Stories and thoughts about family and life

Hot dogs and hometown football

on October 15, 2013

I don’t take much time off, or at least I don’t according to my friends and coworkers. I was pretty excited last week to be heading back home to the small town where my parents still live for a weekend of camping, riding 4-wheelers and football.

I was already pretty anxious by the time we arrived in town late Friday afternoon. My Type-A personality dictates that I don’t enjoy running late and I especially don’t enjoy arriving late (perhaps that’s part of what contributes to my lead foot). After we stopped in town and picked up a few things and then proceeded to the farm, we had less than an hour to put up the tent and get back to town for the 7 p.m. kickoff. You would have thought I was going to see an NFL game the way I was pushing to get everyone where we needed to be–constantly reminding the boys how much time we had and trying to keep them on track.

We left the farm at 7:10, with a 30 minute drive back into town. By the time we were walking into the stadium, I had already run into a friend and former classmate. The second quarter had just begun, and we heard the cannon fire off and the band begin. Brennan, who is 10, jumped and looked at me.

In small towns, football is king. The whole town generally rallies behind the team, and some of the traditions born of those events are incredible to see. Booneville, the small Arkansas town where I was born, is no exception. When the Bearcats score, the cannon is heard in the distance with fireworks exploding overhead. The band begins to play “Cherokee” (our battle cry), and the crowd erupts into cheers and synchronized clapping. To my children, this was one bizarre sight. They couldn’t believe their eyes, and were amazed at everyone just jumping to action. To me, I was home.

My sweet husband bought us each a hot dog and a drink and we settled into the bleachers. The hot dog was really bad, but everything else that night was just almost as it was nearly 25 years ago, as so many Friday nights I spent in that same stadium. Oh, some things were different: brighter field lights, new cheerleader costumes, new band costumes, and the inflatable helmet for the team to run through at the beginning of the game. But, if I closed my eyes for a moment, I was 17 again, chatting with friends and watching the game. I just usually spent my Friday nights ON the field, armed with my camera (insert yearbook geek jokes here–it’s alright). Last Friday night, I sat with a friend and we watched her daughter perform in the flag line at halftime. It was neat for me to see a new generation with those same traditions, and to see so many people I knew from school with their own children enjoying the same fine football evening.

My husband has obliged a couple of these games during our 22 year marriage. One was an interesting combination of experiences during one Homecoming, from a team who didn’t win to majorettes who were afraid to perform with the traditional fire batons and instead just threw them in the air and waited for them to bounce onto the ground. The other game was during my 20th high school reunion, and I’m fairly certain it was sleeting when we left that night. He said he would go with me last Friday night, and I suspect he wasn’t expecting to do anything but let me talk to friends and us go home. Instead we were treated to a victory 42-0 over the Dardanelle Sand Lizards, with some pretty amazing plays. A football lover himself, he really got involved in the game and cheering on this team, too.

I was pleased to see both bands and all the parents I encountered were pleasant to one another. Each band cheered for the other one (as did the audience on each side), and my kids got to see the side of school they don’t get to experience often. The halftime performances by both schools were really entertaining, and we all were captured by the performance of “Band Waves,” the current Bearcat Band theme. It’s similar to a radio changing stations, and then the band playing the music on each station. My kids were amazed. Their school doesn’t have a football team (yet, anyway), and we don’t generally go to the basketball games.

By the end of the game, Brennan had figured out exactly what made that cannon boom, and with each new touchdown he looked anxiously to the end of the field. He especially loved the end of the game where they shot off the remainder of the fireworks, and getting to say hello to dear friends of ours who work the chain gang. Lucas was playing it much more on the cool side. I guess that’s how it’s supposed to be, though. He is in high school and I’m supposed to be the mom who embarrasses him, right?


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