Thursday, September 1, 2011

Friday Night Lights

Its Sept. 1, I have to write about football. so whether you are an Indian, Bulldog, Hornet, Rocket, Panther or Bluejay, our story is all the same....those of us who stuck around..we're the lucky ones.

If you find yourself on the top of a hill somewhere in Northwest Missouri on a Friday night, you will notice the very dark fall sky, the harvest moon and the glow of Friday night football lights from the surrounding little towns. From my house in Tarkio I can’t see the lights, but I can hear the announcer as he opens each game with the National Anthem and “Here Comes Your Tarkio Indians!” 

I’ve been climbing the bleachers at Kyle Field in Tarkio for 25 plus years. First it was in the mid-80s to watch my Grandma dress as an Indian and to ride a golf cart on the field when my uncle was the homecoming king candidate. As a little girl, I lived to catch the rubber red coin purses thrown by the cheerleaders and the baton twirlers as they marched around the track in their sparkling red and white.

In the 90s, I went up and down, down and up, in and out, out and in the bleachers as a jr. high kid. When I sat still, I watched our team as we won game after game all the way to the state championship. My family followed the team all the way to Columbia. Our sea of red, so mighty in Tarkio, looked tiny in the chasms of Faurot Field.

By the end of the 90s, I was playing in the pep band first quarter, working the concession stand in the second and doing the Macarena with the cheerleaders in the 4th. I sported my letter jacket to each game and huddled in the bleachers with my friends, family and community as my classmates punted, hiked and kicked their way through the football season.

Ten years ago, I returned to Kyle Field as a mother and a sister. I chased my young son up and down the bleachers and watched my brother as he lead the team in blocked field goals. Today, I watch again as all three of my children wear red and white, my husband officiates and my high school classmates coach instead of play.

High school football is glorified wherever you live. There is something about the atmosphere; the community and the home town spirit that makes the football field a destination not just for that Friday’s game, but season after season, year after year.

But football is a little different in small town America. A little better you know. You see there are 29 boys on the Indian squad this year. There are 8 guys on offense, 8 on defense and a “host of Tarkio Indians” needed on kickoff returns.

So you see, 6 years from now, I’ll have a boy on that team. It won’t matter if he is 5 8” or 6 4” and no one will care if he weighs 130 or 175. He might not be the fastest or headed for college level football, but he’ll be needed, he’ll be an important part of the team and he’ll get to wear that jersey just like his grandparents, cousins and uncles before him.

He’ll be an Indian too.  And you can bet I’ll be right there in the bleachers…..

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