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Darrell Huckaby - Talk of retirement a little premature

Every year, about this time, folks start asking me if I am about to retire. I don't know if it is just wishful thinking on their parts or if I just look a lot older than I am or what, but trust me - I have no plans to retire anytime soon - for a lot of reasons.

For one thing, I've only been teaching 34 years. I'm still not 100 percent sure that I want to make a career out of education or not. I'm leaning that way, understand, but I've still not fully decided.

Then, too, if I did retire, I would have to spend a lot more time at home. Trust me on this one. My lovely wife, Lisa, is a much greater taskmaster than my principal, Greg Fowler. It's a lot easier to get up and come to school every day than it is to stay home with her honey-do list. And about the only thing worse than Lisa's honey-do list is her honey-don't list. I would stay in the doghouse if I was home full time. I know I would.

And if I were retired, I wouldn't have any excuse not to join all those old people's clubs with the catchy little titles - like the Senior Saints, for instance. Nothing against those folks, but I still like to pretend that I have a little zip on my fastball, even if I don't. You just let yourself start singing the senior adult choir and the next thing you know you'll find yourself playing Mexican Train every Sunday night and eating supper at 5 o'clock on Friday afternoon.

I'm about like Bobby Bowden, FSU's legendary football coach. He said that once you retire there is only one big event in life left to look forward to. I think he was referring to a fellow's funeral, and unless I can be like Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn and spy on mine from the church balcony, I'd just as soon not experience my funeral yet.

I also feel like Willie Nelson. Someone asked him when he was going to retire and he said, "Heck, man. I play golf and I play music. What am I supposed to retire from?"

I go to school every day and talk about the history of our great nation with some of the finest young people in the world. Why would I want to stop doing that? Besides, I have two children in college and another who will be soon. Hope Scholarships or not, college is expensive, and I haven't seen a retirement plan yet that pays as good as working.

I'm sure I will know, however, when the time to retire comes. I asked Erk Russell, long-time University of Georgia defensive coordinator, how he knew it was time to call it quits. Coach Russell, you might remember, left Georgia to start the football program at Georgia Southern. When I say start the program, I mean start the program. They had to send somebody to Wal-Mart to buy a football so they could take a picture to put in the paper when they announced his hiring. That's what I call starting from scratch.

Coach Russell was tremendously successful in Statesboro and won three national championships. He immediately announced his retirement after the third. I asked him one day how he knew it was time to retire.

He said, "Huck, I started my coaching career at Gordon High School. I was right out of Auburn and 22 years old and teaching senior English, and I don't mind telling you - some of those 18-year-old girls looked really good to me.

"A few years later, I had moved on to Georgia and was coaching with Vince Dooley and we had parents' day in Athens and, low and behold - a lot of those mamas were looking really good to me.

"Well, last year at Georgia Southern," Coach Russell explained, "we had a family day outing for our football team and for the first time I realized that a lot of the grandmothers were looking pretty doggoned good.

"I knew then," he concluded, "that it was time to hang it up."

Well, honesty compels me to admit that I, too, have run across some really nice looking grandmothers lately, so who knows - maybe I will step down from teaching someday soon.

But it won't be next year. Like I said, I'm still having way too much fun.

I am looking forward to summer, however, and having a few weeks off before starting year No. 35.

Who knows? After all this practice, maybe next year I will actually get it right.

Darrell Huckaby is a local author and educator. He can be reached at dHuck08@bellsouth.net.