April 24, 2012

Old Dog, New Tricks

My family has stories.  Or more accurately, my family are great story tellers.  I grew up hearing my grandmother tell stories of her childhood.  Born in 1901, she could remember getting too close to the "wash pot" my great grandmother used to "boil clothes" and the hem of her dress caught fire.  She recalled her mother rolling her on the ground trying to smother out the flames.  Fortunately she did smother them out, but not before Grandma was severely burned.  My grandmother suffered from the scarring of this accident her entire life, but she never complained.

My family are also optimists.  We laugh our way through life.  Especially the tough stuff.  It's how we cope: preferring to remember the good, put in perspective the bad, and recognize that the present can chart paths we never would have dreamed possible.

That would be the premise for my father's new book, Jack Dale:  The Life and Times of an Unforgettable Coach.  Growing up in our house we all knew the stories of Jack Dale well.  We would ask Daddy to tell and retell them.  Jack Dale was my father's high school football coach.  And Dad was arguably Coach Dale's favorite player.  Jack is in the Arkansas Razorback Hall of Fame for his athletic feats, but it's his unbelievable life story that makes Coach Dale a character to remember.  Jumping from an "Orphan Train" as a child, and then living out of a piano crate is quite a beginning to an amazing life story!  Coach Dale was resourceful, opinionated, and stubborn.  He was also incredibly sensitive and real.  The latter being qualities he chose to reveal to only a handful of people; fortunately for us my father was one of those people.

For years, classmates of my father asked him to write down his "Jack Dale Stories."  And their shenanigans both on and off the football field are one-of-a-kind.  Hilarious, ornery, and touching, the stories of Coach Dale are those of a determined man shaped by a difficult life, yet made magical under the lights of 1950's high school football in small town Arkansas.  

When my father first started this project he had no idea where it would lead.  He often refers to his initial manuscript as "one very long email."  But thankfully my cousin Jamie read it and encouraged him to consider making it a book.   So Daddy decided to put together a "booklet" for his high school teammates and friends.  Through this effort, more stories began to pour in, including a former assistant of Coach Dale offering stories from his own book written about the coach!

Dad's email became a booklet that became a book.  Instead of a small collection of football stories, we now have a memoir about an amazing figure.  

My father turned 74 in January of 2012.  This is his first book.  He would tell you he knew nothing about writing before this, and then go on to say he still doesn't know much about it!  But he wasn't afraid to try.  He wasn't afraid of not knowing "how," but chose to receive help when offered and learn as he went.  He wasn't afraid to let editors edit and critique his work.  He took it all in stride.  For my father, the end justified the means.  An end he never would have dreamed possible two years ago.  But one we are all fortunate to have.

We're very proud of him.   

Mom and Dad, 2007

March 2012 at my parents.  Me, Benjamin, Mom and Dad.  (Taken by Annabelle.)


  1. Oh, I've just popped on to your blog via Little Cotton Rabbits way over here in Northern Ireland just 10 miles from Belfast.I am just loving your beautiful knits and patterns and will definitely add you to my blogging "friends".

  2. I'm so glad you like my blog! Thank you for stopping by! It's been years since I was in Ireland but look forward to coming again!