For a long, long time I was convinced that Newton County couldn't play a basketball game unless I was in the house. We're talking girls and boys, understand, and home and away. If the Rams were going to play on the hardwood, I was going to bear witness to the fact.
It wasn't always easy for me to get to the games. My daddy worked on the second shift in the Osprey Mill throughout my childhood, and my mama worked on the first shift - in the weave shop. She ran a stand of looms. Sometimes she worked only eight hours before coming home to cook a full-course meal. Sometimes she would work 12 hours and, once in a great while, she would work a "double," which meant she would go in at 7 a.m. and not get off until 11 p.m. That left a short turn-around before the mill whistle blew to start the first shift all over again the next day.
The point is, sometimes my mama would feel like taking me to the basketball games, but sometimes she wouldn't. Besides that, it was right expensive to follow the team all over North Georgia - to Gainesville and South Hall and Forsyth County; and occasionally as far north as Hart County or Franklin County - or as far south as Jackson and Griffin. I know you could buy a gallon of gasoline for 32 cents back then, instead of the $4 it takes to buy one now, but sometimes 32 cents was about as hard for Porterdale folks to come by as four bucks is today.
But if Mama didn't feel like taking me to the games herself, wherever they happened to be, she always made sure that she had friends who would "give me a ride," and she would send me on my way with enough money for a ticket to the game - I think the going rate was about 50 cents - and a bag of popcorn - maybe another quarter - and a hamburger on the way home. A growing boy has to eat.
Like so many other sacrifices my mother made for me, I never stopped to wonder how hard the money I spent traveling to games was for her to come up with or what she might have done without to make sure I got to see my heroes play ball 25 or 30 times a year.
There were a lot of different people I rode with but none more frequently than the Floyds, Martille and Ed. They were Pat Floyd's parents, and Pat Floyd was one of the greatest Lady Ram players ever. Pat was a few years older than me. She was actually my sister's age, but everybody in Porterdale knew everybody else, and Pat and I spent a lot of time playing together when we were coming up. One Halloween she elbowed me in the mouth - I think it was an accident - and knocked my tooth out. My mama went to her grave insisting that's why my right front incisor overlaps my left one now. (Go ahead and take a peek the next time you catch me smiling.) Both Pat and I became teachers and coaches after college. She spent virtually her entire career at Tucker High School. I haven't spent my entire career yet.
Oh but what precious memories I have of those trips to the basketball games with Pat's parents. I would rush home from school on game day and eat a mayonnaise sandwich to tide me over and wash it down with a glass of sweet iced tea. Don't knock it if you haven't tried it. That still makes a pretty good pre-game meal. Heck fire, Sharon Pope has admitted eating mayonnaise sandwiches, and she's a doctor!
Then I would make sure that my money was tucked away safely in my pocket and I would go sit on the steps that led down from the sidewalk to the street and wait. Sometimes I would wait a long time, but I wasn't about to take a chance on being left.
When Mr. Floyd would pull up and stop, I would settle down in the back seat and listen to the radio and the grown folks. I don't think I spoke unless spoken to. That's still a pretty good plan, come to think of it. On the way home we would replay the games - usually twin Ram victories - and listen to the radio some more. One January night we heard on the radio that a U.S. spacecraft had caught fire and three astronauts had been burned to death. Often we listened to college games. And we'd always stop and get a hamburger - assuming we could find a place open.
Believe it or not, I told you all of that to tell you this. I saw Martille Floyd last Saturday, at the Porterdale Reunion. I don't know how many years it had been since I had seen her, but it had been way too many. She walked right up to me and said, "You want to go to a ball game?" and the calendar in my mind raced backward about 50 years.
Seeing Martille was the highlight of a day full of highlights. Precious memories. They really do linger.
I hope I remembered to say thank you.
Darrell Huckaby is a local author and educator. He can be reached at dHuck08@bellsouth.net.