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The Idle American
Yellow Dog Tales...
Wednesday, March 28, 2012 • Posted March 28, 2012

It was a dream-like state with tales retold around 10,000 campfires, all of them—save one—meeting Smokey the Bear’s rigid standards. It was “come and go” for the afterglow as long-ago stories unrolled—many stretched—on recollections of biggest fish, deepest snow and ages of first bike rides, except for that one fire. Its flames licked skyward, lighting a thousand acres.Firefighters and medics were on alert; signs offered $10 parking in adjacent pastures. Folks were drawn like moths, ever closer to the growing inferno. And nobody left.They patiently took turns to share memories logged over many miles and many years of riding “yellow dogs”—a nickname for school buses. Unlike Las Vegas, where “what happens” stays, they “cut loose” with stories previously known only to witnesses either sworn to silence or too embarrassed to share….*****Some of the vignettes—dating back to 1960—beg to be shared. Here goes:Prentice Martin, a football coach at Abilene Cooper High School, was highly organized; he had to be. There was much to do—even driving the team bus to out-of-town games. He heaped much on the student manager—call him Jimmy—always an eager helper. One managerial chore included “tie-downs” of uniforms and game paraphernalia on top of the bus.Following one game, Martin asked Jimmy to hurry with tie-downs. After all, hamburgers awaited pick-up at the diner across the street, and there were many miles to cover before slumber. Jimmy scurried to the top, and players jumped on board as the bus rolled slowly from the stadium.At once, pounding noises from the roof caused serious vibrations. “Jimmy, I thought I asked you to tie all the stuff down,” the coach gruffed. A player, wondering if he should say anything, answered, “Sir, that is Jimmy!”…*****Sul Ross State University, located deep in West Texas, always has been challenged geographically. (If the earth were square, Alpine would be one of the corners.) For many years, SRSU teams competed in the Lone Star Conference. The Lobos’ nearest opponent was 325 miles away, and three were some 600 miles away.It was challenging to keep buses rolling. Once, a new transmission was ordered for the football team bus. The late Otilio Ramos, a “do-everything” mechanic/maintenance man at SRSU during most of his adult life, was bilingual, but sometimes his “take” on English was a bit “off.” He was instructed to put the transmission in the bus prior to its departure on a 500-mile trip to Kingsville.Outside of Del Rio, the bus ground to a stop, its transmission dead. Asked why he didn’t put the new transmission in the bus, the good-natured Otilio responded, “I did. It’s in the luggage compartment.”…*****Iraan High School, also in West Texas, has a “yellow dog” story from a memorable 1960 band trip. The always-careful driver was within a few hundred yards of the Alpine High School football field, where the 40-member band would perform.As he approached a low-slung railroad trestle near the stadium, he slowed to a crawl, realizing that the vehicle—with large brass instruments atop the bus—would have no more than a two-inch clearance. Inching forward snail-like, he wiped sweat from his brow as band members exited the bus, eager to stretch after the 130-mile ride. The director announced a 30-minute “walk-through” of the half-time routine.The driver figured 30 minutes would provide time to drive back into town for re-fueling. What he didn’t consider was that buses are considerably taller when 3,000 pounds of students are removed. The trestle—its unforgiving clearance unchanged—wiped out most of the brass section. Needless to say, there were far more “trills” than “oompahs” from the IHS band that night, and nobody remembers who won the game….*****Still another coach remembers his first out-of-town trek as both coach and driver. Glenn Petty, recently retired athletic director of Abilene ISD, was a ninth grade coach at Big Spring early on. Jotting down driving directions to the stadium, he was puzzled by instructions to “take a right when the second rock hits the bus.” Sure enough, two tough kids a block apart, tossed rocks at the slow-moving bus.Petty took the next right, and there was the stadium….*****

Dr. Newbury is a speaker in the Metroplex. Inquiries/comments: Phone: 817-447-3872. Web site:

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