Saturday, March 28, 2015

'Talents of country youths were not always recognized'

George 'Buster' Singleton
(For decades, local historian and paranormal investigator George “Buster” Singleton published a weekly newspaper column called “Somewhere in Time.” The column below, which was titled “Talents of country youths were not always recognized,” was originally published in the Nov. 18, 1993 edition of The Monroe Journal in Monroeville, Ala.)

In looking back over the years, I see many opportunities that passed by the country boys and girls because of poor communication, lack of interest by certain individuals and non-exposure to competition.

I grew up with many young country friends who could have excelled in various sports, such as golf, football, swimming, wild bull-riding and many more. The reasons were that these youths were never given the chance to compete in the presence of those who could have placed them in the eyes of the public.

For example, my friend Maurice could have starred in many a jungle movie had the right someone seen him swing from a grapevine with only one hand. Besides, he could eat possum grapes with the other hand while in mid-flight.

Ideal for Tarzan movie

He would have been ideal for that special Tarzan movie. He even could wrap the vine around his leg and swing with both arms free. Just think how easily he could have saved the fair lady from the jaws of angry crocodiles in a jungle movie.

But he never made the movies because no directors ever traveled through the back country of Marengo County. After thinking about this, I’m sure the movie industry is poorer because that right person never saw Maurice swing on that wild grapevine.

I know for sure that I would have been a great golf pro had I had the opportunity to practice on some nice golf course and be seen by the right people. But I never got the opportunity to show off my skills.

I could take a broken hoe handle and knock a small sweet potato for almost the distance of 200 yards. Unlike playing golf, the distance of my drive depended largely on the size of the sweet potato. I probably would have made Jack Nicholas look like a beginner had I been seen driving that sweet potato by the right golf professionals.

As I look back through those yesterdays, there was a young lady I went to school with who could have been an all-time great in the wrestling ring. Loree took great pride in slipping up behind us boys when we weren’t looking and grabbing us around the shoulders and squeezing the living daylights out of us. Sometimes, she would grasp you by the neck and squeeze until you turned purple. When she finally turned you loose, you were so busy trying to get your breath back until you didn’t realize she had calmly walked away laughing.

She was the champion on the girls soccer team. One day she kicked a soccer ball so hard it hit a member of the opposing team and broke her collar bone. She wanted to play football, but during those days, this wasn’t ladylike. To tell the truth, all the young men that went out for football were afraid that Loree might hurt someone seriously if she had been allowed to train for the team.

The football team elected her to be a cheerleader instead. This she did in an outstanding manner; she could yell and holler louder than anyone I’ve ever seen. Besides, no one on the opposing team dared say anything bad about the Sweet Water Bulldogs. Life was too precious to take that kind of chance.

Then, there was my friend Enoch; he would have made an outstanding running back had the regulations permitted us to use a watermelon instead of a football. He could run the 100-yard dash in no time flat while carrying a 40-pound watermelon. But we were never able to get him to see the importance of running up field with a worthless ball made of leather.

He saw no reason in running all that distance when, once he got to the other end of the field, he couldn’t hide in the bushes and eat the darn thing. Perhaps if the right person had witnessed Enoch running the 100-yard dash with a 40-pound watermelon, the playing rules might have been changed a bit. If this had happened, I’m sure he would have made All-American.

Not too smart

My friend Jack wasn’t all that smart. We knew that from way back. One day during the cold winter months when we were in the seventh grade, our teacher instructed Jack to go and get some water and put it in the heater. The large pot-bellied wood-burning heater had turned a cherry red from the hot fire inside. The teacher assumed that Jack knew that the water was to be put in a container on the top of the large heater to keep the air within the room from becoming too dry.

No one paid any attention as Jack came in with the pail of water and opened the heater door and dashed the water into the red hot heater. A loud explosion sounded, as soot and ashes swept across the classroom in a billowing cloud. Our teacher fainted; all 34 students tried to get out of the classroom at one time.

Never did know how it happened; but Jack was the first one out the door. Didn’t seem to bother him any that he was the reason the heater in the room had to be replaced. I don’t really know, but I think Jack could have done real well; he might have been an outstanding explosive specialist.

Much water has passed under the bridge since those days when a Coca-Cola was a nickel and school lunch consisted of two or three steak-and-egg biscuits in a brown paper sack. We thought that we were starving to death; little did we know that this was the high time of our lives.

We thought that we were being punished when we had to recite poems such as “Paul Revere’s Ride” and speeches like the Gettysburg Address. There was no fear of a gun being carried to school by someone.

Sometimes you might get away with carrying a new slingshot to show off to your friends. That is, if the weather was cold and you had a coat or sweater to wrap it in, so your teacher didn’t see it.

Truly, I feel sorry for the youth of today; there is so much that they have missed. But, as they say, time awaits for no man. Whatever the future holds, we can only hope.

But regardless of the future, in looking back, I will always contend that I would have made an outstanding golf professional; I wasted enough sweet potatoes to prove it.

(Singleton, the author of the 1991 book “Of Foxfire and Phantom Soldiers,” passed away at the age of 79 on July 19, 2007. A longtime resident of Monroeville, he was born on Dec. 14, 1927 in Marengo County and served as the administrator of the Monroeville National Guard unit from 1964 to 1987. He is buried in Pineville Cemetery in Monroeville. The column above and all of Singleton’s other columns are available to the public through the microfilm records at the Monroe County Public Library in Monroeville. Singleton’s columns are presented here each week for research and scholarship purposes and as part of an effort to keep his work and memory alive.)

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