Saturday, July 12, 2008
I don't remember the first time that I actually met Coach Sammons. Through the years and my friendship with his little general, we became sparring partners. As an English teacher/football coach he earned the respect of many a high school student by calling just the right play at just the right time with properly placed punctuation to boot. It probably didn't hurt things that he listened to what they said and treated them as equals. Lord knows you 'gotta meet folks where they're at and respect the journey.
Coach is retiring soon from a career in education that has spanned the decades and counties of western Tennessee and Georgetown Illinois. The little general and their kids threw a party today in his honor and I must say it was a sight to behold what with all the old football players and family cuttin' up even with a slew of little kids in tow. As I watched from the kitchen, one by one, the speakers stood to tell how he had made a difference in their lives at a crucial moment. Family members worked long and hard on pulling together a celebration of his life and it was a success all the way around. Well, except for the water garden thing. Can't win 'em all.
Some time ago I spotted Big John as one who might like to play the fruitcake game. Rules are simple and if the fruitcake starts smelling, you can always buy a new one and it's safe because nobody eats them anyway. The whole thing started with my aunt and uncle back in the day. Both musicians, they taught me to play piano and took me camping over at Big Springs when we were all kids. One Christmas when I was momma and daddy's there was a present for me under the tree from the pair of them which was highly unusual. Inside the box, I found some flannel PJs with one lumpy leg that contained a poorly concealed Claxton fruitcake like the Civitans sell during the holidays. Ya'll know what they say...there's only one of 'em that gets passed around over and over.
That poor little fruitcake ended up in my 40th birthday cake and was accompanied by a loaf of homemade sourdough bread at work. Those Reaves girls tend to be mischievous at times like that. We tried for YEARS after Jimbo died to think of ways to keep the game going in his honor and memory. Eventually I had to give the Civitans three bucks for a new one because the original was beginning to stink to high heaven. Plus, the mice ate off all the Santa Claus paper. That's when I tossed the gauntlet to Big, so to speak. It was on like donkey kong for a few years. I never knew where that stupid fruitcake would turn up. Like on my freakin' front porch. Note to self: Never let a player know where you live.
I watched him today, surrounded by family and friends, and knew without a doubt that he is loved and respected for what he has done with his life so far. That is is the greatest compliment that one can receive when leaving a lifetime profession to enjoy the golden years with a small partner who loves him from here to next football season.
And if I'm not mistaken, the game is upon us very soon.