I had heard the stories, but I mostly believed that they were idle gossip. Until I found myself driving 5 mph behind a trailer filled with hay. This sight may not seem unusual for the country, but this time it was a trailer bound for some country bling.
Flowers, banners, and Homecoming Queens.
Every street I looked down was filled with trailers being prepared for local sports teams, school clubs, 4-H-ers, and rodeo dudes. A parade to rival Macy’s was in the works and was hindering me from picking up my kids from school.
We never got to go to that Homecoming game, we were in the final week of house building, but I could feel the fever even from 5 miles outside of town. A drive through the town square took me back 50 years as every store window and lamp pole paid homage to the mighty Eagles.
I must admit, I am pretty excited about next year when we can partake in the festivities. I just hope Halloween doesn’t fall on the same day as Homecoming because I have been informed that it will be canceled.
Halloween… not Homecoming.
Well, we might have missed out on football in our new town but we were determined to find a place in the time of year known as basketball season. Grant, being in 5th grade, travels the county to play other small towns while Sam plays strictly in-town. Saturdays are filled with wooden courts, and sometimes juggling.. when the two boys have games at the same time across the county from one another.
Grant’s first game was away at a tiny little town 25 minutes yonder. I paid my way into the gymnasium and was instantly struck by the nostalgia of the old wooden court and ancient wooden bleachers.
The crowd was easily divisible by their colors of blue or green and shouts of encouragement echoed around the room as the players began their warm-up. I silently laughed at my naivety in small town patriotism.
Back during the first week of school, I had asked the kids about their elementary school mascot. They replied, “the Eagles.”
“Isn’t that the mascot of the other elementary school?” I inquired.
“Yes” came the reply.
“And the high school is the Eagles too right?” 
“Mom, everyone is the Eagles here. The whole town, blue and white everything.” the kids mocked me. 
This was completely foreign to me. The town we moved from had 27 schools in it’s district, each with their own mascots and colors. I had a hard time grasping the idea of the entire town being involved in and behind high school happenings. The confusion grew as spirit day rolled around on the first Friday of football season. Everywhere you went in town little girls were sporting blue and silver sparkles on their faces, and people of all ages were wearing the blue and white Eagle gear.
The sharp whistle of the Ref pulled me back to the worn gymnasium in which I was sitting. My swelling excitement became concern as the opposing team took their places on the court. What are they feeding the boys in this one-stop-town? They were huge! My concern turned into panic as the quick-handed boys in blue were sent skidding across the shiny floor by the giants in green.  My head was filled with the sound of pulsing blood, and the ear-splitting squeaking that sneakers make against perfectly polished court floors.
My eyes caught Grant’s where he sat on the sideline across the gym. I probably should have hidden my fear, but frankly it was all happening so fast! Grant’s gaze mirrored mine and he did his best to shrink into the concrete wall as not to draw the attention of his coach. The coach, whose hands could have been waving off planes, mimicked the coach of the opposing team and they seemed to be trying to out-shout each other. Parents were yelling out support and cheering was thunderous every time a team made a basket. The coaches were sending in new players and writing furiously on their white maker boards with new strategies.
Toto we’re not in the church league anymore.
I kept waiting for parents to get unruly, but it never happened. The air was filled with noise and yelling, but all involved were very supportive of the players on both sides. I sat stunned trying to make some sense of this new atmosphere in which I found myself and I suddenly understood.
Pride. History. Family.
New people rarely move into these towns far removed from the hustle and bustle of the metropolis. The families sitting on those hard scarred bleachers are probably the same families that have been sitting in that gym for the last 75 years. Those parents screaming “rebound” are the same kids that shed blood and sweat on those floors a generation ago.
Grant has found the sometimes bloody competition a little too daunting for his taste, but Sam…well Sam is another beast entirely. Sam does whatever his coach tells him to do…with gusto. He spends the most of the game with his matched man from the other team safely encircled in his arms…cause the coach told him to not let that boy get the ball. He never actually touches the kid, cause the coach said not to, but he defintely is not gonna let that kid touch that ball. Even if it means bodily harm..his own of course. What most impresses me is his willingness to sacrifice self during the battle for the rebound. Once the pile of kids has been untangled, Sam is usually found at the bottom, stuck to the floor, holding the ball.
Andy and I often snicker as we hear comments from all around us of “boy that kid is gonna be a great football player.”
Someday.
But right now I am having too much fun watching him play football on the basketball court.