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OPINION: A memorable trip to Lake Hamilton

by By Doug Chastain, Random Recollections | September 21, 2022 at 4:00 a.m.

Hey, how about another football story?

On a cloudy, autumn Friday afternoon in 1972 the De Queen Leopard football team traveled through the Ouachita Mountains of Arkansas to play Lake Hamilton. (At the time, Lake Hamilton was not the powerhouse it is today. They probably played football just to kill time until basketball season started.) We expected to compete well with them; maybe even win.

We weren't disappointed. Turns out Lake Hamilton was having an "off" night -- or maybe an "off" season -- and we waxed them. Everybody on the bench got to play, and we were having a lot of fun by the time the final whistle blew. It was glorious.

As a treat, the coaching staff -- which shall remain nameless, for reasons that will shortly become obvious -- took us into Hot Springs for a post-game meal. I don't remember the name of the place, but I do remember the apple cobbler smothered in ice cream was the best I'd ever had. Then back on the bus for the 2-hour ride back to De Queen.

Somewhere between Glenwood and Kirby, the bus coughed, and then died. The assistant coach who was driving wrestled the beast onto the shoulder. Then the entire coaching staff got under the hood, and tried to determine what the problem was. The assistant coach who had been driving, and who apparently had the most mechanical experience, figured it out, and then fixed the problem by rewiring the ignition/starter configuration. "I can keep it running," he said, "but we're gonna have to push start it."

Push start.

A school bus.

And so, on an autumn Friday night in 1972 the entire Leopard football team pushed a school bus down a dark, deserted highway somewhere in the Ouachita Mountains. The assistant coach popped the clutch. The engine coughed back to life. And we rode back to De Queen laughing and slapping each other on the back and congratulating each other on another fine example of excellent teamwork.

Throughout my 38 years of teaching I did some really dumb things, a fact which can be confirmed by the administrators, colleagues, and students with whom I worked. To that, I can only add this: I learned from the best.

-- Doug Chastain is a retired teacher and is currently a large-vehicle transportation specialist for the Siloam Springs School District. (Okay, he drives a bus.) He is also a grass maintenance technician at Camp Siloam. (Yeah, he mows the lawn.) You can contact him at [email protected] The opinions expressed are those of the author.

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