(Editor’s note: Please pardon the 24-break in service here; it seems an anti-spam hunter-killerbot cancelled my ticket at WordPress for some unfounded reason, making the OBL post tardy; obviously SkyNet has become self-aware).
Had a great time in my Central California hometown over the weekend where a former teammate of mine, Mike Garratt, was most deservedly inducted into Taft High School’s Hall of Fame among a group of 16.
After all their achievements were noted, I felt the desire to sneak out the back door of the gym. War heroes, innovative entertainment industry executives, award-winning scientists, noted physicians, outstanding athletes, entrepreneurs… it was an honor just to have walked the same school hallways as these great and humble folks. More details here.
Mike still holds several football and track records at Taft High; it’s doubtful that his shot-put of 62′ 6 3/4”, set in 1966 will ever be broken. Student body president, outstanding scholar, full-ride to UCLA where he was a standout for the Bruins 1967-1969, and team co-captain as a senior, Mike was All-Everything.
Naturally we went our separate ways after graduation, but have always remained in contact.
I remember watching Mike in a college football highlight film sitting around a sandbagged bunker in 1969, Quang Nam Province, South Vietnam, the artillery fire missions pounding out the sound track.
It was surreal; I tried to sum it up this way….
Sitting on ammo crates we jeered and whistled
until the film was fixed; obscene finger shadows
loomed large on the white sheet screen
“College Football Highlights” sprinted and faked
and ran through the mist
Like a ghost Mike appeared;
UCLA gold and blue flashed to the end zone;
crowd shot, cheers
I stood, pointed… “Hey! I know that guy.”
“We played ball together…”
I said to the dark
“Sit down, big f****n’ deal,”
the dark replied
What a great lift to see him living the dream; I snatched a tiny bit of it for myself and hung on to it… now for almost half a century.
My friends here in Texas rib me about having an annual high school reunion, and it must seem that way to them as I attended two high schools… the other in Fort Morgan Colorado; all of us were exceptionally close then… and now. In fact I still have all the same friends I’ve always had, from grade school on; last night I talked to TSC… my first and only girlfriend, really. She’s still one of my closest friends since before we could drive.
People who hated high school or have never attended a school reunion simply cannot grasp the concept. I wish everyone could have had this kind of comforting friendship network. When a shoulder to cry on is needed, a joyous event or an emotionally crushing experience to share…. my friends are as close as a phone or an airport.
Guy Clark wrote…
Old Friends they shine like diamonds
Old Friends you can always call
Old Friends Lord you can’t buy ’em
You know it’s Old Friends after all
Now that I’m playing the back nine, my sister Lorri, my friends, and the Marine Corps have been the only constants in my life…. and in that currency I am a very wealthy man.