50th High School Reunion, Blackwell, Oklahoma, 2013
Blackwell Maroons Football & Ted’s First Poem

Must have fancied myself a football jock, so naturally I went out for junior high football and then high school football in my sophomore year. So it was that I found myself on the 1960 Blackwell Maroons football team. My total experience in varsity football consists of one series of downs against Chilocco Indian School, a team which Blackwell beat handily. Coach Travis Rhodes must have figured he could send us third-stringers in for one series of downs late in the game. Then he brought us back to the bench.

Success in football requires a 100% commitment and mine was a solid 80%: four days out of five. But every Tuesday I would skip out on football practice so that my mother could drive me to Ponca City for my violin lesson. Music, and football, on equal terms? Not sure the coach was ready for that.

Maxine Rhodes, the coach’s wife, was my sophomore English teacher. She taught well and encouraged her students to write. For me there was nothing more inspiring than football practice, so I wrote my first poem:

Football Practice, by Ted Tenny, 1960
It’s story time, and our tale for today
Is about football practice, one fine day.

From the cool clubhouse into the hot sun
We go, in equipment that must weigh a ton.

“All right you guys, hit the track
And hustle down to the north fence and back.”

After calisthenics it gets pretty rough.
We head for the Separators, where we’re supposed to “get tough”.

And we struggle for hours in the mud and slime
’Til our once clean suits are covered with grime.

But the worst part of practice is yet to come still:
“Sophomores grab the dummies, and we’ll have blocking drill.”

We hold the dummies, and the heat gets meaner
While we get stomped by some gorilla-type senior.

Then as first-stringers run and coaches frown,
We sophomores go off to the side and lie down.

“All right you guys, it’s not time for a nap!
We caught you at it. Go take a lap.”

Then we block and tackle and all that stuff,
And when the long day’s over, we’ve sure had enough.

When I typed my poem and turned it in, nothing seemed right. Mrs. Rhodes kept insisting that I change the stanzas, or the line spacing, or the indentation. So I wound up re-typing the poem and turning it in several more times. Later it dawned on me that I’d typed the poem and turned it in as many times as there were coaches on the staff.

updated June 21, 2017