Longhorns, Fighting Irish, and an Unexpected Friendship

September 21, 1996.  That’s how far back I have to go to tell this story.  And it seems appropriate that I tell it this week, as the University of Texas Longhorns take on the Notre Dame Fighting Irish in Austin for each team’s opening game of the 2016 season this weekend.  Once again – since Grandma gave me the gift of gab – make yourself comfortable.

Steve and I met in the Longhorn Band at UT.  He says we met in 1985, at the Fiesta Parade in San Antonio (LHB traditionally kicks off the parade as the first band); I know better, and actually have proof.  We met in the fall of 1984 at a meeting of the LHB Decadence newsletter staff.  This was the newsletter that was written by students and distributed to LHB members to read as we traveled to away games.  I still have that particular newsletter; I’m surprised Steve hasn’t burned the evidence by now.

cathy steve LHB

But I digress.

I tell that short version of the story to share why Steve and I, once we graduated, bought season tickets to the Longhorn football games every year for 23 years.  Being in the stadium was just in our blood, and that blood bled a very boiling burnt orange.  Our first seats were well past the end zone, in the sun; eventually, we moved to an area that was under the overhang on the west side, shaded, and filled with characters that we named “Angry Man,” “Headset Man,” and “Hairnet Lady.”  Each game was not complete unless these individuals were in their proper seats; only then did we feel at home.

In 1996, we only had one child (Jack came along in 2000), so we were able to invite friends to the game.  We had four tickets, and they were stacked two and two (rather than four in a row).  This helped us out in that we could easily talk with our guests and explain traditions to them (cue “Angry Man,” “Headset Man,” and “Hairnet Lady”).

Darrell_K_Royal-Texas_Memorial_Stadium_at_Night

At this particular game, we had invited a coworker of mine, Scott Riddles, and his friend John.  Each football season, Scott and John, longtime buddies, had a guy’s weekend, when they selected a high-profile football game to attend.  This year it was #6 UT v #8 ND, in Austin.  The stadium was still known as Texas Memorial Stadium, but had recently undergone improvements, and on this particular day, the seats were filled to capacity.  Who could doubt it?  This was a big game – Texas, coming in with 2 wins on the season, as did Notre Dame.  The two teams met the year before in South Bend, where ND trounced the Longhorns with a score of 55-27. [Quick pause to say that Steve remembers it well, since he was a stones throw from SB at the time, and I made him feel bad about even thinking of attending without me.]  Needless to say, the excitement on this night was in the air – and the expectation of payback? We could almost taste it.

The game was great.  Many of the fans in our area stood, rang their cowbells, chanted “Texas” and “Fight,” when appropriate.  Me?  I joined right in, with one addition.  Scott and John were sitting on the lower two seats, which meant that Steve and I were on the upper two.  This allowed me to stomp my foot loudly on the seat as we cheered and yelled; even better, neither Scott nor John cared that I did.  I’m telling you, it was one of those electric environments that only sports venues can provide, and everyone was on their feet, cheering and yelling.

Well, except this one guy.  And boy, did he let me know it.

At the start of the second half, the game was very close – 14-17, in favor of ND.  (Hey, the internet is good for some stuff like historical box scores).  So, as all good Longhorn fans do, we got back on our feet and started yelling and pounding the seats.  That is until, in one moment of silence after a play, we all heard a voice, coming from a few seats to our right:

“HEY, LITTLE LADY, YOU MIND BANGING ON YOUR OWN SEAT FOR AWHILE?  YOU’RE GIVING ME A HEADACHE!”

Just in case you are wondering, he clearly meant me.

I looked to my right, and saw an older man, maybe in his 70’s, Texas Longhorn cap on his head, glaring at me with what can only be termed a “Get off my lawn!” scowl.  My response was somewhat unexpected:  completely embarrassed, I turned my head toward the field, and sat down on my seat, silent.  (It happens).  His words seemed to hang in the air.  Scott, feeling my shock, tried to lighten the mood.  He turned around from his seat, and casually reminded me, “Well, you could always tell him that technically you are banging on your own seat.  And he should try sitting in front of you!”

But not much helped my mood.  In fact, his outburst made the yelling from others worse.  As you can imagine, the nearby fans more than made up for my missing voice the next two quarters.  But, despite a significantly valiant effort, our Horns lost the game, 27-24, in the last-minute of the game.  We left the stadium – me, significantly humbled and dejected, other fans more boisterous but equally downcast.  And I certainly didn’t make eye contact with the man who yelled at me.

The season continued, and I remained energetic, but quiet.  I just didn’t want to get so worked up that I was scolded again.  So, there I sat, timidly (don’t laugh), through each of the next two home games.

Then came the last game of the season – the big rivalry with Texas A&M.  Nothing compares to a rivalry, and at the time, the Horns had two:  The TX/OU game in October in Dallas, and the home/home series against Texas A&M.  Always – and I mean always – a great game, when anything can happen.  On the field, and off.

As Steve and I made our way to our seats, someone reached out and grabbed my arm.  It was him, and I stared, wide-eyed, wondering what I had done now.  “Little Lady, I want to make sure we talk before the end of the game. I have something for you.”  I looked him in the eye, a little confused, but answered, “OK.”  Then  I made my way to our seats.  He reminded me again at halftime as we passed to go to the concession stand.  Steve and I were both curious by this time.

We cheered the entire game (me, still a bit reserved so as not to offend).  And our cheering paid off – in what can only be described as a solid thumping, the Horns beat the Aggies 51-15, earning the right to meet Nebraska in the first ever Big 12 Championship game the following week.  (The Horns also won that one, something that can never be taken away).

After the game, Steve and I made our way to his seat, and sat down beside him.  What happened next was, at best, unexpected.  He looked at me and said something like this:

“Young lady, a few games ago, I did and said something that was completely out of character for me, and I want to say I am sorry.  It is clear that you are a wonderful fan, and you shouldn’t have to quiet your enthusiasm.”  (or something like that)

Then he reached into his pocket and brought out a card, with his name on it, and handed it to me, with a hug:

L. DeWitt Hale, attorney

(home address)

And such became a wonderful friendship.  I learned that day that DeWitt is a former Representative from the Texas House, serving in various capacities for almost 42 years.  His heart, like mine, led him to fight for better education and equal rights for all.  You can read more about him HERE.  Over the years, we became pen pals; we sometimes traded gifts; he grew to love the kids, and showed it by sharing some of his prized coin collection with them.  When the Longhorns went to the Rose Bowl for the first time in history (2005), we shared pictures with him; and when the Longhorns won the National Championship in 2006, we had something new to celebrate!

Mr. Hale lost his beloved wife, Carol, in 2008, and eventually, it became difficult for DeWitt to attend the games himself.  Our family, too, found that attending all of the games was, at best, difficult, and our time in Austin diminished.  When we did attend, I would make sure to talk with DeWitt’s daughter and grandchildren, who were the light of his eyes.  When Texas was invited to the National Championship again after the 2009 season, we had hopes that all of us could travel to the game together.  However, those dreams became impractical for lots of reasons.  Steve and I dropped our season tickets during the 2015 season, finally admitting giving in to the inevitable….we will likely not be season ticket holders again.

DeWitt is still around; no doubt having in-depth and meaningful discussions with his children and grandchildren.  It’s funny, I haven’t seen him in years, but he remains in my heart every time we sing “The Eyes of Texas.”  I miss that man.  I miss the experience of talking with him.  He is a wealth of knowledge and widsom.  And he made me a better person.

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In my last blog post, I wrote about listening to understand, and not to reply (Stephen Covey).  That thought applies here as well.  Both DeWitt and I have had a chance to listen to each other, after what many would call a rocky start.  And by listening, we opened up a whole new route to friendship.  We accomplished this not by yelling, but by listening and loving.

Somewhere in your life, a situation requires listening, rather than yelling.  Find a way to address it.  Apologize.  Forgive each other.  And always, always, let love be your final word.

 

 

 

 

Ado Annie was Right: “All ‘Er Nuthin'” Doesn’t Work.

Rogers & Hammerstein opened their first collaborative Broadway musical, “Oklahoma!” in March, 1943.  Based on a 1931 play (Green Grow the Lilacs), the show incorporated lively musical numbers, lyrics, and ensemble dances to capture the imaginations of the audience members; the stage version also earned many awards for both the original and revival productions. A movie version was released in 1955, starring Shirley Jones and Gordon MacRae.

Oklahoma 12

Set in the early 1900’s in the Oklahoma territory, two love stories unfold among the feuding groups of farmers and cowboys.  Laurie and Curly (Jones and MacRae) are the classic and primary couple.  The other couple – Ado Annie and Will Parker – are the ones I’d like to talk about today.  Will Parker makes himself out to be a new fangled cowboy, set for the bright lights/big Kansas City.  Ado Annie, his ‘gal’ and not one to wait around, stays home, and her flirtatious tendencies drive Will crazy.  Back and forth they go, Will going where he pleases, and Annie never saying no to a visit from a cute beau (that’s one of her famous songs: “I’m Just a Girl Who Can’t Say No”).

ado annie

Now, I happen to know a thing or two about this musical.  When I was in the 5th grade, my family moved to Culpeper, Virginia, and the choir, led by Debra Greeley (who later became my church choir director at Culpeper United Methodist Church), performed the musical.  I even remember Lisa Nygaard (Lyons), as Ado Annie, singing the famous lines.  [Lisa has since released three CD’s of original music in the Celtic tradition….take a listen!]

For some reason this week, one of the songs – All Er Nuthin’ – got stuck in my head.  The gist of the song is that Will expects Ado Annie to be and act in a certain way.  “If you can’t give me all, give me nuthin; and nuthin’s what you’ll get from me!”  Ado Annie responds, appropriately, I think, by pointing out that “All Er Nuthin'” doesn’t work well in a relationship.  “With you it’s all er nuthin; all for you and nuthin for me…..”  Annie and Will had to learn to work together to make the relationship work.  And they did.

Maybe the reason the song came to mind is because of the “all er nuthin” approach I hear from many people in disagreements these days.  The late 17th century French moralist Joseph Joubert is credited with this quote: “The aim of a(n argument or) discussion should not be victory, but progress.”  In all of this public discourse taking place on social media and in the news, are we even trying to reach agreement anymore?  I realize the word ‘progress’ brings shivers to the spines of some, but seriously – should we be living in an “all er nuthin” world?  How to we even start to address this?

Here’s how I sort it out:

I try to listen.

 I try to listen not to reply, but to understand. (Covey)

I try to listen as the first duty of love. (Tillich)

I don’t want to be short on ears and long on mouth. (John Wayne)

And I want to listen to the one who is mentioned when God’s voice comes through the cloud, saying,”This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!” (MT 17:5b)

With Christ, life was not an ‘all er nuthin’ approach to be right, and to advance a cause immediately.   In story after story, we read of how Christ entered situations with a heart toward listening, a servant’s heart that time and again teaches us to listen to the poor, the widowed, the orphaned and the sick.  Christ shows us how to be patient, to listen to understand a need, and to reply with love.

In the 6th chapter of the Gospel of Luke, Jesus tells us this:

27 But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.”

I say that to do good, we must listen; if we don’t, we might fall prey to the ‘all er nuthin’ mentality.  Yet even when we don’t listen – even when we shoot off our arrogant mouths, assuming that we have all of the facts, assuming we personally know what is best in every situation – even then, God loves us.  Even then, when we realize our mistake, God waits willingly for us to find our way back to him.

That’s how it is with grace – always ‘all’ and never ‘nuthin’.

Now that, my friends, makes for a great story.

In all things, Love.

 

 

 

 

The Taco Cabana Story

Wanting to start blogging again, I reminded myself of a promise not to do so until I wrote about a particular story.

I’ve been wanting to share this story for some time.  The events of the last few months cause me to believe some might want to hear it now.  Our son, Jack, and I refer to it as “The Taco Cabana Story.”  I’m not sure if that is the best title, but I do know that the story will stay with me a long time.  Why?   After you read this, you might question my judgment.  I ended up questioning something else.  It’s a long one, so get comfortable.

taco-cabana-3415

Many of you are aware that Jack played select baseball in DFW for many years.  Three or four times a week, Steve or I would drive him from our home in Richardson to McKinney, Texas, where he would practice with his team.  To be honest, we didn’t really mind – I don’t think any of us would change the alone time we had with him in the car.  At least at the young ages, he was willing to talk and share details about his day, and I viewed that as a blessing.

On this night, I was on car duty.  Jack was 11 or 12, and after practice, he and I agreed to stop at the Taco Cabana on Stacy Road and Highway 75 in Allen, Texas.  I’m really a fan of the EZ-on/EZ-off drive thru places, and Jack had recently become somewhat addicted to Taco Cabana’s brisket tacos.  So, I pulled into the parking lot, prepared to order him his favorite.

As we pulled out of the drive-thru, Jack already chowing on his taco, I saw a man pushing a car in to the parking lot.  Now, remember, it was after sunset, and not many people headed for Taco Cabana on a Tuesday or Thursday night at 9pm in Allen.  I had a feeling this man wouldn’t have many offers for help in the next hour.

broken down car

I stopped the car, told Jack to keep eating, and stepped over to the broken down car, now with the hood popped open.  The man was trying to get the engine to roll over, and he wasn’t having much luck.  Being the properly trained mechanic that I am (my dad made sure I could charge a battery, and I had jumper cables in the trunk), I asked him if I could help jump the battery in his well-used car.

He stopped turning the key, and took a big breath.  This man was probably in his early 20’s.  An African American, he was dressed in jeans, a t-shirt, and tennis shoes.  Then he turned to me, looking very tired – almost worn out – and said simply, “Yes.  Thank you.”  Then he smiled.

Jack helped us move his car up the incline and into the parking spot next to mine. I got out of my car (still dressed for the day in my business clothes, mind you) and popped the hood to connect the cables.  Thankfully, each of us knew what we were doing, and his car was running again soon.  He thanked me kindly, shook my hand, waved to Jack, and started to back out of the parking spot. I told him I would follow him, at least until we had to get off of the highway in Richardson.  All was going well as he turned the wheel to leave the spot.

Then the car stalled again.

Another man was driving into the parking lot, and I asked him if perhaps he could help.  I had used up all of my mechanical knowledge on the jumper cables.

He just looked at us, didn’t attempt to get out of the car, pointed to his watch, and shook his head, “No.”

The young man lay his head on the steering wheel, and pounded his fist into it.  “Just wanna get to my boy,” he cried.  When I asked him to tell me about that, he said his 3 year old son was with his girlfriend in Dallas and he hadn’t seen them in a few days.

Something nudged me.  I tried to shake it off, but it kept pestering.  So I told him, “Look, we’re headed that direction.  Why don’t you get your things and I’ll drop you off at the DART location in Richardson.  Then you can ride the train to downtown and your girlfriend can pick you up from there.  Will that work?”

He looked at me like I was crazy.  Maybe I was, but as the offer hung in the air, he slowly said, “Sure; thanks.”  He grabbed the few pieces of clothing he had in the back of his car, said “Hey” to Jack as Jack gave up the front seat to him.  I bought him a drink, took off onto Highway 75, and we started a reasonable conversation.  I wish I could recall his name.

I learned he was driving down from Sherman, where he lived with his grandmother.  He had just finished several days of late shifts at a nursing home where he worked.  That’s why he hadn’t seen his family in a few days.  He was trying to save enough money that they could all live together, but for now, they were apart.  And, they were expecting another child in a month.  I suggested he call his girlfriend so she would know what was happening.

I overheard his side of the conversation, and I could hear her mumbled voice on the other side of the phone.  The night was edging on, and it was clear both of them were tired.  Further, being new to the area, I interpreted that she thought I was referring to the Greyhound Bus station and not the DART line near their home.

I quietly asked him, “Where do you need to go to get home?”  With that, he stopped talking, turned his head, and looked at me like I was insane.

“What?” he asked.  “She lives off Knox/Henderson.  Why?”  All I could think of was an 8 month pregnant woman out at night, trying to find the right rail station, and wandering around.

I’m very familiar with that intersection of off 75 in Dallas.  I used to live very close to it.  I lived on the ‘right’ side of the intersection, that is.  The side that had its own patrol of town police; the side that felt safe.  Not the side that intersection other streets filled to the brim with poverty and unemployment.  Not that side.  I knew, if I continued to drive…I knew which way I would turn at that intersection.

“Tell her you’ll be home in about 15 minutes.  Jack, you ok with that?”  I asked as I caught Jack’s eye in the rear view mirror.  Jack nodded, and I said, “Tell her you are on your way.”  He did; he hung up the phone.  I called Steve to let him know we were helping someone with car trouble; why I didn’t elaborate, I don’t know.  In the car, we continued to talk, the three of us, until we reached Knox/Henderson.  “Which way?”  I asked.  “Turn left,” he replied.

knox-henderson

After a few more turns, we reached our destination.  He grabbed his clothes, shook my hand and Jack’s, and thanked us over and over.  “Pay it forward someday,” I said.  “God Bless.”  And we drove away.

Silence in the car.  I was thinking about a lot of things, maybe even feeling good that I was able to help someone.  Then Jack asked me, “Mom?  What are you planning on telling Dad?”  I thought about it for a second.  “I don’t know, Jack.  I’m not sure he’d be very happy with me.”  Jack prodded:  “Why not?”  I thought about it again, and I sighed.

“Jack, if I were to share a story with some people that I drove a strange black man from a Taco Cabana in Allen, Texas, to this neighborhood, after dark, with our 11 year old son in the car….well, they might think I was lacking in judgment, to say the least.”

Now it was Jack’s turn to think for a moment.  And after a minute, he responded with words that slapped me in the face, and words that I will never, ever forget.

“Mom?” he asked.

“Yeah?”  I answered.

What’s his being black have to do with it?

For so many reasons, a lump formed in my throat.  I cringed, and with all the humility I could muster, and tearing up with knowledge that even a seminary student who cherishes a God who loves each person as equal can fall prey to ridiculous and hateful stereotypes …..with all of those feelings, I replied to this young, 11 year old boy:

“Not one thing, son.  And thank you.”  And we were quiet for the rest of the drive home.

Having told this story a few times verbally, I have seen the reaction from others.  And yes, some people do think I lacked judgment on that night.

Should I have taken the safe route, and called this stranger a taxi?  Probably.

But not because of the color of his skin.

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I’ve silently asked him for forgiveness for my arrogance, and in my head, he has forgiven me.  I know God has.  I never want to forget this story.  And that’s why I’m sharing it with you.  Be mindful, my friends.  Listen to others with intention and love.  We owe it to each other.