LISTENING TO THE DARK

As I left my front gate there is just a hint of pink in the east spawning a prediction that the sun will once again make an appearance. It is still quite dark as I begin my walk. My five miler will be made mostly in the dark. I am attempting to avoid the late July heat which will eventually nudge ninety-five degrees even here in the eastern foothills of the Blue Ridge. I wish I could avoid the humidity which is still quite high at 5:15 this morning. Too soon the humidity will envelope me like a heavy and wet wool blanket. Later I will have to cut grass and will resemble someone who has walked his pet seahorse when my chore is completed.

I think of the old sailor’s proverb, “Red sky in morning, sailors take warning.” There is just a hint of pink on the horizon and despite the humidity, not enough moisture has collected to form even a thunderhead and we are dry to the point of suffering. I don’t believe “pink” is the new “red.”

Twenty-five minutes later I am “glistening” with perspiration at Lake Lookup. It is still dark but I decide to walk the narrow woodland path circling the lake. For unknown reasons, I find myself compelled to silence my music and just listen…to the darkness. At first all I can hear is the normal and incessant roar which has disturbed my hearing since my early adult years. The buzzing is a product of working in a cotton mill during my youth, sans ear protection, and from standing too close to speakers at “hole-in-the wall” juke joints.

As my miner’s lamp cuts through the darkness several bats take advantage of the insects attracted to the cone of light, causing me to duck despite the knowledge the furry flyers have great sonars. There is a haunting “WHO…WHO…WHO” calling out to me from the distant hill crest and the rustle of what I hope are small animals scurrying away through the leaves.

I am surprised at how quiet it is. Not at all like last night with the cicadas “screeching” into the night. I am alone with only the sounds of my footfalls to break the silence…and the bull frogs. Not the deep bass “ribbits” I would have expected, these are more tenor in pitch and produced a sound more like “gah-lup, gah-lup, gah-lup.” The frogs are lined up on the narrow, root strewn lake path facing toward the lake, hoping their breakfast hops or flies by. Instead it is only me and they don’t even move. Frozen by the beam of my light, they glisten green, yellow and black, their little eyes reflecting my light back at me. As I walk on, carp begin to roll close to the lake bank, their splashes causing the only ripples on the still, black surface of the lake…until I scare a beaver swimming in the lake’s small inlet. His tail slap reverberates like a gunshot and evokes the “flight” reflex from me.

It is lighter now but gray is still the dominant color. The gurgling of a small waterfall temporarily drowns out the darkness until I can hear the calls of “early” birds “looking for the worm to catch.” The world is waking up. It is comforting to know the earth is still spinning, continuing it’s trip around the sun. It is a welcomed calm “listening to the dark,” before I face the day.

More nonfiction by Don Miller is available at http://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

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MRS. SARA PAYNE

I spent four years with the “legendary” Mrs. Sara Payne and despite thinking of her often, I never saw her once I left Greenville High School almost thirty years ago. I was so sorry to hear of her passing. In a book, “Winning Was Never the Only Thing…”, I wrote a story about a moment in my life when Mrs. Payne proved to me how uplifting one moment of kindness can be. I doubt she knew and am sorry I never took the opportunity to tell her. Here is an excerpt from that story.

“The one person unintimidated by Sam Wiley was Mrs. Sara Payne. It seemed that Mrs. Sara Payne had been at Greenville High forever plus one day. In 1981 she became the South Carolina State Teacher of the Year which helped to fuel my own intimidation of her. I was not in a small group. Even before she garnered her teacher of the year award it seemed her name was already legendary. To me, she was the most intimidating person at Greenville High, even more so than Sam. Maybe the most intimidating person I had ever met. Anytime her name was mentioned it seemed that hushed, reverent tones were used, and I fully expected to hear Gothic organ music playing in the background. A mentoring teacher once told me that the key to successful classroom discipline was never to smile until after Christmas. Mrs. Sara Payne must have had the same mentor and must have listened better than I did. She had the successful classroom discipline associated with Catholic priests during the Inquisition. Well, there was the Great Mouse Invasion.

Mrs. Sara Payne was terrified of mice. After a mouse was seen in her classroom, she exited, moved her classes to the library and refused to return until the little intruder was caught. Someone decided he had a plan that would, by disrupting class, create less time spent in Mrs. Sara Payne’s Senior English Class. This someone began to release lab mice into Mrs. Sara Payne’s classroom. It worked for a while until one was finally caught. It was white, and then another was caught and it was white with brown spots, and then another, well just say a bunch were caught, none of which were the traditional “mousy” color. Resembling pets more than vermin, public outcry put an end to this rodent holocaust. We never found who “someone” was but thankfully he or she caved to the public sympathy for lab rats.

Mrs. Sara Payne and Sam Wiley took to each other like…well they did not take to each other at all. If Mrs. Payne had used the traditional fine southern feminist curse “Bless Your Heart”, she would have used it a lot and Sam just used …well I don’t know because I tried to stay away from him but I am sure it involved the word ‘bitch.’ His “stirring of the pot” caused the tension and the pressure to increase, not only in my little athletic world but all around the school. I believe we all knew what it felt like to be a green bean in a pressure cooker. The pressure would finally get the best of the normally stoic Mrs. Sara Payne when Sam began to remove the ancient flora from Greenville High School.

In the quadrangle that Greenville Senior High was built around were roses. Many had been placed there in honor of alumni who had passed away. They were the first to go. Sam’s reasoning was that it took too much man power to maintain them. I agree that you could designate one custodian to care for the roses and it would have been a full time job, but could you not allow family members to care for them or at the very least come collect them? Could you not request volunteers to care for them? NO, you just had them pulled up and dumped in the trash. The alumni association along with Mrs. Sara Payne was livid but could do nothing about the roses because it was too late. In the spring of 1986, the American Holly “bushes” became a different story.

What is the difference between a holly bush and an American Holly Tree? I never really knew, but it was a question Sam should have asked before he decided to cut down all of the American Holly trees on the campus of Greenville Senior High. It began his slippery slide into…retirement. Holly bushes can be used as hedges, trimmed, shaped or destroyed. American Holly Trees can grow to be over thirty feet high and attain ages in excess of one hundred years old and cannot be cut down if they are on a historic site. Guess which ones were at Greenville Senior High? Greenville Senior High School was built in the 1930s and is a historic site. This meant these trees were over fifty years old and of as much historical significance as was the school. Sam decided that he would have them cut down to create less work for the custodial staff. Instead he stirred up an angry hornet’s nest, led by Mrs. Sara Payne. Mrs. Sara Payne had had enough and called in the alumni association and every tree hugger in Greenville County. Greenville Senior High School is now over eighty years old. So are the trees. They stayed. Sam did not last through the summer of 1986.

After a particularly grueling “dosey doe” with Sam over a miscue by a wrestling coach and another letter to be put in my folder, I trudged into the library to find my driver’s education students. I found them, along with Mrs. Sara Payne and her class. It must have been during the mouse holocaust. As I went to the second floor of the library, I paused at the top of the stairs reflecting on the invisible weight I had just carried to get up there. I felt a hand touch my elbow and turned to find Mrs. Sara Payne staring into my face with something I had never seen before: a smile. Blessedly before I said something unintelligible she said, “Keep the faith, it will be over soon and I am not talking about you.” All I could do was nod. I did not realize that Mrs. Sara Payne even knew I was alive. I began to think of her as simply Mrs. Payne.
Rest well Mrs. Payne.

TIME HONORED TRADITION

It was 5 am when I stepped out my front gate a decade or so ago. A pre-dawn fog still hung low. Swirled by a light breeze, it periodically blotted out a particularly bright September full moon that glowed brightly enough to cause shadows. There was just a hint of chill in the morning air to mark the change in seasons soon to come. I would walk and jog an hour until Linda Gail joined me for a forty-five-minute walk before I showered, shaved and began my thirty-seven mile drive to work.

There was just a hint of an aroma hanging with the fog. As I stretched before beginning my jog I tried to recall what I might be smelling. As I inhaled the redolent odor I found it almost “tasted” sour in a pleasing way. It was almost familiar. At that moment the fog briefly cleared revealing a beautiful full moon and like a “light bulb” going off in my head I had it. Corn whiskey being made “by the shine of the moon.” Sour mash being turned in to “moonshine,” “white lightnin’” or “corn squeezins’”. The making of illegal corn liquor was, AND IS, a time honored tradition in these foothills of Appalachia called the Dark Corner of the Carolinas.

We have a rich tradition of “boot legging” in the United States. From “rum running” to avoid the British tax on molasses to the Whiskey Rebellion when George Washington would again ride at the head of his army to “compel” Pennsylvania farmers to pay the first federal excise tax and remain in the infant United States. Folks in the United States just don’t like having to pay taxes on…well…take your pick but in this case it was home brew. During Prohibition and the Great Depression, making “shine” became a way to make ends meet for Dark Corner farmers who could not have survived without it. According to local historian Dean Campbell, the Squire of Dark Corner, a poor farmer, and they got no poorer than those in the Dark Corner, could expect to realize a profit of about two dollars and fifty cents on five bushels of corn. The same amount of corn could be turned into twelve gallons of moonshine and a twelve-dollar profit with no “spoilage”. I ain’t no mathematical genius but…that would be nearly a four hundred percent increase in profit.

Through the depression and into modern times, the Dark Corner was known for its production of moonshine. Not just any moonshine but what has been described as a particularly “fine moonshine.” That is not an oxymoron. The smoothness supposedly came from the water. In the late Seventies it was also known for producing a particularly high grade of “killer weed” known as “Glassy Mountain Gold.” Despite capturing the “Best Domestic” award in a magazine catering to those activities, “GMG” did not replace moonshining because moonshining was the traditional drug of choice and “them good old boys ain’t about to change.” I also wonder how I might know such things.

Linda Gail and I have spent many hours engaged in exploration, in and around our little piece of heaven. We have seven, year round streams, three which bubble to the surface on our land. Over several millenniums I guess, all three have cut deep ravines. If you explore, back into the deep and dark recesses of those ravines, you will find the metal barrel hoops that held wooden barrel staves together along with newer metal barrels with curious holes shaped like those made from “buck shot” or an axe. I wonder if those damn “gubment” revenuers paid the moonshiners a visit sometime back in the fog of time. Recently we added a three-acre parcel of land to our little piece of heaven mainly to keep people from moving in next to us. Yes, we are hermits. While exploring, I think we found the still I smelled “cookin’” a decade ago on the wide stream at the base of our waterfall. Not in good enough shape to fire up but in good enough shape to be recent.

I was somewhat shocked to see the face of a distant neighbor pasted across my TV screen on the Six O’ Clock News. He was, and is still, a respected “gentleman peach farmer” of high means. His offense? Making “shine.” His defense was that his daddy had made it and his daddy before him had made it and…. He did not need the money to pay his taxes or even take the kids to Disneyworld, nor did he appear to be very apologetic or remorseful. It was a time-honored tradition to make the “family recipe” free of “gubment” taxes and he was “sot in his ways.” My guess is that despite the hefty fine that he paid, he is still “sot in his ways.”

This is an excerpt from Don Miller’s soon to be released book THROUGH THE FRONT GATE. For more humorous non-fiction go to check his site at http://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

CIRCLES

I wonder how many YEARS of my life have actually been spent driving mowers and tractors in circles? In my own yard, on football and baseball fields? Finishing up where I started only to do it over again…and again…. I find that my mind drifts with the repetitive mindlessness of the job…until I run over something I shouldn’t or cut a clump of Linda Gail’s flowers.
This time of year, the hot and humid doldrums of summer, my mind “circles” to twenty-nine seasons as a football coach…despite not having coached football in fifteen years. It’s been that long? With the coach’s clinic this weekend I am reminded that the football season is just around the corner. The smell of my freshly cut grass, along with the heat and humidity, takes me to the fields of my past. Twenty-nine first practices followed by twenty-nine first games. Fields freshly manicured with sharp white lines almost glowing from the reflected light from above.

In some ways my twenty-nine seasons were a study in frustration. Eight seasons finishing above .500 and a small, very small, handful of break-even seasons. We have at least three coaches in South Carolina with eight or more state championships during their career. It gets much worse, five of those winning eight seasons occurred during my first nine seasons. Three winning seasons over the last twenty. My own tenure as a head football coach boasts one winning season, six wins out a total of thirteen over four seasons. What made me think I was head coaching material?

I spent this past Friday morning with best friend, former boss and Linda Gail’s former high school classmate, Mike “Hawk” Hawkins. I was lending “moron” support as we attempted to erect a backyard swing from scratch. The “blind leading the blind” didn’t quite describe it. More like the “blind leading the stupid.” Somehow with a bit of “cussin’” on my part and a lot praying on his, we got the job done. Maybe it won’t collapse in on itself. More importantly, being around “Hawk” reminded me of why I coached football for twenty-nine years despite the frustration. It was the people and the personalities surrounding high school athletics.

My last game coaching football was Mike’s last game as head coach at Riverside. No man could have put more into a program than he did but it wasn’t in the cards. My first five years as his assistant netted two winning seasons and a couple break evens but then the wheels fell off the jalopy. To quote Linda Gail and thousands of others, “You can’t make silk purses out of sow’s ears.” We had great kids who tried and worked hard but were “athletically challenged” proving that you could do most everything right and still not be successful. Weekly we found our X’s to be much smaller and slower than our opponent’s O’s. Tasting just a bit of success is what made my last game much sweeter.

I don’t know how many games we won my last year…it wasn’t many. It doesn’t matter because we won the last one. A playoff bound Mann team came to the River and our kids rose up and smacked them in the nose. Hawk devised what I have always called a “bastard” defense, throwing caution to the wind and our kids executed it. As the seconds ticked down a senior defensive end who, in a normal defense, would not have been dropping into pass coverage, did. Geoff Rigsby intercepted the confused Mann quarterback to ice the victory…my last victory. I didn’t know it was my last game at the time. I was living vicariously through “Hawk” who was being carried from the field on the shoulders of his players while what few fans were in attendance were bring down the goal posts…well bending the goal posts.

A friend who used to coach with Hawk and I, Rick Scott, once said, “Winning is better than sex.” I bit, “How is that?” “Sex only last a few minutes. A win lasts all week long.” Well! I would guess he is correct. I’ve enjoyed my last win for fifteen years.

For more humor by Don Miller click on the following link: http://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

THIRTEEN TURKEYS REVISITE’

Early this past spring I made a blog post lamenting a depression hanging on as tenaciously as the cold of winter. My depression evaporated when I happened upon twelve turkey hens and a tom grazing in a patch of winter rye or possibly chickweed. It caused a revival in my spirits. This morning, as I set off for a run, the cold and wet spring, along with my depression, were far from my mind. I don’t have time to be depressed as the tropical rainforest portion of our summer is upon us. Many of us have been enduring a severe drought and while it has been drier than usual in our little bit of heaven, any drought conditions apparently came to an end with the tropical like thunderstorms appearing in the late evenings for the last five days. Mimicking their first cousins found around the equator they have been torrential and loud on our metal roof. Just ask our weather puppy, Tilly.

My “over producing” garden, Linda Gail’s backyard which resembles a…jungle of ferns, milkweed and morning glories, a tractor that runs only when the spirit moves it, along with optimum kudzu growing conditions will keep me busy for the foreseeable future…so I haven’t been thinking about MY turkeys at all. I know they are not mine but I tend to think of them as if they were. I am willing to share them with the world…unless you are a hunter.

I had not seen MY turkeys for a while. I wasn’t concerned…it is THAT time of the year. I don’t see a lot of MY birds of any variety this time of year. A few come to my feeders but most have abandoned me to the squirrels who never seem to leave. MY birds are busy raising their young. Feeding and teaching, the same activities we humans must see to although the feeding of our off springs shouldn’t involve worms and insects. These child “rearing” activities were evident when a mother hawk used a small open space behind our house to teach her offspring the nuances of hunting field mice…a practice I quite approve of. It was also evident this morning when I ran up upon MY twelve turkey hens and their off springs. There must have been thirty of them. The wide drive was black with them…or brown with them. In the blink of an eye the poults and their mothers had scattered leaving me to wonder momentarily if I had actually seen them or was I having a hallucination caused from my oxygen starved brain. I did not see the tom but I am sure he was around resting, having enjoyed the “fruits of his labor.”

My already high spirits soared even higher just seeing them. I couldn’t wait to tell Linda Gail…but being two miles from home I would have to. Thirty minutes later I was rewarded with the smile I knew my story would evoke…and I didn’t even have to embellish it.

Like Don’s non-fiction? Try the following link for more http://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

REPUGNANT

I do find this meme repugnant. This might be the first time I have used the word repugnant…EVER. It is not a word I usually think of but after seeing several of these and similar memes I decided to become repugnant to those who post them. I am going to be short and only address two points of repugnancy.

Point one, the idea that all protesters should go out and find a job is…well…repugnant. I personally have five friends, that I know of, who participated in one or more of the #BlackLivesMatter protests. All are law abiding, don’t want to see our policemen shot down in sniper attacks but yet believe there is a problem with our country as it exists now and also don’t want to see people of color beaten or shot. Actually, despite SOME people’s beliefs, they don’t want to see anyone beaten or shot. All five have jobs. All five have what are called “advanced degrees.” One has Doctor in front of her name. All five have families and just want their children to grow up safe and your children to grow up safe as well. I know this goes against the vision some of you wish to believe but most #BlackLivesMatter protesters just want a better and safer America for everyone.

Second point. The United States has a long tradition of protest. It actually dates back to before the United States was the United States. Anyone remember the Boston Massacre? It began as a protest by a group of people who believed an unjust government and its “minions” was marginalizing them. Granted the protest probably began with one or five too many drinks at a local tavern but it escalated to the hurling of insults and snowballs (maybe rocks too) at British Redcoats guarding the Customs House on Kings Street in Boston. It ended with five dead colonists and was heavily used as propaganda by the likes of Paul Revere and Samuel Adams. In a “no matter how much things change, they remain the same” moment, six of the soldiers were acquitted of their “crimes” and two others were given light sentences. Five dead colonist along with six wounded didn’t seem to amount to much.

Most of that I learned in school. What I didn’t learn, until I studied it on my own, Crispus Attuks, the first casualty of the so-called massacre and maybe the first casualty of the American Revolution, was the son of an African slave father and a Native American mother. I wonder what he would think about his sacrifice now? I think he would find this meme repugnant too.

More of Don Miller’s non-fiction is available at http://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

SILENCE

I blogged this in December. It pretty much sums up my feelings for the last two days. Sorrow doesn’t quite cover it.

cigarman501

I worry. Worry for family, country and friends. Friends of all races, creeds and colors. I pray. There is no answer, nothing but silence.

I wonder. Wonder at how the world has come to this. I pray. There is no answer, nothing but silence.

I rage. Rage at Christians, Muslims, Atheist, Liberals, and Republicans. I pray. Again, there is no succor, only silence.

I hate. Mostly I hate myself for hating. I pray for the hatred to be taken away. It does not relent. The silence swells in my mind.

I ask for enlightenment. Understanding, Wisdom, Awareness and Insight. Why do we do nothing but debate? I pray. There is nothing but deep, dark silence.

My grandmother instructed me to “lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help.” I pray but the silence has become a deafening roar in my ears.

I must keep looking unto…

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INDEPENDENCE DAY AND BARBEQUE

My introduction to BBQ came in the early Fifties during Independence Day celebrations held at my school. As a family, we would load up the car and go to the school for an afternoon of celebrating our independence from Great Britain; fun, games and, most importantly, BBQ. I cannot remember if there were decorations, I am sure there were, but I remember going to the field behind the school and seeing the pole that had been set up for the greased pole climb and a small cage with a greased pig. Hum, greased pig, greased pole and BBQ sounds like we have a trend going. No, that statement is not true – there was nothing greasy about our BBQ. I have no idea who had cooked the pigs but I do know my Uncle James had donated them and had overseen the night-long festivities and I was too young to know what that might have entailed. All I know is that you could smell those hogs cooking and see the smoke rising out of the soil that covered the pit. The smell was almost too, too, too… I am at a loss for words but I think it was as close to heaven as I want to get without actually dying.

Besides eating the BBQ there were patriotic stories to be told, games to be played and winners to be awarded. There might have been a softball game before the older boys attempted to climb the greased pole. And then there was the contest to catch a greased pig – a contest in which I once excelled and won. Actually that year it wasn’t much of a chase. As I started toward him to make my grab, the little porker ran right at me and lay down. What a bummer, I didn’t even get my cloths dirty. It was kind of like a “tag you’re it” scenario. We also ran sack races and three-legged races. For the less mobile athletes, pie-eating or watermelon-seed-spitting contests were enjoyed and I’m sure someone also broke out horseshoes. After all of that excitement it was finally time to eat.

We sat down to succulent pulled-pork BBQ served with Dutch Fork mustard sauce, hash (not to be confused with Brunswick Stew) served over long grain WHITE rice (not the healthy brown stuff), cole slaw, white bread and, what I guess, was a pickled “bread and butter style” cauliflower medley on the side. Yes sir! It was truly heaven-on-a-plate and an argument for why immigration is a good thing. Also, it was a time that you could thank God for having a belt buckle that would allow you to ease the pressure on a BBQ-stuffed stomach. Thinking it couldn’t get any better, I finally reached the age where I was old enough to participate in the festivities associated with the production of hardwood coal – drinking and storytelling.

During my college days, a group of us “summer schoolers“ decided that a pulled-pork BBQ party might be in order for those of us not going home for the Independence Day break. Several of us who actually had experience in this Southern tradition were tabbed to prepare the feast. (This should not be confused with a pig party.) One of my jobs that night was to stir a big iron kettle full of hash. For the uninformed, and you may want to remain that way, hash is all of the “lesser” or unrecognizable parts of the pig, coarsely shredded and cooked with potatoes, onions, spices and cider vinegar until it all falls apart into an unrecognizable hash. I’ll never forget as I stirred the hash that night with a boat oar I saw something white roll to the top. What the…? As I kept stirring, it turned over and I saw …an eyeball staring back at me! Gulp. As I said earlier, stay misinformed.

After such a hard night of stirring, drinking and lying, I mean storytelling, it did not take long after dawn for someone to point out the need for breakfast. Several of my fraternity brothers went to Winn Dixie and came back with enough chicken halves to feed us all. Winn Dixie actually donated them. Those roasted chickens may have been the best breakfast that I have ever eaten. All the great chefs say that good food is first about taste and then about presentation. I think they should have added that it is all about the company you are sharing it with. Good friends will make bad food better.

Hours later the BBQ was finished and it was time for the moment of truth. I got my plate with the hash and rice, and for the first time ever concerning BBQ I hesitated a bit before my first bite. Remembering that white thing floating in the hash, I had a little moment of contemplation along with a big hunger for that BBQ. It was then that I made the decision that if I had liked hash before I knew there might be an eyeball in it then I could probably still like it after… and I did! Eyeball and all!

Independence Day is about much more than BBQ, bottle rockets and patriotic music despite being a great way to celebrate it…as long as you remember sacrifices Americans have made to maintain it. From George Washington and his troops at Valley Forge, to the 54th Massachusetts attack on Battery Wagner, Marines at Iwo Jima, the Chosin Reservoir or Que Son, along with Freedom Riders and Civil Rights Marchers. All of these and many more have made sacrifices, some ultimate, to insure their and our independence. We don’t need to forget that fact and allow it to get lost in mounds of BBQ. Especially, this year. I do not believe we can continue our divisiveness and maintain our independence. We are STILL the greatest country in the world despite the many issues facing us that must be worked out. Maybe if our leaders sat down with a mound of BBQ. It is hard to yell at each other with a mouthful of pig.

A portion of this came from Don Miller’s book PATHWAYS, stories from his
youth, which can be purchased at http://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

LOVE CONQUERS ALL ‘COMERS’

I don’t think Virgil, the originator of the quote “love conquers all,” had baseball in mind when he made it. He was dead several centuries before Abner Doubleday was “credited” with inventing the game but ‘love’ appeared to be the big equalizer in Coastal Carolina’s unexpected and unprecedented run to the College National Championship in Omaha.

Coach Gary Gilmore had his own quote which he just managed to choke out as tears rolled down his face. “We may not the most talented team in America but we are the champions.” Talent is a funny thing. Too much talent may not be enough to get you to the pinnacle of a championship if there are too many egos to deal with. Too little talent may not even get you into the same zip code. There has to be enough talent but talent will only take you so far. There has to be more and the Chanticleers displayed not only talent but all of the clichés we coaches have a tendency to use. Tenacity, heart, and hustle were but a few that I thought of but one that is often over looked, especially when it comes to men’s athletic endeavors, is the love that was apparent when these young men and their coaches took the field. It is a love only “championship” athletes and coaches can understand.

I had no expectations when Coastal took the field against the “Juggernaut” that was Florida. I remember telling my wife how small they looked compared to the Gators. By the time they recorded their last out against Arizona I found they had grown just a bit, at least in my estimation. Being able to continually find a way to “snatch victory from the jaws of defeat” takes much more than talent. I am reminded of a Lew Holtz story he told early in my coaching career when he coached at NC State. When questioning an undersized defensive end about his ability to “whip” a certain all-American offensive tackle, the young man exclaimed, “No Sir…but I’ll fight him till I die.” This was a mentality shown repeatedly by the Coastal team. Thankfully, no one was able to make the kill shot.

I only met Coach Gilmore twice during my career and I doubt he would even remember who I was. I remember him well from a clinic I attended and later when I got to coach the South Carolina team in the North Carolina-South Carolina Challenge held at the Chanticleer’s stadium. I remember he displayed two major attributes. Passion and Humility. I get to add another, love for his players. From listening to his players in their postgame news conference, his love was returned tenfold.

When I think of my most successful teams I can’t help but draw parallels. They were all talented enough to overcome bad coaching, mistakes, and poor officiating. All of them had a love for the game and a love for each other. They wanted to do whatever needed to done to win…not for themselves but for their teammates. Many times it is not the “nine best” that wins the championship. In Coastal Carolina’s case it was the “best nine,” or best twenty-five that came home with the gold. Congratulations Chanticleers. For this season at least, fairytale rooster or not, you are the “cocks of the walk.”

More humorous nonfiction by Don Miller is available at http://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM