head as you fall all slow-motiony and whatnot through the air, like “I hope mom will be OK without me” or “I sure wish I would’ve kissed Debbie Mirkelson on the playground last Tuesday when I had the chance“, or perhaps, “Oh no, when they clean my room they’re going to find those magazines under my mattress.

Too specific? Never mind.

My point is, you actually experience great insight and retrospection on the way down. I actually think I may have understood The Grand Unification Theory for a second, but sadly it vanished from my brain upon impact. Anywho, as I flew past Ted, and you may find this hard to believe, but he actually yelled, “A-h-h-h-h-h-h-h . . .” imitating a man falling down a hole.

What can I say? I’ve had some really weird friends in my life.

So I hit the ground, landing on my back, and all the air went out of me. Things went black and I thought, “So this is what it’s like to be dead.”

Except I wasn’t, although for a second I’m pretty sure I saw Jesus.

Soon Ted came down and shook me, probably not the preferred method of treatment, and it was only then that I began to feel the pain. My back hurt like hell, but something was seriously wrong with my mouth. I instinctively reached in there to see what was wrong, and to my horror there was a a lot of blood and a substantial sized hole in my tongue. I ran screaming bloody murder into my house, only to be chastised by my parents for interrupting a scintillating episode of “My Three Sons” or something.

Did anyone call 911? Nah. Was I taken to the emergency room? I was not. I got a wet rag, stuck it in my mouth and got on with my life.

Bottom line? Even though I still have a lump in my tongue today, it healed. And my back is fine if you ignore the fact that, on rainy days, it feels like a honey badger is chewing on my lower lumbar vertebrae.

What can I say? ‘Twas a different, and in many ways better, time.

THE FRIED HAND

When I was really young, around three-years old, I was at my grandparent’s farmhouse. They had a woodstove in the kitchen and I was doing what toddlers do, which was toddling. I walked over to the stove and I remember that it looked almost fuzzy, which I know realize indicated that it was red-hot. Being a little kid and not knowing any better, I placed my flat palm on the stove. I don’t remember a lot after that, other than it hurt like a mofo and skin was hanging off my hand like melting plastic.

I have no idea how my burn was treated, but knowing my family at the time grandpa probably killed a chicken and rubbed it’s spleen on me or something (I can’t believe I just typed “Do chickens have spleens?” into The Goggle).

Anyway, it was a serious burn, man. How do I know? Because the scar’s still there, as you can plainly see. On a related note, I used to tell girls I got the scar from pulling an old lady out of a burning car. Hey, whatever works.

Legend has it that my parents had been pretty sure I was left-handed (like dad) up to that point, but I had to go so long using my right hand I became right-handed.

Anyway, it’s weird that I can remember an accident from so long ago, but I think it was so traumatic it’s burned into the banks of my memory. See what I did there? Burned? Never mind.

Note: I just talked to Mom about this. I asked if I was taken to the hospital or the doctor that day and here is her exact quote:

“No, the lady across the road was a nurse or something and she put some kind of salve on it.”

God, that’s just too perfect.

FIRECRACKERS & CLOTHESLINES

That title sounds like a Strawberry Alarm Clock album from the 60’s. Anyway . . .

When I was 16 or 17 I hung around a lot at my sister’s house. She was young and hadn’t been married long, so for a teenager that was the place to go, ya know?

Anywho, one summer night a buddy and I were hanging out there, probably looking for trouble and up to no good. Somehow we got hold of some fireworks and decided to have some fun. First, we went out back and shot bottle rockets at each other, always a guaranteed good time. After a bit, disappointed that nobody was maimed or anyone’s eye was put out, we headed down to the creek to throw M-80s into the water. Lemme tell ya, watching underwater explosions was pure entertainment for a southern Ohio kid in 1973. Probably still is. The fish probably didn’t think so, but hey.

That amused us for awhile, until we began throwing the M-80s at each other, because of course we did. If you don’t know, M-80s are deadly and banned in many parts of the good old USA, basically because they are deadly in the hands of moronic people such as I. How my brother-in-law had possession of these I do not know, but let’s just say he knew a guy. Anyway, in the beginning we at least had the good sense to throw them at each other’s feet, because anyone can spare a toe or two, right?

But of course that didn’t last.

Because at one point I see a lit M-80 coming straight for my face. I instinctively threw my hands up, and as luck would have it the M-80 blew right as it hit my hand.

Good God it hurt. I was certain I’d lost some fingers or worse, but I couldn’t tell because A) It was dark, and B) I couldn’t feel my hand.

The only thing I could do was run to my sister’s house in a panic. I bolted through the darkness of the backyard with my eyes on the light over her backdoor. I was running as fast as I could, holding my hand as I went, certain I was minus some digits. All I wanted was to get to the house and examine the extent of my horrific injuries.

To reiterate – pitch dark, running full-speed through the backyard, focused on porch light. What more could possibly go wrong?

Turns out, a lot – like being clotheslined by a clothesline.

Yep, the one that I forgot was there.

It caught me exactly at throat level, so my feet kept going but my head stayed where it was. I was upended feet first, flew through the air, and eventually landed on my back.

After lying there stunned for a few minutes I got up and staggered into the house and into the bathroom to check out the damages. Turns out my throat had a rope burn across it and looked as if I’d attempted suicide by slitting my throat with a butter knife. Oh, and my back felt as if a railroad spike had been hammered into it.

But on a positive note, I still had all my fingers, and after a couple hours I could actually feel them.

You know, in retrospect I really should have been more cautious as a kid.

Nah, that wouldn’t have been any fun.

HAMMER TIME!

I was in my late teens when this little gem occurred. It was summer and my dad had ordered me to do some work on the gutters of our house. The gutters were loose in places, so I was basically moving a ladder around the house and hammering in those long nails that hold them up where they needed it.

After working about halfway around the house, I decided I needed to take a break and grab a glass of water. I hung the hammer on one of the rungs of the ladder and climbed down.

You see where this is going, don’t you?

It was when I returned to my job that I made what could have been a fatal error in judgment. For some reason (quite possibly because I was an ignoramus) I decided that, as long as I was on the ground, I may as well move the ladder down a few feet. So, I grabbed the ladder and started to move it, and an instant later the world went black.

I think I may have had a brief instant where I thought I’d been attacked from behind with a sledgehammer, but that thought disappeared along with my consciousness.

When I awoke in the grass a few minutes (seconds?) later, all I knew for sure was that I had a massive headache and a knot on my head the size of Verne Troyer’s skull.*

*Search it up on The Goggle.

I looked around, half expecting to see a gang of hoodlums that had inexplicably wandered into Bourneville, Ohio to steal my brand new Stanley Curved Claw Wood Handle Nailing Hammer, except the hammer was right there in the grass beside me.

Wait.

Oh, crap.

I’d forgotten the hammer was lurking at the top, hanging on a ladder rung, waiting to come hurtling down from above the minute I moved the ladder and kill me on impact.

I have no idea how my skull wasn’t crushed. I mean, a hammer falling from 12-feet onto your head? Seriously?

I swear I didn’t even put ice on it. I didn’t even know what being concussed meant back then. I just rubbed it, checked for blood (there was none), and went back to working on the gutters. Hell, if I’d told dad I’d have been rebuked for being stupid, which incidentally would have been 100% correct.

If I’ve said it once I’ve said it a million times. I have no idea how I’m still alive.

OLD SCHOOL REMEDIES, GRANDPA STYLE

My Grandpa Shoemaker was about the toughest old bird you could ever meet. He was once a blacksmith, and a piece of molten iron had broken off and lodged under the skin of his arm decades before I was born. It was never removed, and when I was a little kid he used to let me move it around under his skin. It was weird, you could actually move it up and down his forearm.

Anyway, tough cat my grandpa. He also had hands like vice grips, and when he grabbed you there was no getting away. That said, he was one of the kindest, most gentle men I’ve ever known. As I’ve mentioned before, some of my fondest memories are of when I used to accompany him when he ran his trotlines in Paint Creek. I used to love to listen to him, because he was so wise and his stories were so fascinating to me.

But on to the point of this story. When I was 15 or 16 I went down to his house for one reason or the other. We were sitting on his front porch side-by-side, just talking. At one point he noticed me rubbing the back of my left hand and asked if something was wrong. I told him that a cyst had developed and it was bothering me. It didn’t really hurt but it was about the size of a big marble and was annoying as hell.

I told Grandpa I was going to have it removed soon because it was bothering me, and he just looked at me like I was an idiot. After all, this was a guy who’d had a piece of iron in his arm since 1913.

He then asked how I was going to do that, and I began explaining that it was a minor operation, that they’d just numb my hand and . . .

T-H-H-W-W-A-A-C-K!

Next thing I knew my hand felt like it had been hammered by the heel of a work boot, which is fitting because that’s exactly what had happened. When I wasn’t looking, Grandpa had taken it upon himself to save me some money. He’d slipped his work boot off and popped me a good one. Turns out that in the old days folks got rid of cysts by shattering the living hell out of them, country style.

And you know what? Although it hurt like a sumbitch, it worked. I’d had that cyst for years but after that moment it never came back. I don’t know if he broke it into bits or slammed it so far into my hand you couldn’t see it, but it was gone forever.

Sure, I couldn’t feel my hand for 3-4 hours, but you gotta take the bad with the good I suppose.

Hell, I’m just thankful there wasn’t a hammer nearby at the time.

HOOKED IN THE JAW

When I was a kid my grandfather, my father and I used to go to ponds all over the area to fish. Grandpa Shoemaker used to have trotlines up and down Paint Creek and we’d fish for bait to put on them. If you don’t know, trotlines were fishing lines that were stretched across the creek, attached at both ends to trees or something on the bank. You had bait attached every few feet to the line and it had to be checked once or twice a day to see what you’d caught. Some of my greatest memories are of my grandfather and I checking his trotlines in his row boat.

Sometimes he’d even let me row! Wonderful memories.

Anyway, back to the ponds. Dad was fishing and I was beside him. At some point I had to get a worm to re-bait my hook and was walking behind dad. That’s when he decided to cast his line, either because he didn’t see me or because he was trying to teach me a lesson. I’d say it’s about 50-50 either way.

Next thing I knew I felt the fishing line sort of wrap around my neck and hook just under my jawline. That in itself was painful enough, but before I could scream dad whipped the line back out toward the water while the hook was still lodged in my jaw.

Trust me, then I screamed.

The hook stayed imbedded even after the jerk, it just became more deeply enlodged in my jaw.

Yeah, that’s never good.

After briefly showing annoyance for my rude interrupting of his cast, dad came back and began his attempt at hook removal. As you know, those things are made to go in easy. Coming out is another story, hence the little thing called a barb on the end.

After much pulling and twisting, Dad and Grandpa finally dislodged the offending hook. I’m telling you, that may have been the worst 5-minutes of my life. Not only that, after the hook was out dad splashed some pond water on it to clean it up. Not the preferred method of wound-cleaning I’m sure. Still, I nevertheless avoided a life-threatening blue gill infection when all was said and done.

Was I rushed to the ER? Nah. Did I get chastised for being stupid and walking behind a man who was casting a fishing line? Of course I did.

And did I ever do it again? No way.

BLINDED BY HENDRIX

Almost.

One day back in the idiocy of my youth, my friend Billy and I made the awesome decision to have a 45-record war. For those of you who don’t know what a 45-record was, it was a little record that had music on it. You played it on a turntable, which was a . . . ah, screw it. Search it up on The Goggle.

The point is we built these little forts out of couch cushions and started whipping these little records at each other, which was like throwing Frisbees except they were thinner with much sharper edges. After a bit I peeked over a cushion and caught a 45 right over my left eye. I seem to remember it was “Hey Joe” by Jimi Hendrix. It cut a nasty slice about a quarter inch long right through my left eyebrow, and I proceeded to bleed like a stuck pig.*

*I have no idea if a stuck pig bleeds more than a stuck rabbit or stuck marmoset, but folks seem to stick pigs for some reason.

I was afraid to tell mom because I knew I’d get in trouble for being a jackass (there was some precedent for this), so I stuck a rag on it until it stopped, then found my oldest sister and asked for her help. After being initially aghast at the injury, she poured some mercurochrome** on it, followed by a big band-aid.

**For you youngsters out there, mercurochrome was once used as a cure-all by mothers far and wide for injuries ranging from small cuts to severe head trauma. A few drops of mercurochrome could supposedly cure a shotgun blast to the chest. Unfortunately, in 1998 the U.S. Food and Drug Administration declared that mercurochrome was “not generally recognized as safe and effective” as an over-the-counter antiseptic and forbade its sale across state lines. Sad, really.

Anyway, had the Hendrix record been an inch lower I’d have undoubtedly lost an eyeball, which is hardly ever a good thing.

Long story short, to this day if I smooth down my eyebrow, there’s a little scar line where hair refuses to grow.

Thanks Billy!

Note: If any of my exes asks about the scar, I got it in a bar fight. Let’s keep this on the downlow.

JUST LIKE THE WESTERNS, BUT NOT REALLY

One time my buddy Ted (yeah, him again) and I found some old beer bottles in a ditch or somewhere. After checking to see if there was any booze left, we got the bright idea to pretend to be cowboys in a saloon fight. Hey, we’d seen the TV westerns where guys were just getting clobbered left and right with bottles that would shatter upon impact. We flipped a coin, and Ted got to go first.

We pretended to fight, then I saw Ted rear back to let me have it. I saw the bottle coming . . . and then everything went black.

Turns out those bottles on TV aren’t real, and it takes a lot of force to actually break a beer bottle over a human’s head, at least in 1967. Hence, the bottle remained intact and I went down like a sack of lug nuts.

At least Ted tried to help. What did he do, you ask? The same thing he saw cowboys do on TV – he ran to the garage, got a bucket, filled it with water and threw it in my face.

Turns out that actually works.

Anywho, I sat up, shook it off, and got on with my life. And we were smart enough not to try it again on Ted, so perhaps we did have a few brain cells in our craniums.

Nah. Probably not.

CROQUET BALL KO

This one also took place at Uncle Myrl’s and Aunt Dorothy’s. One summer day I was up there and we went outside to play some baseball. The problem was, we couldn’t find a baseball. I believe it was cousin Kevin who grabbed a croquet ball from somewhere. We’d been playing awhile, I was pitching, when cousin Mick sent a screaming line drive right back at me. I didn’t get my glove up in time and the croquet ball caught me right between the eyes, knocking me out cold.

And what was the reaction of my loving cousins? They all ran back into the house.

I have no idea how long I was out, but I do remember getting up and staggering back into the house with a goose egg on my head the size of an orange. Incredibly (in retrospect), everyone was casually sitting around watching TV.

Me: “What the hell? Thanks for nothing.

Mick: “Hey, look. He’s alive!”

Kevin, pointing to my head: “Better get some ice on that.”

True story.

THE SLICED FOOT

Once, when I was about 5 or 6 my parents and I were sitting on the front porch and Dad told me to run around the house to see how fast I could go. In retrospect it’s pretty obvious he was just trying to get rid of me for a little bit, but that’s neither here nor there. Any, I was barefoot as usual and when I made it back around and stood there panting, he sort of looked down, pointed, and calmly stated this:

“Hey, looks like you cut your foot there.”

I looked down, and sure enough there was a 3-inch slice of meat hanging off my instep like you would not dream. Blood everywhere too, I might add. But hey, no biggie. Mom just slapped some Mecuricome* on it, added a band-aid or six and I was ready to rock and roll.

*Again, for you younger folk out there, Mecuricome was a wonder antiseptic that was used to prevent and cure all sorts of maladies. And yes, it had mercury in it. I recall it was red and it stung like a mofo. Sadly it was discontinued years ago. Something about causing cancer or some such nonsense. On a related note, I bet mom still has a bottle stashed somewhere.

PS- I’m also 90% sure I broke a kneecap that went untreated when I wrecked my bike as a kid. How do I know this? Because when I get down on that knee today if feels as if I’m kneeling on a live power line. Somehow, I soldier on.

THE BICYCLE WAGON TRAIN WAS A BAD IDEA

I have no idea who first came up with the idea, but if I had to bet I’d say it was Max. All the ideas that got us into trouble seemed to originate with him.

All I know is that it was a bad idea, we were idiots to think we could pull it off, and it could have killed somebody. But let’s start at the beginning . . .

It was the summer of my, oh, let’s say 11th year. I’m guessing because I don’t remember exactly when the incident took place, and that may have something to do with what happened that day.

Because you know, concussions and traumatic events can do that to a kid’s brain.

Anyway, myself and six of my friends were sitting in my dad’s garage, probably discussing Raquel Welch’s breasts or the decline of Willie Mays or something. We were all either sitting on or near our bikes, which were obviously our main forms of transportation back then. As I recall, the bikes ranged from my spiffy little Schwinn with the butterfly handlebars and funky sissy bar to my buddy Scratch’s 1954 era Columbia which his dad had passed down to him. Aside from Scratch and I, the other conspirators involved that fateful day were Mel, Max, Rocky, Ted and Fred. Max, you may remember, was the kid behind the infamous episode in which we almost lost our buddy Harold.

Best to keep that in mind as we continue.

Note: Scratch’s name has an interesting origin. You see, his name was Richard so we originally called him Rich, which we eventually shortened to Itch. However, Itch’s mom hated the name and asked us to stop calling him Itch. Hence the name Scratch. Kids can be cruel.

At some point the TV show Wagon Train came up. For some reason, when I was a kid there were a lot of Westerns on television. I think I’ve seen every episode of The Rifleman (stellar), Gunsmoke (legendary), Bat Masterson (I can still sing the theme song in its entirety), The Big Valley (Audra? Smokin’ hot), Bonanza (loved Hoss), and my personal favorite, Sky King. Sky King was about a cowboy who flew an airplane. Really.
But back to Wagon Train. Talking about the TV show somehow brought us around to actual wagon trains, and this led to somebody suggesting we form our own wagon train.

With our bicycles.

Trust me, at the time, in our strange little still-unfully formed brains, this seemed like a good idea. And then, for some unknown reason, somebody suggested we attach our bikes with ropes. Now that I think about it, in real wagon trains the wagons weren’t attached by anything so I don’t know what the hell we were thinking.

But like I said, unformed brains.

At that point we were amped for the idea though, and there was no stopping us. Wagon Train! Let’s do this! So we rummaged around my garage and came up with a collection of rope, wire, clothesline, an old bike inner tube, and a three-foot length of chain. Somehow, we attached our bikes together. I distinctly recall tying one end of a clothesline around my bike seat post and the other end around the handlebars of Fred’s old beat-up Huffy Cruiser.

Note II: Fred, by the way, was a man ahead of his time. He would later become known as the first guy who dyed his hair at our school. Yep, he changed his hair color at the age of 16. And he changed that color to green. Gutsy move in any era.

Soon we were finished and ready to roll. For some reason yours truly was in the lead, followed by Fred, Scratch, Max, Mel, Rocky, and finally Ted. After some initial struggles we actually made it out of the driveway and up the street a bit, albeit with some herky-jerky movements along the way.

By the way, nobody, and I mean nobody, wore a helmet back then. If somebody would’ve shown up wearing one he would’ve been harassed, shamed, laughed at, teased, spat upon and possibly beaten to a pulp for being a pansy. Hell, I once put one of those tall safety flags on the back of my bike and my friend Ted ended up taking it off and whipping me with it. Bourneville was a tough neighborhood back in the day.

We finally made it to the top of the hill in front of the old Twin School, and then we stopped to regroup before heading down the hill towards Route 50. It seemed the prudent thing to do. Regroup, that is.

Did I mention we were about to head down a hill?

At this point I remember raising my hand and giving the signal to move forward, then actually yelling, “Wagons, HO!”

Seriously. I yelled, “Wagons, HO!”

After a couple of false starts we began our descent, and all was well as we started down the hill. Believe it or not we started to gain a sort of chemistry, becoming a finely-tuned working unit if you will. We were pedaling in unison and gaining speed. In fact, we were rolling so fast I started to contemplate other things, the first and foremost being how in the hell are we going to stop?

As it turned out, however, stopping at the bottom of the hill wasn’t going to figure into the equation. This is because right about then, to my horror, I heard Max yell this:

“I wonder what would happen if I hit my brakes?”

All I got out was “Don’t do it M . . .” before, well, Max did it.

So picture 7-bikes, all tied together, going down a hill really fast, and the guy on the bike right in the middle slams on his breaks.

Carnage.

The three guys in front of Max (me, Fred and Scratch) all went right over our handlebars, headfirst. I actually held on to mine for a second, which caused me to flip completely over and land on the road, on my back. Miraculously though, other than the blacktop burn on my ass I was unscathed.

You know, until .3 seconds later when Fred landed on me, and .1 seconds after that when Scratch landed on Fred.

Yep, that’ll knock the breath right out of you, trust me.

As for the rest of the guys, Mel, Rocky and Ted all crashed into Max of course, flipping his bike head-over-heels and into the three now-unmanned bikes in front of them. Oh, and Mel had teeth marks in his back, and from whence they came was never established.

Like I said, carnage.

When all was said and done we were a pile of skinned knees, flat tires, bent rims, banana seats, handlebars, bike fenders and crushed souls.

But as was our way back then we got up, checked for damages, wiped off our scraped knees, dusted ourselves off and pushed or carried our damaged bikes back home. Nobody cried or yelled for mommy, just a lot of wiping off blood and checking for protruding bones. And we were laughing all the way.

After all, we had a memory we could talk about for years to come, even all the way up to January of 2018, almost 51-years later.

Just another beautiful day in downtown Bourneville, Ohio, circa 1967.

Good times for sure, if you could live through it.

GRUNGY’S REVENGE

Another story from my misspent youth . . .

We had a kid in our neighborhood when I was growing up that was, shall we say, lacking in the looks department. Ah, what the hell, he was the ugliest SOB I’ve ever seen. He had a bulbous nose, elephantine ears, beady eyes, and his complexion was so bad it looked as if his face had caught on fire on somebody’d put it out with a rake.

God, I can be mean. But seriously, this dude’s parents had to tie a steak around his neck to get the dog to play with him. I swear he had to sneak up on a glass of water to get a drink. Hey-O! I could go on forever.

In addition, he was really big for his class at school. Alright, so he’d been held back a couple of times. But he was still big for his age, and not just big-big. Humongously fat-big. Add some long greasy hair to the mix and I think you get the visual.

The guy’s last name was Granderson, and for some unknown reason that only our then-addled minds could understand, we called him Grungy. Grungy Granderson. Hey, it seemed to fit.

Anyway, he hated the nickname. Hated it. If you ever called him that you best be sure that you weren’t within grabbing distance or you were in for a severe ass-whipping. However, since Grungy was lacking in the footspeed department some of us would occasionally get away with actually calling him that to his troll-like face. The fact that Grungy was such a mean and hateful guy somehow made this acceptable in our world.

Wait. Now that I think about it, it’s sort of obvious why he was so angry all the time. The world can be a cruel place, man.

I actually felt a hint of remorse there for a second. Hold on . . . OK, it passed.

That said, one day I was cruising by Twin School on my bike with my buddy Buddy (seriously, his name was Buddy) when we noticed Grungy shooting some hoops on the playground. Buddy, who could be a bit of a jackass, then suggested we ride over and torment Grungy a bit. After all, we were on our bikes and he was not. Seemed like a safe and entertaining way to kill a few minutes. Have I mentioned I was once one helluva punk-ass kid?

Before we rode over there, though, Buddy and I had this conversation:

Buddy: “Hey, why don’t you see how close you can get to him, call him Grungy, and then take off?”

Me: “Why don’t you?”

Because I’m quick like that.

Buddy: “C’mon. I dare you.”

Me: “No way man. That dude would crush my spleen if he caught me.”

Buddy: “You’re a chicken.”

Me: “For once in your life you are correct. I am a chicken.”

Buddy: “C’mon. I double dare you.”

Now, when I was 12-years old you could dare me, you could call me chicken, you could question my manhood. But you could not double dare me. Ever. Double dare me and I would take you up on it. That was the rule of the street in Bourneville, Ohio in the late 60s my friends. I know, it makes no sense, but anyone in my age group knows exactly what I’m talking about.

So . . .

We rode on over and I immediately began circling Grungy on my bike, saying clever things like:

“G-r-u-n-g-y . . .”

“Hey GRUNGY!”

“Grungeman!”

“What’s up Grungy?”

“G-R-U-U-U-U-U-N . . .”

A-n-d I never got that last part out because a basketball had just slammed into the back of my head at approximately the speed of light. I swear it felt like a cannonball had hit me from a distance of 10-feet, thrown by an angry King Kong after 17-Red Bulls and a shot of liquid adrenaline. To this day if you look closely at the back of my head I’m pretty sure you can see the faint outline of the word “Spalding” there, backwards.

Of course I flew off my bike, and when I came to my senses Grungy was towering over me like an enraged Goblin on steroids.

Man, was he pissed.

He then picked me up by the front of my t-shirt and belt of my pants, held me over his head, and threw me like a rag doll into the air. While airborne it felt like I was moving in slow motion. Everything became quiet and it was actually quite peaceful for a few seconds. While up there I believe I actually caught a glimpse of Buddy, my supposed friend, pedaling away at warp-speed while glancing over his shoulder in fear, like a hobo being chased by a guy with a job offer.

Of course all that ended when I landed on the playground blacktop.

I sat up, stunned, looking around wildly for the expected onslaught that was to come. But nothing came. All I saw was Grungy riding away on my little bike, looking like one of those bears in the circus that they’ve taught to ride a bicycle. It would have been funny if I’d had any feeling in my upper torso.

After sitting on the ground for awhile trying to catch my breath and my bearings and feeling around for missing teeth and you know, blood, I got up and walked home.

And there, leaning against a tree in my front yard, was my bike.

Grungy had left it for me.

God knows I deserved what I got and he had every right to roll my bicycle into Paint Creek or something, but for some reason he didn’t.

Grungy moved away soon after that, and I never got the chance to ask him why he left my bike for me. I guess somewhere deep inside that big, mean, ugly body there beat a good heart.

I sort of wish I’d known that sooner.

I actually attempted two websites before this one and neither really caught on. The first was called Rock Hard Times and was all about music. The second was called The Inside Handshake and stuck exclusively to sports. Then one day it hit me – why limit myself to one subject? Hell, I have opinions and observations on other stuff as well. Why not open it up to everything? Music, sports, politics, science, entertainment, nature, the list was endless. Thus was born Shoe: Untied, a play on my name along with the idea of sort of letting loose (actually a friend of mine came up with the title and I liked it). Anyway, as you know the site turned out to be a pretty eclectic one, and that’s the way my crack staff and I like it.

One thing I discovered early is that you can never, ever predict what people will like. Sometimes I write something I think is great and get very little response. Other times I write something that I feel is sort of trivial and it just blows up (see drunk pig blog below). Like the title says, it defies explanation.

With that said, here is our annual year-end report and Top 25 Most Popular Blogs for 2018. We’ll start with #1 and work our way down. Just click on the title if you want to take a gander.

Australian Pig Steals 18-Beers From Campers, Gets Drunk, Fights Cow

Yes ladies and gentlemen, a short little article I posted along with my observations back in 2014 got over 500,000 views this past year. For you non-mathematicians, that’s over half a million people. Seriously man, it was about a drunk pig. See, a radio station out in Seattle happened upon my site, liked the post, and put a link to that story on its website. Then the Aussies got hold of it and the rest is history.

UPDATE: Drunk Australian Pig That Started Fight With Cow Killed In Car Accident

Aaaand of course the throngs of people who loved the drunken swine story were interested in the tragic update. On a related note, Australians and I have the same exact sense of humor.

My Side of the Story

Nearly 400,000 people from all over the world heard my side of the story, and I’m glad they did.

Sis

I thought losing a basketball job was a tragic experience. I soon learned that, on life’s grand scale, it wasn’t.

My Dad and I

My memories of my father, who we lost just 53-days after my sister.

“Things Most White People Say” List Is Hilarious, Also 100% Correct

Basically just a repost of some funny tweets I’d run across. Good stuff and people liked it.

Incredible Photo of the Day: Gator Catch!

This was another post that the Australians inexplicably enjoyed. A large percentage of its views came from the Land Down Under.

So How Many People Did The Rifleman Actually Kill?

I love the old TV show The Rifleman, so one day I decided to research just how many people Lucas McCain actually killed. The answer? 120. Ol’ Luke murdered 120 people. But hey, they all deserved it so it’s cool.

Scioto Valley Conference Boys Basketball Preview & Predictions

A preview I wrote regarding our local basketball conference. I must say it’s turning out the way I predicted. So far.

The 2017 Ugly Dog Contest Was An Absolute Joke

My critique of the Ugly Dog Contest and its beautiful winner, Martha.

Cool Beans! Words and Phrases That Need To Make A Comeback

Another story I published a couple years that seems to never go away. Just a simple blog about words.

An American Hero: Ruby Bridges

My story about Ruby Bridges, the little 6-year old African-American who integrated an all-white elementary school in New Orleans on November 14, 1960.

Map of the Day: World Rat Distribution

The most fascinating aspect of this map is that Alberta, Canada is rat free, and it’s not by accident.

Regarding Beach Midgets

Just an offbeat, original little story that people seemed to find hilarious.

15 Reasons I Hate LeBron James (Or Used To)

I wrote this after LeBron left Cleveland with his ridiculous television show, “The Decision”. I really did hate the guy for a few years, but he won me back with his letter admitting he’d made a mistake with the way he left, then returning to Cleveland and ultimately bringing them a championship.

Celebrity Mugshots: My Top 10

Another old post that saw a resurgence of sorts in 2018. I’ve no idea why.

Meet Australian Cow Knickers, the Biggest Damn Cow You’ll Ever See

Again, Australians, man.

If You Haven’t heard of August Landmesser It’s a Damn Shame

I’m truly glad people liked this one, and I’m glad I got to spread the word about August Landmesser.

Paint Valley Basketball Records

This is a page I maintain that’s linked to Shoe: Untied. It gets a lot of hits.

Brad Kerns and Parenting the Way It Should Be

A telling story about one of my basketball parents and also one of the best friends I ever had.

The Many Worlds Theory is Wildly Fascinating

A pretty good example of what an eclectic website Shoe: Untied really is.

Map of the Day: USA IQ Test Scores by State

I had a lot I wanted to say here politically bit I couldn’t pull the trigger.

Man Killed Trying to Bring Christianity to Remote Island Tribe

A recent story that was quite controversial. Seems not everyone agreed with my views.

Another Drunk Animal Causes Havoc, and This Time It’s a Sozzled Squirrel.

Who knew drunk animal stories would be so wildly popular? Not I.

Don’t Think Animals Are Scary Smart? Read On.

There’s a certain segment of people who visit my site that can’t get enough of the animal stuff. They just eat it up. Animals, man.

So there ya go. All in all it was the biggest year ever for Shoe: Untied, and I thank the people who visit because you’re obviously as nuts as I am.

Happy New Year everyone.

 

I was subbing in the old Huntington gym the other day and was reminded of this story . . .

Many moons ago, back when I played high school basketball, I played with perhaps the best player our league has ever seen. He happened to be my cousin and his name was Mick Shoemaker. Mick averaged 31.6 points per game his senior year, scored over 1,500 career points and received a full scholarship to the University of Cincinnati. There once existed a photo of Mick, just a few feet in front of his home bench and barely past the end of the scorer’s table, shooting a jump shot from about 25-feet out. In the photo his feet are at the eye level of those sitting on the bench. You realize the current high school 3-point line is 19-feet, 9-inches from the hoop, right?

So yeah, good. Really good.

Me? Not that good. I mean, I started and had some good games but Mick was on another level. Anyway, all this leads me to certain game in that old Huntington gym against our rivals, the Hunstmen.

The referee threw up the ball and we were soon on offense. Now, it wasn’t unusual for opposing teams to try a variety of defenses in a vain attempt to stop Mick. Anyway, the strategy Huntington was employing in this game was the old Box & 1. For those unaware, a Box & 1 is a defense where one guy sticks with a really good player and the other four guys play a zone, always ready to help out on him. What made this particular Box & 1 unique was that the one was on me.

Well, now. At this point I was thinking pretty highly of myself. Huntington had figured it out! I was the guy they had to stop! Let Mick Shoemaker have his points, the secret to beating Paint Valley was stopping Dave Shoemaker!

Yep, that’s what I actually thought for about 7-seconds. But then there was a lull in the action, the gym grew quiet, and I heard this from the opposing team’s coach:

Not him dummy! “The OTHER Shoemaker!”

I swear the Huntington coach screamed it so loud that everyone heard it, including some folks over in Happy Hollow. At that point the guy guarding me scurried away to guard Mick, leaving me standing there alone, undefended and humbled.

On the other hand, our own bench thought it was quite hilarious. Trust me, it took me awhile to live that one down.

Yeah. Not me.