Thursday, March 28, 2013
Basketball has long been a part of my life.
I spent a lot of time last weekend with my eyes focused on March Madness.
But the love for the sport really moved to the front of my mind last week – when leaving my home county, Marion County, Ala., after attending a funeral.
Rubye Del Harden, John Lindsey and I went to the Shottsville community for the services of Ruble Mills – a military man, a family man, a true gentleman, a hard worker, a church goer, and the list of good qualities could go on and on. He was “a rock” to his family and friends.
Following the celebration of his wonderful life, which included a touching military burial, we wanted to make sure we didn’t get lost leaving the country church like we did on the way there.
It’s “in the sticks” on the west end of the county. I grew up “in the sticks” on the east end.
It’s good knowing people in the right places who can help. On the way there, we took a wrong turn and ended up at the wrong church. I called my sister, who works for the Alabama state troopers, and she got us on the right path, even staying on the phone with me until we arrived at the Shottsville Methodist Church.
When leaving, we asked some folks for directions back to Highway 78. They seemed as lost as we were.
Then we asked one of Ruble’s daughters, Dawn.
She told me, “Barry, you know where Gravel Springs School is.”
And, “You know where Ms. Roberta Goggans lived.”
I’d been to those places but – about 40 years ago.
“I don’t do numbers,” said Dawn, when asked about the road numbers.
But her directions, based on a house that used to be a store and other rural landmarks, worked. We found the quickest route back to 78.
And the best thing of all, we drove right by the old Gravel Springs School.
“That was the gym,” I told Rubye Del and John as I pointed to the old campus, now part of a farm.
Wow – it was still standing, and I played there, like in seventh or eighth grade. The memories started flowing.
Once upon a time, we had rural schools like Buttahatchie, Sugar Bend and Gravel Springs – that went through the junior high years. I think Gravel Springs was the last one to close.
I went to Hamilton, but we played Gravel Springs in basketball. I will never forget that gym and others.
Rockwood in Franklin County, Ala., for instance, was really unique. It was so small – a former lunchroom I think. Backcourt for one goal was the free-throw line at the other goal. There was no room to throw the ball in-bounds, legally. You had to stand with your feet on the line and up against the wall.
Then there was the old high school gym in Brilliant, Ala. There was “hump” just inside the free-throw line. We always thought we could get a running go and have a better chance of dunking off that “hump.” It didn’t work for us – we were too short. It did make us feel taller.
Those gyms were great – considering I learned to shoot on a goal nailed to a large piece of wood that was nailed to a pine tree.
Remembering and honoring a good man last week meant a lot to me. And Ruble, a former athlete himself at Hamilton, would be glad I got to relive some glory days.
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