Reunion

This past weekend Lisa and I drove nine hours south to Alabama for her family’s reunion. It was a very quick trip and we are now back in Ohio for our final six weeks before heading home and taking some time off.  

I have great admiration for Lisa’s family and there seems to be a genuine love for one another and for outsiders such as myself.  They have always been warm and welcoming to me and to the McFarland branch of the tree.  Having very little family myself, Lisa’s people have become my people and I can’t imagine how it might be for me without them.

Neither my mom or dad had brothers or sisters and my brother and I never had any first cousins.  My dad’s mom died when he was a baby and we never knew his father as he passed away when we were very young.  When my brother died in 1987 followed by my dad and mom a few years later, I had very few relatives left.  With the exception of some distant cousins who I have only occasional contact, I am all that is left.  God has blessed me with wonderful children and grandchildren that fill any void in my life and add to that Lisa’s family – and I can say my cup runneth over.  

I have to admit that I feel a twinge of envy listening to Lisa and her cousins reminiscing about their childhoods and the adventures of growing up together. On Friday night, Lisa’s female cousins gathered in our hotel room and shared funny stories of the past and present.  I watched as these women sprawled across the bed like teenagers and laughed at the funny tales being told, much like I imagine they did forty or more years ago. I took a spot in the corner of the room and tried to stay out of the mix. (Truthfully. I had no where else to go and if I could have slid under the bed – I would have). It was not until my c-pap machine was spotted that I was brought into the conversation.  

My how time and age changes things. Forty years ago I can imagine the conversation with these girl cousins involving topics such as Donnie Osmond and their new stereos. Friday night the discussion was on surgeries, female hot flashes and c-pap machines.  One of Lisa’s cousins told the funny story of having her first experience using her c-pap and how the setting was so high, it caused her lips to flutter “like a dog hanging his head out of the window of a race car”.  Good times!  Fortunately the late night cousin conversation came to an end soon after that and before it could devolve into trying to outdo one another with detailed descriptions of their most recent surgeries.

I am relieved that I no longer have to explain to people what I do for a living, the most common question at reunions. When I was first introduced to the family, it was always the first question asked. “So, Steve, what do you do?” I would then feel the need to explain my mundane job in as impressive and self-important terms as possible.  There was the fear in those early years in the “Cunningham” family, that if the truth came out that I really had a rather boring job with an embarrassingly low salary, there may be a caucus in a back room somewhere deciding I was “Out!”.  That never happened and Lisa’s family members have always been accepting of their Kentucky hillbilly cousins.  For that I will love them forever.  I suppose the interest in what “I do” will be on every relatives mind until they gather at my funeral (I imagine, even then, someone will lean over my corpse and ask, “So, Steve, what do you do?”) Being retired, my answer to that question now is very simple, “Nothing”. Next question?

The truth is these are some of the most welcoming people I have ever known. Lisa’s aunt JoAnn never fails to screech out your name and declare how wonderful it is to see you. And, I think, she really means it. That is a real gift.  

I am appreciative of a family that cherishes being together.  Despite political or religious differences, there is a sense of care and concern that overrides any disagreements.  Age is now starting to catch up with the brothers and sisters, cousins and kin and father time marches on in all our lives.  Our time together should always be spent loving and laughing, remembering good times and cherishing what we have left.

I’m glad God gave me this family to reunite with.

Love, Steve

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A Glory Denied: Preface

       Today I am sharing with my readers the (unedited) preface to my book, “A Glory Denied: The Story of the 1967 Owensboro High School Football Team”.  I am currently waiting for approval on some photos to be used in the book and other final touches before it goes through the editing and publishing process.  

      I am excited to share this story with others and hope this brief excerpt will spark interest in this remarkable team.  Thanks for reading and I welcome your comments.

Thanks!  Steve McFarland

   

                   

                               Amor Fati – “Love your fate,” which is in fact your life.

                                                            Friedrich Nietzsche

 

    A Glory Denied: The Story of the 1967 Owensboro High School Football Team                          

                                                                  Preface

            The noise from the big diesel engine drowned out the sound of conversations as the chartered bus made its way home.  Cold raindrops created tiny streams of water on the windows and the worn down football players leaned their heads against the cold glass and watched the rivulets of moisture being pushed into random patterns by the cold November wind.  Occasional light would pierce the darkness inside the bus as it carried the winning team home following their final game of the season.  For the eighteen seniors the night was bittersweet.  Their high school football careers were over and this, their final game seemed anti-climactic as no more than three hundred fans, the smallest crowd of the year, would witness this, their final victory.  Who could blame fans for staying home on such a cold, miserable night?  The game meant nothing in terms of standings or play-off implications.  For these Owensboro (Kentucky) Red Devils, the final trip down US Highway 60 toward home would mean the end of what had been a remarkable season.  The looming, inevitable end was a foreboding reality long before the season began, a dreaded moment they would all face, a foe they had no power to defeat.

           Throughout their season, thoughts of this, their final game, cast a long, dark shadow on all their success.  A year earlier, in a small office in Lexington, Kentucky, a man with authority to do so had determined that this game would be the Red Devils last for the 1967 season.  Punished for a crime they did not commit, these players had no choice but to accept their fate.  There would be no play-off, no possible chance at a state championship, no chance for glory.  Their season would simply come to an end.

            And that end had now arrived.  As the red and white bus from the Fuqua Bus Lines rolled along bringing players and coaches home for the last time, thoughts of the season now completed began swirling in their minds.  Nine wins against just one loss, a controversial loss to the eventual AAA state champion in front of a Louisville crowd estimated to be over 8,000.  The Red Devils had dispatched of every other opponent on their schedule and had overpowered every AA school in their conference and class outscoring them 371 to 7.  They would find little consolation being crowned Big Eight Conference Champions.  They wanted more.  For the rest of their lives, these players and their coaches wanted more.

            It would not be lost on anyone, coaches or players, that a cross-town rival would be their replacement in the state playoffs.  That thought was practically unbearable considering they had soundly defeated their fill-ins just a few weeks earlier.  For a few players, basketball season would help them take their minds off the painful end of their football careers.  One would be Isaac Brown, the dazzling running back who would soon learn he had been named a Parade Magazine high school All-American.  Brown would find some solace on the hardwood as the basketball season would take his mind off of what might have been, perhaps what should have been.  Several seniors would begin the recruiting process as their football careers would be continued in college.  For the others, this final bus ride home would usher in a long, long winter.

            The bus completed the brief, thirty-mile drive and turned into the school parking lot next to the darkened football stadium.   Players and coaches began gathering their equipment and playbooks.  There would be one final walk inside the locker room and the heart wrenching task of removing their soiled uniforms one final time.  Players and coaches congratulated each other, thanked everyone for the remarkable season and slowly made their way home.

            The 1967 football season was over.  A team picture would find its place in the Owensboro High School hallway.  A single trophy declaring them conference champs would squeeze out a spot in an already crowded trophy case.   The uniforms would be washed and put away in anticipation of many football seasons to come.  It was over.

            The team had answered every question and taken on every challenge.  There was little doubt that this team was the best class AA team in western Kentucky if not the entire state.  Other teams would take their place in the state play-offs and one team would be crowned champions.  It would not be Owensboro High School – that determination had been made twelve months before.

            There would be, in the end, many questions, many opinions and speculations.  Perhaps the most difficult would be the question of how this team would be remembered in history – or if they would be remembered at all.