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Vega … The ‘Circle V’ Unbroken

December 15th, 2018 · Tags:Cities · Music

 

 

When I was a young kid and then continuing on through the teen years, I was led to believe — particularly from the coaches who were so crucial in our development, body and soul — that my hometown Vega, Texas was much more special than all the other special, tiny, farm towns throughout Texas … especially in the rugged Texas Panhandle … The “Real Texas,” I like to call it.

 

 

 

There are many memories, but one stands out.  I think it was in eighth grade that Coach Hubbart told us, frankly, that he had other job offers before he accepted the position as an assistant coach in Vega, and moved his family there.  I will never forget what he said was the telltale factor in his decision process.  He said he visited the dressing rooms and also the restrooms of several of the schools he was considering.  He said the VHS restrooms were the only ones where the boys’ “stalls” were not covered in filthy, vulgar, hateful graffiti.  VHS … that’s Vega High School, not “Vega’s Hair’s Short!” as I used to jest.  I digress …

It was true …  a very quaint and unassuming, yet wonderful place, with special people.

We were taught that we were special and we knew it.  Not in a conceited way, but in a wholesome way, we bought into the mantra. As students at VHS, we were expected to behave better and hold one another accountable to a higher standard.

We did.

 

That’s not to say that we didn’t raise a little hell on the weekends too at our weekly hangout, the parking lot of The Oldham County Courthouse, as a steady flow of trucks and cars slipped by, on their way from the southern United States to the northern, giving us hints of what else there was out there … but come Monday morning, we were back in class — not skipping — listening to every word the teachers said … answering “yes sir” and “no ma’am” … 

… But also on a weekend, we might have been helping the science teacher construct his own energy-efficient house … 

… Mowing widows’ yards for free, when truth-be-told we could have used the few bucks to buy a cherry lime at Joe’s Vega Drugstore …

… And then on game day, sitting in the football stands or the basketball bleachers to support our team athletes — whether it be a 7th grade girls basketball game officiated by our own Coach Miller in a black/white striped shirt and jeans — somewhat unbiased — even though his daughter was the star point guard in the same game …

… Or following the 1973 football team in the state championship … or whatever.  … Or the 1967 squad that went as far as a B School could go in those days … Regional, but no state championship match offered.

(Of course the same was true for Vega’s 1999 Texas Girls state championship basketball team … although I didn’t get to witness that  … I only know my niece was a star 3-point specialist … 🙂

Vega supports one another.

 

There’s so much I could tell you about Vega … that would just sound like crap, if you hadn’t experienced it and witnessed that it is really a very special place … even though it just looks like a one-horse place where a few gas stations circled the big grain elevator in a burst of 1940s economic boon on Old Route 66, paving the way for little more than the evolution of the convenience stores of the future.

 

You had to have been there to see the 1960s Daydreamers  garage band belt out the hits of the day, at the sockhop inside the old basketball gym, or a dance at The Legion Hall or the high school cafeteria … Amazing to sit and think how much culture and outside influence we all gleaned from the performances of a group of farm boys and small town merchants’ sons who played for that generation.  Thanks John Paul, Johnny, Gayle, Ron and Junior!

 

Interesting that tiny Vega’s Daydreamers had such a flair for the most hip music from all over the map, back in the day … I don’t remember the band ever playing country, as one might have expected.   They were all about that rock ’n’ roll thing (beyond The Beatles) …  The San Francisco/West Coast sound — The Beau Brummels’ “Try Just A Little” and “Still In Love With You Baby” and The Kingsmen’s “Louie, Louie”; Dallas’ Sam The Sham & The Pharaohs’ “Wooly Bully”; an Indiana-like version of “Hang On” Sloopy” like The McCoys’ rendition (with a young Rick Derringer);  … Neil Diamond’s “Solitaire Man” (once a rocker from Brooklyn); Stax Records staples like Sam & Dave’s “Hold On, I’m Coming”; Wilson Pickett’s “In The Midnight Hour” (Atlantic Records); some British Invasion greats like Them’s “G-L-O-R-I-A,” or The Spencer Davis Group’s “Gimmee Some Lovin” (Steve Winwood); the garage band mainstay “Wipe Out” based on any number of surf bands’ drum solos and Fender riffs … and one of my favorite’s “Not Your Steppin Stone” by Paul Revere & The Raiders, or perhaps like the more successful version by The Monkees. Magical times … so influential … so many great memories.

So although there was that rock/roll injection … Vega is all about wholesome America … and Texas … in the purest form … as demonstrated when the crowd stands at attention, hats over their hearts as the empty-saddle horse is led through the annual parade to honor townspeople who passed during the year … the temperament evidenced by the 1979 boys state champion basketball team — tagged “The Happy Days Kids” known for clean cut appearance and for helping opposing players up off the floor if they fell, yet totally destroying them on the scoreboard.

 

 

You might not have lived something like the Vega experience … If you never saw the editor of the newspaper and your own pastor get in a heated shouting match from opposite dugouts about the strategic significance of a rain delay of a Little League baseball game on a very rare, rainy summer night … if you didn’t witness farmers in pickup trucks and  a few volunteer EMTs rush to the scene when a tiny school bus was forced to pull over on the side of Old Route 66 because of an anhydrous ammonia fertilizer tank leak at the edge of town … or if you haven’t seen cowboys travel all over the county to help inoculate every single horse for free, to battle some equine outbreak … or witnessed an entire community brought to its knees over the tragic loss of a teenage football player … or seen a small-town boy wow the state competition with his oral rendition of “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” … Or loved to sit in the high school auditorium, once a year, to see farmers and teachers come together to stage respectable presentations of theater classics at the PTA Plays … or witnessed rival towns and different denominations show up to support each other’s fall banquets and other church fundraisers … or my favorite … if you have never seen every person in town at sporting events … especially back when cars/pickups were still allowed to circle the football field or baseball diamond to watch the events … and honk like hell when The Vega Longhorns scored six, or The Vega Giants scored a run.

 

There wasn’t anyone in the town who didn’t get a shot of adrenaline and perhaps a tear in the eye when a maverick band teacher, Ms. Briscoe, fired up the teams and fans with her impressive, but tiny high school band’s fiery, uptempo instrumental version of “The Circle Be Unbroken.”

“I was standing by my window,

On one cold and cloudy day

When I saw that hearse come rolling

For to carry my mother away

Will the circle be unbroken

By and by, lord, by and by

There’s a better home a-waiting

In the sky, lord, in the sky”

 

“Good honk!” … to borrow an expression coined by an old Vega friend’s dad.  Ha … not being a country music fan, I never knew Johnny Cash’s “The Circle Be Unbroken” was a funeral song.  Well … regardless, it sure fired up our young men in black on the gridiron … I digress.

Well … you probably just don’t know what I am talking about.

For me and many others, Vega is a circle.  Not the “circle of trust” that Robert DeNiro initiated his future son-in-law into in “Meet The Fockers.”  In Vega, that circle is the tie that binds.  So what better name for the private family space in Vega, for the “Glass Sisters’” family get togethers on old Route 66?  They call their special place “The Circle.”

 

 

 

 

 

That’s The Circle I want to focus on.  It was the site of a recent get-together in Vega.  Ha … they even did a Hummer hay ride in the freezing cold for me.  For me?!?  For the first time in my life, I was the honored guest, and ha … it suited me well, I like to joke.  Ha … I cherished that treatment, even though truth be known, it may or may not have been a send off … due to my cancer diagnosis.  Ha … Let’s hope it can become an annual event instead …  But joking aside, this is serious stuff …  Forty years after I hit the ground running after high school graduation and bolted to bigger places, Vega welcomed me back as if I had been there all along.

 

 

I can’t believe the kindness and generosity at this point in my life.  When I was young and “chompin at the bit” I left pretty much as soon as I could.  I didn’t know what I had or for that matter what I wanted.  Someday I will return … return to the origin.  That’s a circle.

Know what I sayin?