Old Sports Dude: An American love story: Maternity clothes, white shoes, and horses | starherald.net • The Star-Herald • Kosciusko, Mississippi
In the fall of my senior year in high school, I was 17, thought I was in love, and was absolutely as dumb as dirt. Hopefully that will help explain a lot of what you are about to read.
Most people in Winston County have long forgotten the Christmas Parade of 1975, I however, am not one of those.
Months earlier, my best friend had introduced me to a young lady that he thought was the cutest gal he had ever seen. Pretty soon he had convinced me of that fact, so I began wooing her myself. Trust me, that’s not very healthy for a friendship.
There became quite a battle for her attention that it was obvious I was losing, which led to me taking desperate measures. While I have never been what you would call handsome, am absolutely not cool, and don’t have an athletic bone in my body — I would absolutely do “just about anything” to get some attention. That deadly trait certainly raised its head sometime in October of that year.
I noticed that organizations and business were beginning to sign up to enter “floats” in the upcoming Christmas parade. I’m not exactly sure what kind of concussion protocol I was in when I made the decision that the best way to my young lady’s heart was to enter the parade myself and show her what lengths I would go to in order to get her attention.
It just so happened that my mother owned a fabric store in town, so I convinced her to be one of my co-sponsors. That would have been harmless enough, until I convinced the store owner next to her to sponsor me as well. The problem was that it was a maternity shop.
So, my big plan was that I would enter the parade dressed as an expectant mother, thus representing both the fabric store and the maternity shop.
At this point, it would have been really nice if someone would have talked me out of this, but alas that did not occur.
It soon became very obvious that while the directors of the parade could not disallow my entry into the event, they could show their disfavor.
When the fateful day came, and we began lining up on East Main Street to begin our march through downtown, I arrived to find my assigned spot in the parade.
Would I be placed right in front of Santa Claus? How about right behind the float from Taylor Machine Works or Georgia Pacific, two of the biggest companies in town? Maybe I would lead the marching band up the hill, past the monument and into the midst of the hundreds that annually gathered to watch the parade.
Before I reveal where I was placed in the parade, there a couple things that beg to be pointed out. One, while I was clothed in a maternity dress with baby (pillow, of course) firmly tucked into its proper place, there was no way I was getting my then size 13 feet into any women’s shoes. So, my only choice was my Sunday best white dress shoes.
Secondly, while many of the individuals entered into the parade were riding in the backs of convertibles, or at least a pick-up truck, I was walking.
So, it was decided by the higher-ups — purely by accident I am sure — that I would walk behind …. The horses. Let me highlight a few things that were just revealed to you: I was walking wearing white shoes: dressed as a pregnant lady; BEHIND the horses.
This was the point where a more rational person would have said forget about the $10 entry fee, I’m out of here. Not me. I had a heart to win and a bunch of horses with poor bowel habits were not going to be a deterrent.
As the parade began, even I began to wonder If I had made a dreadful mistake. We moved toward the post office, past the judges’ platform and topped the hill onto Main Street just at the monument that still to this day stands smack down in the middle of the intersection of Main and Columbus Avenue.
You could hear the sound of the band, the Christmas music playing, the laughter of the children, and the expectant (pun intended) buzz of the crowd … until I stepped into view.
All of a sudden there was silence. Maybe it really wasn’t silent, but it seemed like it to me. Every freckle on my face began to fade as I began to realize this maybe hadn’t been too good of an idea after all.
I realized I had to do something. Many apparently thought I was actually a pregnant teen-ager, which really wasn’t a great idea for a Christmas float, especially in 1975. So my instinct kicked in. I put my hands under my “baby” and began to shift it around, drawing roars of laugh from those lined along the street as we passed by.
I began to think, “this may actually work.” As I slowly moved my way down Main Street, my eyes began to scan the crowd for that “special girl” who I knew would be standing right in front of the Ben Franklin Store. The people were lined up 10 deep at spots, but I just had to make sure she saw me.
As we drew closer, I began to meander toward that side of the street and finally I saw her face. There she stood, with a shocked look on her face, holding hands with my best friend.
I had that baby right in the middle of Main Street.
Austin Bishop, AKA The Old Sports Dude, has been covering high school, college, amateur and professional sports since 1975. He is currently pastor of Great Commission Assembly of God in Philadelphia, Miss. He may be contacted by email at email@example.com.
This content was originally published here.