Red Socks & a Couple Baseball Caps

August 14, 2003

What happens when the new pastor in town gets caught up in the big high-school rivalry?

From the Outside, Looking in...

By Fredrick Leroy Smith Jr.

The Lincoln Journal, August 14, 2003

I guess we are close to the fast paced activities of the beginning of the school year. Monday night was an unwitting indicator of what, unfortunately, may be to come.

When school starts there is a craziness in parents minds that goes on that doesn't seem to infest our noggins at any other time of the year. We lose all sense of what's truly important and get bogged down in the minutia of the very urgent but not truly important.

Barbara, my wife of 25 years, started back to school on Monday, the day the schoolteachers returned to get ready for the students. This year Barbara and I invested in a used laptop computer and a TV for Barbara to use in the classroom for PowerPoint presentations and bothof us were involved in tinkering with the wires and equipment to get it ready for when the kids come in. We got it all working at home and finally we took all of that "stuff" to her school.

Yesterday, the first Monday of the month, was also the time for the regular meeting of the Lincoln County High School Cheerleader Moms and Dads.

Cassie, my youngest daughter, worked hard in competition for a spot on the LCHS cheerleaders squad and was successful.

While I was driving home, I got a call on the cellphone. It was Barbara. She couldn't get the laptop and the TV to work together. She felt she was forgetting something. I could hear the panic in her voice. I offered to go with her to Washington to iron out the problems. Shewas relieved with the offer but had another obligation.

We both rushed home (from different directions). Barbara said she had to go to the meeting for LCHS cheerleader moms and dads and it would be taking place from 6:30 to 7:30. She was telling me this at 6:30 while getting in the car to go. She was late. I suggested that shecut short her involvement in the meeting and maybe leave before 7:30. She protested that she was already late and it would not be good to come in late and then make up for it by leaving early. It was selfish of me to want to get back and get in the bed early, so I said O.K. She went on to her meeting.

Meanwhile, Cassie was on the couch asleep. She had some type of cheerleader practice all day so she was wiped out. When we tried to get her up for supper, with a few groggy words she said something about baskets and rolled over. While I was putting my clothes in the washer,she woke up and realized that mom was gone. She urgently asked if she (mom) took her basket. "What basket?" I asked. "The basket she was supposed to take to the cheerleaders meeting!" she replied. "I don't have a clue" I responded, to which she abruptly turned and marched toher room to look for her basket. She returned with her basket lamenting the fact that neither mom nor I could read her mind and know to take the basket to the meeting.

I didn't see the earth shattering nature of the problem. Stupid me, I was still convinced that the sun would rise the next morning, the heavenly bodies would probably not veer off course, and life as we know it would still progress down the river of time even if this basket didn't get there today. But what do I know. After all, I'm only the piece of meat that transports things like this from one place to another. As usual, I had a father's compassion for a daughter and decided that I could probably go a little early, drop off the basket and wait outside for the meeting to be over.

No time to lose, I had on a baggy pair of orange swim trunks, a tee shirt, and nothing else. Not totally acceptable... I went to the drawer and pulled out my pair of bright red knee socks (LCHS Red Devil colors) and put them on. I grabbed what I thought was my bright red Red Devils baseball cap and Cassie's basket (the purpose of the trip) and dashed out the door.

I must interrupt this story at this point and introduce some relevant information. When Barbara and I moved the family to Lincolnton to take over the ministerial responsibilities for the Lincolnton Church of Christ, we moved with the plan to get involved in the local activities and make the new town (for us) our own. I would keep my job at the Savannah River Site as an engineer and be a Tent make for the Lord.

Barbara, a certified science teacher for the state of Georgia, had planned to apply for work in Lincolnton. That part of the plan was not to be. There were no openings at LCHS so she had to settle for working elsewhere. She settled on her second choice, which was the next county over. She accepted a position at [Washington-]Wilkes High School, which was only about 20 minutes away. They welcomed her with open arms, gave old Dad (that's me) a school baseball cap which is vivid blue with a yellow W on it. We were all set for Wilkes County school functions.

Old Dad went to Goldman & Wengrow's department store in Lincolnton and bought a Red Devils cap and some red knee socks (school colors). We were all set for Lincoln County school functions too.

Little did we know at the time that the Washington-Wilkes High School and the Lincoln County High School were, and still are, bitter rivals in the various athletic fields of competition ... especially the football field. This rivalry is so intense that they have to "invite" additional police officers from nearby counties and state police to the yearly football game of these two rivals, or so I'm told. It's tough living in Lincoln County and having ties in Wilkes County. We hoped to be an outreach to both counties, but the average reader can understand our dilemma. With that, we return to our story...

I get half way down the road thinking that I was doing a good thing and even that I was prepared to put my head in the door of the meeting. I had on grungy clothes but I had on my red knee socks and my Red Devils cap. I was all decked out.

As if to prove to myself that I had on acceptable attire, I looked in the rear view mirror to check out the cap. What should appear in the mirror but my face with a fading smile and the vivid blue hat of the Wilkes County Tigers ... not a good thing. Showing up at the meeting with red socks and the blue cap of the Tigers would have been more than a faux pas. That would probably have moved right into the range of the "significant personal disaster."

I slammed on the brakes, maneuvered to turn around, and proceeded back home at the fastest pace consistent with the law. I remembered that my Red Devils cap that matched my red socks was on the bed with my wallet (and driver's license). Good grief! I felt the relief you get when you realize that you just missed getting run over by an eighteen wheeler with only inches to spare. I glanced at my watch. There was still time. I skidded to a stop in front of the gate, jumped out, went in the house, grabbed my cap with my billfold and raced out.

I was back in the car and on the road again. I began to relax about half way down the road to Lincolnton. I was confident that the problem was fixed. As before, I glanced in the rear view and was reassured by seeing my face with the Red Devils cap on my head, and a smile that was not fading this time. Great!

As my eyes turned back to the road, what should come into my focus but MOM in her car coming my way. What was she doing on the road? She still had 10 minutes worth of meeting. The one time I suggest she leave early from a meeting and she actually does leave early. I can hardly believe it. O.K. Change of plan. I quickly stopped winding the transmission out to 5000 RPM in fifth gear and slammed on the brakes to get slowed down for a turn to reverse direction. Meanwhile Barbara just kept on going.

Next I was winding the transmission out through the gears again to be able to catch her while I constantly blinked the lights on bright, dim, bright, dim, etc. Finally she saw me and pulled off. After the brief inevitable exchange, Barbara: "Where are you going?" Me: "What are you doing leaving early?" as well as other similar questions, we finalized the new plan to just go on to Washington to fix the computer/TV problem she had. While Barbara took care of a nature call, I took the vaunted basket and put it in the truck. I got back in the car, turned it around and waited for Barbara.

While waiting it dawned on me that now I'm dressed all wrong. At about that time, Barbara got in the car. I didn't have much time, so as we were driving along, I ripped off my Red Devils cap, threw it in the back seat and retrieved the vivid blue Tigers cap and put it on. That's good, but what about the socks? On well, I'll roll down the socks as low as I can to make them as inconspicuous as possible, and hope the hat carries the day. Maybe we can finesse the problem. I'll just stay in the car while we go by the people in Washington andhope they don't stop me for a chat and look down to see my red socks in my tennis shoes.

Meanwhile, "back at the ranch," Cassie asked her older sister to drive her to the continuing meeting. The basket is delivered and all is well on that front.

Back to mom and me, as we are driving in the school grounds in a hurry. Apparently today is the day for the coach of one of the various men's athletic teams to select the middle of the road as a place to sit down with the team and stretch.

Suddenly my brain registers Barbara's voice, yelling at me to slow down. Instinctively I slowed down and veered off to the right to miss the coach and the team (some Lincoln County residents might fault me for that, but anyway....). I waved with a silly sheepish grin as we drove by, hoping to convince them that I really was not sent there by Osama Ben Laden to kill them in a secret plot to ruin the Lincoln/Wilkes county rivalry, thus throwing the nation into political turmoil.

I can't read lips but I don't think they were singing the school's fight song to me ... or maybe they were. I don't know. Fortunately for me, I had on the vivid blue hat. If they had noticed the red hat in the back seat, the scene may have been different. In my mind's eye, I can see some men and boys with sticks, clubs, rakes and other implements of harm, running after and chasing down my blue Volkswagen Beetle around the campus trapped by the chain link wire fence around the school. Not a pretty sight... especially from the inside of the Volkswagen. Unfortunately they will probably remember the blue Volkswagen. I guess I'll have to go to Wilkes County in one of our other vehicles.

After the near miss and later in Barbara's classroom, we met with success in fixing the computer/TV problem. We went home at a somewhat less frantic pace ... thankful that no one was hurt. Also, we killed enough time fixing the technical problem that the coach and team were gone.

Yes I'm afraid that Monday night of this week may be a harbinger of things to come. Hopefully I, and indeed we all, will take the time to realize that summer is over and as much as the summer was for fun and enjoyment with the family, it is now time to get back inthe groove. When school starts, we are reminded once again that it's all about the kids. Most of local government is about them, most of the money we spend is about them, a lot of the police force activities is about them and their safety.

When it comes right down to it, they are our future and that's why we spend so much on them. We look with them, as it were, down the road of time and wonder how they will turn out and how they will handle the mess that we call the world when we turn over the reigns to them.

While we are doing that and cherishing the time with them, let's not forget to look at the real road and slow down for them. Let's try to keep them safe by not getting caught up in the hustle and bustle of the day and forgetting to drive and act safely for them. For the kids of Lincoln, Wilkes, McDuffie and the surrounding counties, we wish you a safe return to preparation for the rest of your life.