My turn: Small-town athletics full of tests

At Mt. Vernon High School in east Texas, I played football, basketball and track.

Since my twin sister outweighed me until I was a 123-pound senior tailback, baseball or soccer would have been better bets — but we had neither as varsity sports.

We didn’t have a track either, so track season was primarily for football players to stay in shape.

I ran the mile and pole-vaulted.

To practice for running events, we ran by a highway. One day an ambulance had to be summoned for a nose-tackle hit by a hay truck.

The alfalfa bales hurt him more than the truck.

At our district meet at East Texas State University, I finished sixth in the mile.

I’ve always thought I might have finished higher, but never knew how far a mile was on an actual track. After the third lap, I broke into a victory trot.

For pole-vaulting, our team used cane poles that carpet had been wrapped around. Until the district meet, I had never seen a fiberglass pole.

While district rivals soared on their high-tech poles, my meet quickly ended on my first jump when my pole snapped.

Lying flat on my back, the physical pain stung. But, not as much as the crack from a competitor.

“I’ll bet he would have won a fishing competition,” he laughed.