Fall 1978- I Love Football, Part 2
In August, 1978, my momma bought something which would not bring me or my sister much joy in the next 4 or 5 years.
She bought a piano.
At first, my sister and I were excited, because we both liked music and musical instruments- I had a guitar and a harmonica at the time- until she said the dreaded two words we did not want to hear: PIANO LESSONS.
To this day, I have no idea why Momma bought the piano, other than to make my sister and I learn how to play it, but then I don’t know where she got the idea that we wanted to learn how to play the piano in the first place. I know I didn’t express any hidden desires to be the next Beethoven, Liberace, or Stevie Wonder, or someone like that. And in all honesty, I would have rather took guitar lessons than piano lessons since I already had a guitar. The only kids at the time who were taking piano lessons and who were advanced enough to play the piano better than some grown people were Mary and Gaila Farrier, and neither I or my sister were jealous of them because of it.
At first, my sister and I were like, Well, we might as well give it a try, and we went into learning how to play the piano with a positive attitude. Our teacher was a lady named Mrs. Goree, and she knew exactly what she was doing. In other words, we had worksheets, workbooks, homework, and of course, we had to practice, practice, and practice. We started out with the kindergarten book and lessons, and we couldn’t progress to the first grade level until we passed everything and proved we could handle and play on the “kindergarten” level. It usually took a year to progress to the next level, so by the time I started the 6th grade, I would have been ready to go to the first grade level in piano-playing. All of those worksheets and workbooks were like a cold bucket of water on our desire to learn how to play the piano, but we didn’t say anything and grudgingly accepted it as a part of the process.
Then we started attending Jodie McClure, and I discovered the joys of playing football. Playing the piano was OK, but playing the football was WAY better. Then one day, our PE coach passed out some sheets to all of the boys. I looked at it, and it stated that there would be tryouts for the Jodie McClure Mustangs football team, and that we needed our parents’ permission and signatures to be able to tryout, practice, and play organized football against other elementary schools. As I read the sheet, learning how to play the piano fell even further down the list of things I wanted to do, like down to “cleaning up vomit” levels. I couldn’t wait to go home and ask my parents if I could play football; I didn’t think they would actually mind. Usually, in the past, if there was something I wanted to participate in, such as cub scouts, they usually let me do so. This would be my first time asking to participate in a sport, but I didn’t foresee any problems. So, of course, I ran home and shoved the paper in Daddy’s hand and asked him if I could play football, thinking it was a done deal and he’d just sign it. Imagine my surprise when he said, “Ask your mother.”
I started getting a bad feeling about all of this, as my desire to play the piano waned even more, but I went and asked Momma anyway, and this is what she said: “Well, you know you can’t take piano lessons and go to football practice at the same time- (I should’ve asked, why not-? But I was not up to living dangerously yet-), so I’m going to give you a choice- you can either continue to take piano lessons or play football. You can’t do both. I’ll give you a day to think about it.” Actually, she was giving herself a day to think about it, not me- I had already made up my mind what I wanted to do, and it did not involve sitting on a stool pecking at some keys. She kept the sheet and didn’t sign it, so I wondered that night whether or not I really had a choice.
I found out the next day when she took me to piano lessons. She asked me if I had practiced, I told her, “No”, and I told her I had thought about it, and that I wanted to play football instead of taking piano lessons. My momma got that frown on her face, and she let me know that I would NOT be playing football, but that I will be taking piano lessons, because she had already paid for the lessons, and that was all there was to it. As you can imagine, I was VERY unhappy with that, and I can remember that day as clear as yesterday. I did not participate in piano lessons that day, and I even went home and said something to Daddy about being made to do something I didn’t want to do compared to something I wanted to do, and how all of this was going to make me look like a sissy and a punk and so forth, but Daddy was like, Your momma has spoken- ain’t nothing I can do about it, and for the first time in my childhood life, I felt like I was being forced to do something I did NOT want to do over something I WANTED TO DO, and it was very unfair. Because of that, I never did like taking piano lessons, and it showed. I’d wind up progressing all the way to third-grade level, but by then, I was only halfway-trying and burned out, and finding all kinds of reasons not to go to piano lessons. My sister kept going for a time after I was finally allowed to quit, but even she got burned out after awhile and stopped going.
Of course, I didn’t go to school and brag, “Hey! I take piano lessons!” That would’ve been stupid. I didn’t tell any of my friends. I’m sure they asked me why I wasn’t playing football, but I can’t remember what I told them, other than possibly, My momma wouldn’t let me. Although I was short and on the small side, I was discovering I was pretty good at playing football whenever we played outside, either at Jodie McClure or in my own front yard. My class, Miss Stone’s class, played Mr. Taylor’s class 7 or 8 times that year, and we lost only once. Everything thrown to me I caught, and I scored a few more touchdowns. I also discovered my favorite position: playing cornerback or safety on defense, because I loved intercepting passes. I liked tackling, too, but I got a charge out of making interceptions. That was exciting to me. And, as I read more books and magazines, as I watched the Cowboys on TV, and listened to the Longview Lobos on the radio, I became more and more interested in the sport and I became a student of the game. I started cutting out pictures of football players out of the newspaper and magazines, and making a scrapbook out of all of them, and drawing pictures of football players, football fields, and anything relating to football.
Of course, my newfound interest in football just thrilled my parents; it thrilled them so much that they felt like it was taking away from what was really important: my grades and piano lessons. So whenever I got in trouble, whenever I made a bad grade or didn’t do my chores, they’d take away most of my football-related stuff, and I’d be grounded from going outside and playing football with my friends. (I never was grounded from piano lessons, go figure.)
I was 10 years old, so puberty had not hit yet. I was still reading comic books and collecting football cards, and I still had quite a few toys, but things were a-changing. My daddy had retired from the service, so he was home for good now. My momma was letting me know early I was going to have a difficult time becoming a teenager, and my sister was just happy to have a nice teacher, decent friends, and her daddy back home. So in the Fall of 1978, and on through to the Winter of that same year, while most of my friends played for the undefeated Jodie McClure Mustangs, I sat unhappily at a piano, wishing for the day I could wear the green and white colors of the Longview Lobos, and doing something I’d enjoy doing.