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Beware of the Sharpie

July 27, 2012

Here is an excerpt from Chapter 6 of Barnyard Management. There are few life & business lessons here, but everyone seems to have a different takeaway.

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In addition to farming and logging, my hometown was a football town. Friday nights at Kelly Field were a cultural touchstone for the entire community. Farm life and football often blended into one. Our high school athletic director was part of the regular hay crew in the summer and most of our backfield moved irrigation pipe every morning for Grandpa Hank. Skipping work to attend summer two-a-days was not only allowable, it was mandatory.

In the summer prior to my freshman year in high school, my school hired a new head football coach who had a revered coaching pedigree. He came from the recently defunct WFL and was touted as Mr. Football. He was an intimidating figure and an archetypical football coach. He sported the fashionable tight cotton shorts of the era, complete with matching tube socks and windbreaker.

Although I wasn’t much of a football player, slow and still not that strong, I made sure to attend all the summer conditioning practices he organized. Later that summer, he took the team to Autzen Stadium at the University of Oregon to check out the weight room and rub shoulders with actual college football players. He was attempting to motivate us for future high school success.

In August, I gutted it though two-a-day practices in the sweltering heat and earned a spot on the squad. But on the first day of regular practice, during a simple tackling drill, I fell backwards and suffered a compound fracture in my right arm. It was grizzly. I immediately went into shock when I saw bones bulging through the flesh of my forearm.

An ambulance hauled me to the emergency room where the doctor on call capably set the break, gave me some pain killers, and proceeded to wrap my entire arm in an old-school cast extending from fingertips to armpit. My high school football career was off to a stellar beginning. On the way home from the hospital, my mother suggested that it might be nice to stop by the locker room and let the coaches know how I was doing. At the time, hopped up on opiates, it seemed like a good idea.

As I wobbled into the locker room and was immediately greeted by my teammates, the new head coach slowly swaggered out of his office. He looked at me, shook his head with some dismay and said nothing. The guys went silent. He approached, pulled a Sharpie from his pocket and said he would like to be the first one to sign my cast. Feeling quite honored, I extended my plastered limb to Coach. He scrawled something across my arm, laughed, and walked away.

In big black letters, about one inch tall, the word PU**Y now adorned my cast.

My teammates howled as I crept out of the locker room, not sure what to say or do. For the next 12 weeks, I wore the cast and tolerated the label which Coach had given me. Any attempt at hiding the word among other signatures failed. I tried to laugh it off …

 

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