"When dawn spreads its paintbrush on the plain, spilling purple... ," Sons of the Pioneers theme for TV show "Wagon Train." Dawn on the mythic Santa Fe Trail, New Mexico, looking toward Raton from Cimarron. -- Clarkphoto. A curmudgeon artist's musings melding metaphors and journalism, for readers in more than 150 countries.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Pages from the past

"Comanche vs. Grandfield--a Minute to Play"--8 by 10 by Terrence Miller Clark
Dad was the starting guard on the Comanche Indian football team, "Iron Guard Clark" they called him. You didn't get by him, and since you played both offense and defense in those days, and with little leather helmets and no face masks, you saw lots of hard action. Comanche had a solid football team, and so did its arch rivals Marlow and Grandfield. Today, Grandfield is a ghost of itself, the cotton gin gone, wide streets and stores vacant. Comanche is withering too, has been surpassed by Duncan, 10 miles north. The Sun Refinery is closed at Meridian, and it can no longer compete with more prosperous Marlow, 10 miles north of Duncan, on US 81, paralleling the Rock Island tracks and the old Chisholm Trail.

But not in the '20s and '30s. Dad caught the action. I wonder if he is Number 13? I wonder what  year? I hope my dad's last uncle, Mike, can tell me his number.

Dad played his last football game in the fall of 1931, and graduated in spring of 1932. I have his senior ring. That summer in the Depression, he and a friend Carl Price, rode box cars on the Rock Island line and other trains to Juarez, Mexico to celebrate.

Coming home, they "changed trains" in Tucumcari, N.M., waiting on a Rock Island freight back to Oklahoma. Early one morning, as they were getting ready to jump into an open box car, a railroad employee started talking to Dad. They talked too long, and the train sped up. Dad tried to jump on, slipped, fell under the steel wheels, and lost his right leg below the knee and his left pinkie finger as he pushed himself away.

Iron Guard Clark was no more. But he could still draw, and always did. But not inside the lines or by anyone's rules.

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