Day 2 is in the books. Today’s hunt to follow Grandpa’s trail started in Wichita and we ended at Valley Center. The whole day through we met amazingly kind people who treated us as if we’re Indiana Jones Sr. and Jr on a peace mission. We had no hostile Nazi’s chasing us for our pictures and notes; however, we did encounter a “lovely” admin who tried to put kink in our plans.
The day started off with a warm waffle and a couple of links of sausage washed down with a large cup of coffee. After food was in our gullets and caffeine in our bloodstreams we found ourselves in our Impala headed to North Wichita High School. NWHS is one the most beautiful schools I have ever seen. The school seems to still be built from the bricks that were there before Grandpa;s time. On our way in to the office, there were some football kids passing us and I over heard one of them say, “Yeah, this place looks like a prison.” It is pretty obvious he’s never seen a high school in Southern California. NWHS was the last high school that Grandpa coached at before moving the family to California. When we got there everyone treated us so nice and made us feel at home. We met with the A.D. and he showed us a couple of sports logs from when Grandpa was there; however, the football one was missing. Through more investigation we could not find anything else about grandpa. The A.D. recommenced that we stop by the distinct office to see if they’d have any records.
Before arriving at the district building Dad and I kept talking about how nice everyone is. People really do go the extra mile out here. Hoping the streak of nice people would continue we found the district building and the only none-nice person in all of Kansas. We stated our mission and she said everyone that could help us was in a meeting. However, she did give us a couple of phone numbers to call later on in the day. As we left the building I called one of the phone numbers expecting to leave a message, but instead I got a real person on the line and it was one of the gals we were trying to get a hold of when we were inside the building. She gave us the run-around like the admin did so I hung-up politely and turned to tell Dad the sad news. In all 30 years of living I have never seen dad so deflated and almost pout like my 13 month-old. Dad quickly got out his funk, but it was just disheartening to get treated the way we did.
After this negative adventure we were off to lunch. A coach from Bluestem High School that we met with yesterday met us for lunch at a B&C BBQ. All I can say is OMG. I channeled my inner-linemen to consume as much BBQ-ed meat as possible. For those back home, I think Naples has a better sauce; however, these guys have a better cook and smoking technique. I’d call it a draw between the two places, however, all you can eat for $25 with a drink you can’t beat. Lunch was full of great conversation about inverse veer, how cover 2 is a myth, and what life is like in Kansas for a family. Meeting coach Kelly has been one of the greatest highlights of this trip. Last night we went to dinner with him and his family in Andover. Once our gullets were full and coach Kelly needed to go prep for his game tonight, we headed back to the hotel and get in some power napping and rest for what our afternoon to evening would contain.
About 330PM the hunt for Grandpa’s legacy continued. Back inside our trusty steed with the AC on full blast we headed to Valley Center. We were looking for a way to kill some time so we headed the school district building. I mean, what else is Indiana Jones Sr. and Jr. to do? It was kind of eery when we got there because the yearbooks were looking for were already out. (Bottom row in the middle is Grandpa Ernie) Also, someone had called asking for the yearbooks earlier in the day; maybe it was just good timing on our behalf. We met two nice admins and they were thrilled to meet us. They told us that our pictures were in the weekly newspaper and the town was buzzing that we coming. (Here is the article). We felt like small time celebrities. After coming down from our 3 minutes of fame we headed to the school to meet with staff and faculty.
The first person we met at the school was Chris Ewards. He’s one of the nicest guys we’ve encountered on this trip. He gave us a tour of the town and showed us all 3 parks, 2 barber shops, 1 gas station and 1 street light. Our only stop on the tour was to meet barber Larry. Larry has been cutting hair in town for 37 years and his shop is the hub for town gossip and probably decision making as well. (I hope he’s there tomorrow because I need a shave.) Once we were in the shop other townspeople came from their shops to meet us and took pictures with us. It was fun meeting all these people who knew the school and also Grandpa. On our way back and into the school we came across a man named Guy Saw.
Guy Saw was old, skinny, and had all his wits about him. Chris recognized him and stopped because he was on one of Grandpa’s teams. Guy informed us that he had many stories about Grandpa, but the best was back when Guy was 10th grade. Guy was doing something he wasn’t supposed to be doing and Grandpa gave him a shove with his foot down 7 stairs to teach Guy his lesson. Guy can’t remember what he was doing, but he knew deserved it and that he didn’t be doing it again.
After our meeting with Guy more players and people that knew grandpa came up to us and shook our hands. It was great to hear all the stories and hear how Grandpa ran the football team and the school. During our time with the players of yesteryear both schools showed up and so did the town. As the teams piled off, coach Smith sought out Dad and I and formally introduced himself to us. With humility and poise he seemed ready for the game. As we talked the stadium filled up and it seemed as if the whole town was there. I felt like I was in Dillon, Texas waiting for Coach Taylor to pop out at any second. One of the most impressive parts was a truck that came out painted like a hornet, the schools mascot, covered in hornet swag, and had about 4 to 5 different horns on it. All the elementary kids piled into the bed of the truck and would crank the horns every time something good would happen. (Which didn’t happen to much, so they started to honk for AYSO things… you know the small achievements.)
20 minutes before the game started Chris came back to where Dad and I had set up camp and said it was time for ceremonial coin toss. We walked on the field, met with reffs, and had an introduction from the announcers. The head referee turned the coin toss into my dad vs. me. No matter what a Dave was going to win, so we were okay with the outcome. I called heads like a rookie and sure enough it was tails. Dad elected to defer till the second half and I had receive. After this fun event it was shortly game time.
At halftime Chris came back out to meet with us and gave both Valley Center football helmets. I was hoping some shoulder pads would soon follow with a jersey so I could get in and play. While we are honored to receive these gifts, we have no idea how they are going to make it back to California. Should be a fun thing for the TSA agents to see on Sunday morning. After the game we met up with the head coach again. He kept his head held high as his team took a big defeat. Not the kind of night any coach wants on his first night as the new head coach.
Our night wrapped up with going to a coaches party, which was dry- a sight unusual from my experiences. Dad and I watched a bit of game tape, but quickly realized there were going to analyze everything and we left.
Today has been my favorite day of the trip. The lesser prize I am taking away from tonight is values of those living in the Midwest. From my experience I feel the business and the stress of me first and how can be number 1 has gotten to me and possibly a majority of the population. In Kansas, people are nice because they just are. I am sure they watched the same episodes of Sesame Street and Mr. Rogers that we all have; however, for them the values of citizenship, hospitality, and community are praised unlike the values of success, wealth, and always being on the cutting edge. I don’t mean to bash anyone, I am just saying we need to remember the words of Rufus from Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, “Be excellent to one another.”
While standards for morels and ideologies come and go, the best prize for the day was spending a lot of time at Valley Center city and high school. I never got to got to meet Ernie senior and I often wonder what he was like and if I portray any of his character or mannerisms. I try my best to model myself after my dad in more ways than just coaching; and I know my dad had to get a lot of his great qualities from his father. So I don’t feel I am too far off the mark when I try and compare myself to my grandfather at times. Tonight was pretty emotional for me. It was touching to hear the stories and see the lives that he touched, and kids he kicked. I couldn’t be more proud of him. Even though I never met him, tonight made me miss him; tonight also brought peace and a great understanding to who he is. Throughout the last few months of my life as I have done a lot of soul searching and redirecting my career aspirations away from law enforcement to something else and my mind keeps telling me I am to coach and this trip has shown me why that is. There is nothing greater than helping someone out whether they are homeless, a person struggling in life, or an athlete looking to get better. Coaching in some capacity is what the Radford legacy has been built on. We may not all be football coaches, but we are coaches in some regard. My cousin Jim put it best one time when were hanging out, he said “How is it that Radford’s find themselves working in industries where they help or coach people?” The only answer I could come up with is, “It’s in our DNA.”
Thanks for reading and following everyone. I hope to have more pictures up and have one or maybe two last installments about this trip. Thanks for the support.