On Thursday night when we arrived in our home away from home, Mineola, TX, the local grocery (Brookshires) was just gearing down from a big "Yellow Jackets" pep rally in their parking lot, complete with a barrel style grill still belching hickory smoke. On Friday at the barbecue restaurant we visited for lunch, we saw a panther (stuffed animal) hanging upside down on a rope, with the banner "Sting the Panthers." The whole restaurant was decorated with signs and banners. Everyone who worked there wore orange Mineola High School football T-shirts. (BTW, I'm not sure why "Yellow Jackets" in Mineola are actually orange, rather than yellow, but I'll answer that question in another post!)
Ah, high school football playoffs. This was the first round (district) and Mineola hasn't been to the playoffs in over 50 years.
The Mineola Yellow Jackets photos are from the Facebook page
"Mineola Yellow Jackets Playoff Run 2010" from fan Carrie Ann Stafford Kerby.
On the other end of the playoff spectrum, our daughter, an English teacher at Rowlett High School in the Garland Independent School System, attended their playoff game. Since they are a large, suburban school in the Dallas area, they played at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, TX. In 2009, one of Rowlett's stars, Marquise Goodwin, graduated and went to The University of Texas, where he is a excellent wide receiver and expected to be a favorite in the 2012 Olympics Track and Field competition. This photo is from her I-Phone as she and her husband walked toward the stadium. Inside, this is what the Rowlett playoffs looked like. (I hadn't realized the giant high def video screen was quite that large!)
Back in Mineola, I wanted to find out how the Yellow Jackets were doing in their playoff quest. I logged onto Facebook and went to the KMOO page. KMOO is the local radio station, located just down Hwy. 69 from us. (http://www.kmoo.com/) On their FB page, 999kmoo, they had someone updating the scores from not only Mineola, but several other schools as well. (Lindale, for example, is just down Hwy. 69 and is the home of country singer Miranda Lambert.) It was great to be able to get the updates as they happened.
I tried to find the same thing for Rowlett, searching for scores on the Internet after trying in vain on the school district website, the local TV station pages, etc. I could not find the score anywhere. Since we don't get the Dallas TV stations in Mineola, I knew we wouldn't find the scores any other way. My daughter had uploaded her photos to Facebook, but then went silent on the score. Despite all the modern conveniences of the "big city," I couldn't find out if Rowlett was winning or losing!
The Yellow Jackets, on the other hand, took the lead against the Maypearl Panthers and kept it throughout the game. The final score was 34 to 20. Saturday night at the Mineola Country Club (the only place in Mineola where you can get a drink!) we discovered that they are next playing New Boston in Mt. Pleasant. This was from someone we didn't know who used his Blackberry to find out the information when we asked.
It may seem odd that the small town atmosphere of community, school pride and "clothesline gossip" can be found in person and online, but that is definitely the case in Mineola. As I sat in my living room, I felt very connected to the KMOO reporter who updated the scores on Facebook. I didn't have to wait for news of the next playoff matchup; I only had to ask the man across the small bar at the country club. (BTW, this would have been the case if I'd been anywhere in town, I'm sure.) I still don't know the score of the Rowlett game, but I believe they lost. The Yellow Jackets, however, are big winners in my opinion.
I've never mentioned high school football in any of my Harlequin American romances, even though I've created two small Texas towns where it should be a big part of the community. I'm going to remember this experience and try to include the spirit of the season in my fictional Brody's Crossing series. It's just one more way that small towns are special.
I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday with friends or family. I'll be posting some holiday recipes on Dec. 4th, so I hope you'll check back in then.