We at The Mirror who have worked with him since the early 1990s are truly grateful for his service and wish him all the best upon his retirement from the newspaper business.
Our new editor will be on the job later this month and I will let him tell Mirror readers about himself in his own words when he gets here and what he has in mind for his editorship.
Now, in honor of the Gilmer Buckeyes, who are on their way to College Station to compete in the Texas 7 on 7 Championships beginning tomorrow afternoon, here is the column I wrote after they won their second state football championship in 2009:
WHAT A Christmas present was created for the Army of Buckeyes at SMU’s Ford Stadium Saturday night!
Those of us who stayed at home, watching on TV and/or listening to the radio accounts, were there in spirit along with the 8,000 (according to the KYKX radio guys) who filled the Gilmer side of the stadium to see our Buckeyes defeat the Abilene Wylie Bulldogs, 43-26.
The AAA Division I state championship trophy that Coach Jeff Traylor’s team brought home may not stay on display at Gilmer High “forever,” as one commentator put it. But it undoubtedly will have an honored place for a very long time.
OF COURSE the Gilmer school district stretches from the south to the north borders of Upshur County, but it can’t account for all of the crowd. There was obviously a large turnout of former Buckeyes now living in the Dallas area. (The “brain drain” from East Texas small towns to the Metroplex is an old story.)
The Abilene Reporter News did an excellent job of describing Gilmer and its football tradition.
In a story posted on its web site last Thursday, sports writer Daniel Youngblood told about how and why Gilmer folks “love their Buckeyes.”
He referred to “the quaint town square” where flags and other decorations wished the team great success.
COACH JEFF TRAYLOR, Mirror writer/photographer Mary L. Kirby and sports writer Joe Dodd all were interviewed.
“Folks are pretty well preoccupied with Gilmer football,” Mary was quoted, by way of introduction to Coach Traylor.
After giving Jeff’s background as a winning coach and (like Mary and Joe) a Gilmer High graduate who had lived here most of his life, Youngblood wrote that “Traylor has grown to appreciate how much fans appreciate his team.”
The coach summed up:
“They’ve always loved football, even when we weren’t very good. We’ve always had a packed house.
“People in Gilmer just love football. They expect their kids to be coached hard and act a certain way. A lot of communities say that, but not many of them support you. Gilmer’s very supportive.”
Joe Dodd agreed, saying in part:
“Like any small town in Texas, going to games on Friday nights is just the thing to do. I always thought it was neat as a kid to see all the lights on some of these long country roads and highways. You’d just look back and see lights as far as you could see.”
ON HIS PRE-GAME visit here, Youngblood discovered the well-known identity of Gilmer’s two No. 1 fans, who have a plaque from the Booster Club to prove it. He wrote about how Gilmer football has been bringing Lena Childress and Mary Jo Dean together for years.
The two widows have lived in the area for nearly all of their lives and been friends since age 14. the writer related, adding that since 2001, they have been staples at Gilmer games, arriving several hours early to take their seats eight rows up on the 50-yard line.
Lena was quoted as saying that Coach Traylor “jokes with us that that’s where all the noise comes from.”
Youngblood wrote that the two women also participate in what’s become a Booster Club tradition — cooking meals for the Gilmer coaches on Thursdays during the playoffs.
THE ABILENE writer found a man who represents the non-Gilmer High-connected cohort that enthusiastically supports the Buckeyes:
Robert Brown, who moved from the Dallas/Fort Worth area to a home nine miles west of Gilmer in 1973, said he adopted the Buckeyes as his team when he came here from Euless. He said:
“We love the Buckeyes. We just do everything we can to support them. This town is a Buckeye town. It’s a good town, good team, good people.”
Bringing his story up to date this week, Youngblood wrote that members of the Wylie High School Booster Club were still proud of the Bulldogs after their defeat in Dallas.
And the season isn’t yet over for the Abilene daily newspaper’s sports writers.
Abilene High is the West Texas city’s older and larger high school. Celina Eminson wrote this week about the state championship game coming up Saturday night between that school’s Eagles and the Katy Tigers.
They’ll play for the Texas 5A Division II championship at the Alamodome in San Antonio.
OLD SOLDIERS in the Army of Buckeyes, who remember as far back as great teams of the 1930s and ‘40s, could never have dreamed then of what the future held. Regional championships were as far as small schools could advance in those days, for one difference.
And the idea of being able to follow a game in real time from distant places was not even seen through a glass darkly.
Listening to the Gilmer-Cuero game streaming on the Internet on Dec. 5, I was one of more than 270 listeners signed on. Some of the names I recognized were Sarah Sharp Allen in California, Bob Herrmann in New York and Dakota Hagler in Kansas.