Monthly Archives: September 2013

Can You Believe He Did That?!

Maddux SaddenedI have unintentionally entertained my so-called friends this week by revealing that, yes, it is remotely possible that Clark Richey is capable of a mistake.

I forgot to pick up my 10 year-old son Maddux from school on Tuesday and when I finally remembered and arrived, at about 3:55, he stood there on the edge of the sidewalk at Baldwyn Middle School, stone-faced, blankly staring at the southern sky.  He never made eye contact with me as he opened the door and threw his backpack into the passenger-side floorboard with more vigor than usual.

“Sorry about that,” I said.

“S’all right,” he replied.

“Well, how was your day otherwise?”

Silence.

It really was not that big of a deal, I thought – 45 minutes – and, in fact, I had noticed that he was not alone there on the sidewalk.  There were three or four others who also waited for their rides to arrive.  I felt pretty good that, at least, I wasn’t the LAST parent to pick up their child.

Unfortunately, I later learned that the rest of the group that stood there had all been in after-school detention.  So, as it turned out, I actually WAS the last one to pick up a “non-incarcerated” child at BMS on Tuesday.  There’s no way around it; I’ll go ahead and own that.

A so-called friend consoled me Wednesday morning.

“Don’t worry about it, Clark.  He probably picked up some great skills – how to shoot dice, use a switchblade – something he’ll need later on.”

I was happy to have given my so-called friend such enjoyment.

I always tell my four sons this:  “I am RIGHT 98% of the time.  So if you do EXACTLY what I say, you will also be RIGHT 98% of the time.  If, however, you try to pick and choose that rare moment when I am wrong, the laws of probability insure that you will be WRONG more than 2% of the time.”  They usually stare at me, stone-faced, when I say that.  Yet I have heard them repeat it when they did not think I was listening.  They know.

I dropped Maddux off at Art 108 late Tuesday afternoon where his mother was teaching an after-school art class to 1st-graders.  It was there that the tale of my mild and inconsequential error grew to legendary proportions, so much so that, before I knew it, it was a community topic on social media.

Now, Maddux is the perfect genetic mixture of his mother and me.  He stood there Tuesday on that sidewalk and REFUSED to admit to any teacher or administrator that there could possibly be anything wrong.  He NEVER considered walking the twenty feet to the office and calling to see if anyone was coming to get him.  To do that would have been to admit defeat, to admit that something was out of his control.  He gets that from me.  And although that characteristic may need to be tempered with a little reasoning over time, I’m proud he’s got it.

Maddux IrateMaddux’s mother, the lovely and talented Rothann, is smart, funny, artistic, and conscientious.  She also is gifted in prodding – EXCESSIVELY – for the salacious details of any event, and before Maddux left Art 108 on Tuesday afternoon, she had used her gift to stir her half of the genes present in our 10 year-old to a boiling lather.  So stirred, the pair of them bounced “Can you BELIEVE he did that?” comments back and forth, apparently for hours, until their woe-filled exchange culminated with a Facebook post that included pictures of Maddux both saddened and outraged.

There, my so-called friends could weigh in on the matter.  Nice.

I scrolled through the ensuing line of commentary, which essentially established my place among the most villainous and inept fathers in recorded history.  I was dejected to find not one statement sympathetic to my point of view.

Couldn’t someone have said, “Hey, can’t you actually see Clark’s office from the middle school?  What is it, maybe 300 yards? ”

Or “Didn’t the fall of the Roman empire begin in the first place, not with debauchery, but when Roman dads started having to pick up their Roman kids at Forum Elementary School?”

Yet I got nothing.

So I’ll close this topic for the time being, admittedly errant and guilty, but still slightly perturbed at the lack of sympathy shown for the devil by his so-called friends.

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Don’t Let Fatigue Make a Coward of You

Baldwyn-Booneville Football is a game of aggression and pain.

I have a co-worker, a Booneville alum, who routinely spouts off – as is their nature – insincere tidbits of Blue Devil “wisdom” for the sole purpose of riling me into a fit of anger and retribution. While I, being the bigger man, discard most of his biased ramblings, generally derogatory towards our beloved Baldwyn Bearcats, out of hand, he does occasionally stumble upon an acorn of truth.

“The winners in football are the ones who can endure the most pain. That’s what it’s all about,” he professed this week. And on this point, I felt compelled to pause and agree with him.

I played organized football for 13 years – from the spring of 6th grade through a 5-year collegiate career that included 3 seasons in Division I. Nowadays, I may be getting old and overly opinionated, but the way I see it, kids are simply not as tough as they once were.

They are pampered and petted and told how good they are based on how fast they run a 40 yard dash or how much they can power clean, but on a good night, about 50% of them, maybe, get through an entire game without having to come out due to “injury,” or cramps or – I choke as I say this – fatigue.

I looked up at the starry sky, as I lay on my back in a grassy Tippah County field in 1981, unable to breath. One time, in one game, playing left defensive end for the Bearcats against Walnut’s Wildcats, I had to come out – hurt.

I had herded and trapped one of their tailbacks against the Walnut sideline. In front of the home crowd, I maneuvered and prepped myself to force him out of bounds – or I’d clean his plow if he stayed in – when all of the sudden he cut back towards the field … and me. What he saw, that I didn’t, was Walnut Wildcat fullback Willie Poole sprinting at my right side, my blind side.

Poole buried himself under my ribs and ejected all the air from my right lung. When I hit the ground and slid under the feet of the Walnut scrubs, most of the air from my left lung also made its way to parts unknown. I have no idea what happened on that play after that moment. I remember blinking my eyes and seeing strobing images of smiling Wildcat B-teamers.

“Way to hit, Willie Poole!” I distinctly remember hearing, with laughter.

I did not immediately get up. I just closed my eyes and waited for air and Coach Willie Bender.

59 BearcatsCoach Bender showed up and used the time-tested method of grabbing my belt and lifting my butt off the ground several times to somehow pump air back into my lungs. It must have worked, because after about 20 seconds, I got to my feet and wobbled to the sideline. My pain had just started, however. By the time I reached mid-field, I saw defensive coordinator Bud Reynolds, glaring at me, arms folded, and I seriously considered returning to the Walnut sideline, where people were smiling and happy.

Coach Reynolds only said one word to me. I can’t put it in print. And I jogged back on the field the very next play. I did not come out of that game or any other ever again due to pain.

There’s a difference in pain and injury. I’ve had two knee surgeries, both caused by football, and I certainly realize that players break bones and can’t go. I understand, too, that kids tear ligaments and cartilage and get concussions, and when those things happen, they must come out. But I also know that my dad, whose teams won over 900 high school basketball games, said, “Don’t let fatigue make a coward of you.” He could have coached football on that line alone.

My opinion on this subject doesn’t really matter in any substantial way. These days, I only coach a pee wee park league team in Saltillo. But when I’m working with those kids, including my 10 year-old son Maddux, I want them to realize that to go forward, when you feel like you can’t, is itself a true and great measure of success.

I hate it when a Blue Devil is right about anything, even accidentally.

Willie Poole, the Walnut Wildcat, who knocked me out of a game in north Tippah County in 1981, played his high school career, and at Northeast Mississippi Community College, with one arm.

Don’t let fatigue make a coward of you.

 

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Theater Of, By and For the People

Robert & Craig“And that government, of the people, by the people and for the people, shall not perish from the face of the earth.” – Abraham Lincoln, from the Gettysburg Address.

“Of the people, by the people and for the people.” That inspired phrase, delivered on a most somber occasion by one of our greatest presidents, today conveys a truth that is applicable beyond the realms of war and patriotism. If any endeavor is to survive and be declared relevant and useful, it should satisfy the three components of Lincoln’s Gettysburg closing. Certain things must simply be of the people, by the people and for the people if they are to last.

Community theater, in my mind, is a thing of that kind.

On Thursday night, September 19, at 7pm, a 6-performance production of Agatha Christie’s “And Then There Were None” will open in the Simon Spight Auditorium/Claude Gentry Theatre. This show will kick off the first full and official season for Baldwyn’s Main Street Players. A host of people – including BMSP’s newest board member, and the show’s director, Debby Gibbs – have worked tirelessly over the last 6 weeks to make this initial production possible. And before that, a different host of people worked, for more than a year in advance, to create the theater itself that will serve as BMSP’s primary venue for years to come.

City officials, Baldwyn residents, generous friends from abroad, and other community theater groups around North Mississippi have all contributed to assist Main Street Players in reaching this point, both materially and with their ceaseless encouragement. So far, this sincere and worthy effort to bring art to life in Small Town, Mississippi, has been “of the people.”

BMSP’s Debby Gibbs, who spent a career teaching high school theater, agreed to direct this first show. I met Debby when I first got the bug two years ago and tried out for a play at Tupelo Community Theatre. Debby was directing a musical there that I’d never heard of called “The Drowsy Chaperone.” Soon after auditions, I was elated to learn that I had gotten a substantial part. I was not nearly as elated to later learn that the part included a 3-minute tap dance routine (I don’t dance – tap or otherwise) and a scene where I would sing a duet with the leading lady (no problem there) while roller skating blind-folded (big problem). Debby shortened my tap dance routine to one minute (thank goodness), I brushed up my roller skating skills, and we put on a nice show that featured an ensemble cast of very talented singers and performers.

One of those performers was Angela Howard. Angela is a lot of things – an inventor, a nurse, a mother, a singer, and a dancer. But possibly her most unique and surprising talent is ventriloquism. Angela is, in fact, an award-winning ventriloquist. I kid you not. This is one multi-talented lady. And now, thanks to the recruiting skills of Debby and me, apparently rivaling those of Nick Saban, Angela will play Vera Claythorne, a suspected murderess, in this first BMSP show.

Professional actor Kenny Cook, who has appeared in both independent films and Hollywood productions, showed up for a role in this first BMSP show as well. Just out of the blue! Now as Sir Lawrence Wargrave, another suspected murderer (EVERYONE in this show is a suspected murderer), Kenny will polish his craft and just have some fun acting. And, by the way, he’s good at it.

Judy & BentleyMany talented performers who have been seen in BMSP productions before – including Craig Gaines, Robert Palmer, Bentley Burns, Judie Garrett, Jonathan Hancock, Chet Barber and Buz Plaxico – will be on hand again to offer their takes on the challenging comic-mystery roles of this show. And newcomers Debbie Davis and Brenda Daher will join the party.

Additionally, audiences will be stunned by the show’s set, created by Baldwyn’s builder Stuart Cockrell and his creative sister Tina Velasquez. Tina, a first-time participant, is all in. After working countless hours on the set and in rehearsal, Tina will also serve as the play’s stage manager.

Always overlooked, but vital to the production of any show, are the sound and light technicians. Youngsters Casey Cagle and Noah Hancock will ably fill those roles for BMSP. They are a couple of very smart and very dedicated kids.

It has truly been a group effort bringing this production to our Main Street stage. As with all community theater, “And Then There Were None” will be a show made possible “by the people.”

The only thing that remains is for patrons to buy tickets and come see the show.

This production is ready “for the people.”

Note: This story was originally published in The Baldwyn News on September 19, 2013.

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A Tall, True Tale of a Southern Pioneer: Abednego Inman

A.I. TaylorIn 1838, when he was only 24 years old, Abednego Inman Taylor was innkeeper at an original Mississippi tavern, the Carrollville Inn, located just north of modern-day Baldwyn.  He and his wife Martha Gibbs had come to northeast Mississippi from Franklin County, Tennessee, with the first influx of settlers, those who rushed in to fill the void left when the Chickasaws accepted final removal in 1837.  Taylor was a stereotype of the early Presbyterian pioneers who struggled through the Cumberland Gap and along the Tennessee River in a steady stream until the Southern United States, from eastern Tennessee to Texas, was settled.  Descendants of A.I. and his siblings – including Taylor Lindley, Louis Cochran, Tommy Shellnut, and many others – are widely known by current Baldwyn residents.  The original innkeeper, A. I. Taylor, is today acknowledged as an important founder of old Carrollville and its municipal offspring, Baldwyn.

In the context of modern sensibilities, one finds it difficult to conceive a motivation that would launch a man and his family into far-away, densely-wooded wilderness to somehow there achieve a better standard of living.  But to Taylor, it was simply a family tradition.  Likely, it was A. I.’s namesake grandfather – Maj. Abednego Inman – who was responsible for passing on this family’s trailblazing spirit of adventure and migration to the young Taylor.

A story from the life of Baldwyn forefather and notable Indian fighter, Abednego Inman …

Abednego Inman, was one of three brothers – the others being, of course, Shadrach and Meshach – who left their home in England prior to the American Revolution. The mobile Inman trio and their families passed through Virginia, North Carolina and Tennessee eventually joining Daniel Boone in his exploration of the wild country west of the Cumberland Mountains.

In 1772, Boone led Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego over the Appalachian trails they had mutually established and pressed further into territory where the Chickasaws and the more dangerous Cherokees ruled.  A harsh winter descended upon the exploration party, and soon their food supplies were exhausted.  They resorted to eating the only thing available, native game that they were fortunate enough to kill with their rifles, and that was a feat not so easily accomplished in the dead of winter.  The beleaguered group meandered into central Tennessee and set up camp near the famous Nickajack Cave.  With no sentinel posted, the weakened pioneers were surprised by an attack of Chickamauga Cherokees.  Nearly all the band of adventurers were killed or wounded.  Among the dead was Meshach Inman.

Shadrach Inman escaped death but was seriously wounded by a Cherokee spear.  Still, he managed to rejoin the fierce and fleet Boone who led all the survivors he could gather on a race to safety.  The Chickamauga pursued the party for days but the reenergized woodsman Boone moved “like a ghost” through the winter countryside.

Daniel Boone Indian FighterDuring the battle, the third brother Abednego was struck in the forehead with a tomahawk.  He carried the resulting scar for the rest of his life. Injured and thought dead by his compatriots, Abednego Inman found a hiding place in a hollow tree, where he essentially remained immobile for nine days without food and with very little water.  Somehow he eventually gathered enough strength to make his escape, which he did, hobbling home over hundreds of miles alone through the wilds of eastern Tennessee.

Abednego Inman, who would later fight with Tennessee’s first governor John Sevier at King’s Mountain during the Revolutionary War, was a survivor.  The blood of this adventurous pioneer flows through many of the families that settled Baldwyn, Mississippi, passing first through his grandson, a founder of old Carrollville, the innkeeper Abednego Inman Taylor.

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“Harry Potter is of the Devil”

blue_devils_booneville“Harry Potter is of the devil, and we will not be glorifying sorcery in our house,” she said, standing there in front of me wearing a Booneville Blue Devil Homecoming T-shirt with the clear image of Satan, emblazoned on her left breast, smiling over our conversation.  I made no comment and put away the book my son and I had been reading to avoid further theological exposition.  Today, when I think of the often-ironic judgments people make, that seminal moment from years ago comes to mind.

Mostly, I consider myself the ultimate optimist, but right now I’m down on people.

Last week, I took a business trip to St. Louis to meet with a long-time customer about a problem they had with equipment our company supplied to a remote area of Montana.  Without going into long, boring detail, I’ll simply say that two separate work crews (that we paid for and sent to Montana) discovered that our customer had installed a 70’ long conveyor, designed to unload railroad cars filled with cement, with an 8” sag in the middle.  This misalignment had damaged our equipment, without any doubt.  Nevertheless, Quail Ridge Engineering’s general manager and I sat there across the table from their company president who told us that if we wanted to continue to do business with them we would have to “share” in their rework costs to the tune of thousands of dollars, beyond what we had already spent fixing the problem their crew created.  The three engineers who sat with him, having fully assessed the situation, looked down at the table and wouldn’t make eye contact.  My wife, the lovely Rothann, told me last week that she liked how I wasn’t judgmental of people.  Well, some days are better than others, my dear.

Blue Devil PalleteA friend and co-worker Eddie Flurry, another Booneville Blue Devil, has a saying he uses around our office:  “The first liar has the advantage.”  What he means is that the first party to get their story on record in any potential conflict, whether true or false, has stacked the playing field in their favor for the arguments that will follow.  The second party to the debate is on the defensive from the get-go.  Sadly, Eddie’s poignant point comes into play multiple times each week at QRE.

It’s universal.  Church goers are not exempt from the failures of the human condition.  In fact, many of the most memorable arguments of my lifetime have occurred in church.  Thankfully, I’ve personally only been in on a couple.  I vividly remember from my boyhood an old church pillar at Asbury Methodist standing in the aisle in the middle of a service, and loudly asking his wife, “You coming?”  She wasn’t coming and continued to look straight ahead, as he walked out in protest of our preacher’s wife being allowed to speak from the pulpit.  My personal claim to infamy may be that I was the moderator of a boisterous church business meeting when the phrase “bird poop” was officially entered into the minutes of the First Baptist Church.  I lamented this at home, and the lovely Rothann consoled, “Don’t worry about it.  Who reads the minutes anyway?”  She’s a good wife.

Devils Know FootballA decade ago, I yelled “Why don’t you just shut up?!” at the other team’s preacher, who kept on chattering anyway, as he shot his free throws in the church basketball game we were losing.  I think they threw me out – of the game and the beautiful Christian Life Center in Tupelo where it was being played.  One of their deacons confronted me with “That kind of thing is so very disappointing,” as I walked off the court.  “Well, I’m disappointed in you!” I replied, for no apparent reason, and slammed the door on the way to my car.  I stopped playing church basketball that night.  I have regrets of my own.  The story of the end of my church sports career is one of the few I’m willing to reveal.

I guess I’ve told all that just to say this:  We’re all of us in this together, so let’s try to do better by each other.

Always end with optimism.

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