Sunday, September 28, 2014

Goodbye summer and hello third favorite season

From today's TIMES and NEWS-STAR

The saddest cartoon I saw this weekend was Charlie Brown standing on the pitcher’s mound, his gloved hand dropped down by his thigh, a frown on his round face. The caption: “GOODBYE SUMMER!” And Chuck saying, “It’s Over!”

These are trying times.

Summer is the best, followed by spring, then autumn, then winter. (My least favorite season: the NBA.)

Tuesday marked the autumnal equinox in the Northern Hemisphere, the day when the sun is directly above the equator and the hours of day and night are about the same. Even though autumn means winter is coming – not good – it is hard not to enjoy the first cool late-September days and all that rides in on this time of year, like football and leaves. And football again.

So today we briefly wrap up the first week of autumn, and the summer that was so good to Charlie Brown.

This week a couple of my favorite rockers, Joan Jett (56) and Bruce Springsteen (65) had birthdays. Neither of those numbers – 56 or 65 – are misprints. Time is a funny thing. Hope they rock on.

Ray Charles, author of the first album I remember hearing as a boy, was born on the day of this year’s equinox in 1930 and passed away in June of 2004. You might remember that Ray had a woman way ’cross town that was good to him. He also could not stop loving you. What’s not to love? A child of autumn, Ray was the man.

Also this week in 1806, Lewis and Clark returned to St. Louis after two years of exploring the north part of the Louisiana Purchase and going all the way to the Pacific, where they discovered the Seattle Mariners, and later, Starbucks.

This is a fumble on my part but better late than never: I forgot to mention last week that Hiram King “Hank” Williams was born the final week of summer in 1923. He died on Jan. 1, 1953, at age 29 in Oak Hill, West Virginia. I still hold anyone who was living in West Virginia at the time personally responsible. I hope our autumn and winter is better than Hank Sr.’s final one.

This was the summer of relatively mild temperatures, of trying and mostly failing to learn how to sort of play golf again, and of watering the backyard potted plants, which took about 45 minutes each evening. If you are too ambitious in your container planting, you will have to spend much quality time with your garden hose. You can also forget vacation.

I have kept a garden journal. When people make fun of me for planting things I tell them that this is what a guy does when he cannot coach Little League anymore or afford to strike the dimpled orb (golf ball) all the time.

Maybe you can learn from my stabs at bringing Southern Living to life in north Louisiana. I’ve discovered the begonias did better than I’d planned, though they were bought as an afterthought. If you have never tried big butterfly begonias, get all over those next spring. Planted them in a huge thigh-high container by the front door with a Little Gem Magnolia in the back, along with caladiums, asparagus fern and sweet potato vine. Then around them I put three other smaller containers with caladiums in one, sweet potato vine in one, begonias and fern in the other. It was the hit of the ’hood.

Gardening is a lonely row to hoe but the payoff is good. The butterflies and hummingbirds like it. Makes you feel like you’re making a contribution. My neighbors are just happy we finally have grass in the front yard.

Probably will cut back on the salvia next spring and the butterfly bushes and the blanket flowers and lavender and just plant a bunch of red lantana, which is basically a landing pad for hummingbirds. They will leave soon and so will this year’s blooms. But God figures these things out: they’ll both return in the spring. After a cozy fall and winter, I hope we do too.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

After a while, good reasons to smile

From today's Times and News-Star

In the mid-’90s when our children were small and we were young and could play golf for 24 hours straight without killing ourselves or each other, about 10 of us did just that, using glow-in-the-dark balls and persistence to make money, through pledges, for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes each autumn.

This particular year it was around 2 a.m. when Jack Witte, a Shreveport dentist, natural athlete and devout FCA supporter, disappeared. We’d made fun of the light he’d rigged for the rear of his golf cart; “Doc” Witte was never unprepared and was always longsuffering around the lesser-thans, by which I mean the rest of us.

But after 14 hours of golf and after midnight, it wasn’t so funny when we asked him if he was growing begonias in the back of his golf cart. Or if he had a hot plate back there. Or if he’d hooked the light on the wrong end.

So he just disappeared to another part of the course, then showed back up around breakfast. He could have a short fuse. Of course, he’d taken two days off at his own expense to play, he’d played more holes and raised more money than the rest of us – almost always did – and he knew that, sometimes, you just have to get away from the people who hold you back. As we did.

He was gone for only a few hours that night. Now, he’s been gone for more than 13 years. Our former Little League coaching friend and golf buddy died of cancer in the spring of 2001, only four months after the diagnosis.

I got to visit with his wife, Joyce, last week and will again next Thursday at East Ridge Country Club when we play in the annual Jack Witte Memorial FCA Golf Day Oct. 2. The format’s more age-appropriate for us now but we still write checks and hope others will to help carry the load of FCA, which Doc Witte contributed thousands of dollars and weeks of time to during his 44 years. If you wish to help, please send a check with “Jack Witte Golf Day” in the memo line made out to FCA, 3018 Old Minden Road, Suite 1121, Bossier City, LA 71112. In Doc’s honor, several area dentists contribute each year, for which Joyce and FCA are grateful.

Despite that severe trail 13 years ago, Joyce continues to grow in gratitude, her life since that time a testament, she says, that “God uses the tragedies in our lives to lighten to load for others in the same position.”

Now remarried, Joyce is grandmom to four, including little Jack, who has a twin sister. She has two daughers-in-law and a son-in-law. And one of her sons, Scott, this month celebrated the one-year anniversary of his Shreveport dental practice. How that happened, Joyce said, is part of “God’s gracious plan which brought us all to the place we are today.”

Just a few years ago, Scott walked across the stage as a dental school graduate. Students with dentist relatives were awarded their hood and degree by the relative. In comparison, Scott’s solo walk seemed to signify that Doc’s legacy was now erased from public view.

But not really. The sudden passing of a dentist in East Texas gave Scott the opportunity to become the fill-in dentist for all the patients who missed and were shocked by the loss of the dentist they loved. Through personal experience, Scott was able to help soothe the feelings of many of the late dentist’s friends and patients.

Then when longtime Shreveport dentist James Cosse suffered a debilitating stroke and passed away last fall, Scott was able to buy the business; Dr. Cosse’s brother had put braces on a much younger Scott years before. As he’d done in East Texas, Scott was in a position of one who could empathize; he knew exactly what it was like to lose your dentist, but also your dad. In part because of Doc Witte’s friendships, Doc’s son became the perfect person in the perfect position at the perfect time.

Some people would call that coincidence. But I don’t think Doc Witte would.  

Thursday, September 18, 2014

WILEY HILBURN, Jr. writes about the State Fair Game: 1968 in review (Box Score included)

(Thanks to Patrick Walsh, Associate Director for Media Relations at Louisiana Tech, for making this column and art of Terry Bradshaw available.)

An Historic Rivalry Revisted - The Fair: A Game, A Turning-Point

By: Wiley W. Hilburn, Jr.
Reprinted from The Shreveport Times (publication date unknown)

This article is reprinted from The Shreveport Times from an unknown date in 1982 recalling one of the more dramatic games in the historic State Fair rivalry game between Louisiana Tech and Northwestern State. This game recalls Louisiana Tech’s 42-39 over the Demons in 1968 as Terry Bradshaw connected with Ken Liberto for an 82-yard touchdown pass with under 20 seconds left in the game.

Louisiana Tech and Northwestern State meet for the first time since 1994 this Saturday at Joe Aillet Stadium in Ruston.

SHREVEPORT, La. – People were already calling it the most exciting game in State Fair history, but with only 18 seconds left to play the issue seemed finally decided, the sentence pronounced, and all appeals exhausted.

Louisiana Tech was confined to its own 18-yard-line, behind which the red-and-blue goalposts loomed, a gallows. Northwestern State had the game won, 39-35. Indeed, a lot of Bulldog fans had deserted, preferring not to witness the final execution scene. NSU supporters, meanwhile, were on their feet, anticipating the hanging.

That was, of course, the State Fair game of 1968 and with the renewal of the Bulldog-Demon series coming up next Saturday, Tech’s dramatic reprieve 14 autumns ago will be remembered once again. It will be remembered not only because of what happened during those final 18 seconds, but also because the outcome marked that rare phenomenon in par, politics and athletics: a true turning point.

But let’s go back beyond the last 18 seconds of the ’68 fair game, seconds that just everybody who was there recalls with varying degrees of accuracy. Until then, in case anybody has forgotten, it was pretty much NSU’s game. Don Guidry, Northwestern’s courageous senior quarterback, had thrown two touchdown passes in the first half. NSU, intense and determined, led rather comfortably, 19-7.

Tech junior quarterback Terry Bradshaw, earning the sportswriter adjective “brilliant” for the first time the week before but in a losing cause, was only two for 12 passing at the half. And NSU’s fierce John Boogaerts, a Fair Park alumnus, had smeared Woodlawn’s Terry for a safety. It was a humiliating thing, and people began wondering again if Bradshaw would ever live up to his potential.

Of course, Northwestern’s halftime advantage was no big surprise. The Demons, under Glenn Gossett, came into the Fair game at 4-1 and the only loss was a one-pointer to Abilene Christian. Tech stood an ordinary 2-2, but opening wins over Mississippi State and East Carolina before consecutive losses had alerted some fans to the Bulldogs’ possibilities.

Both Gossett and Tech’s Maxie Lambright were second-year coaches. Their pre-game observations deliberately revealed nothing but caution. Times writer Bill McIntyre made NSU a one-point favorite, but some observers thought Tech – emerging with the Bradshaw-to-Tommy Spinks axis – ought to be favored by a touchdown.

Northwestern, however, had own the last two State Fair games and early in the second half it appeared that Guidry, who would run for 86 yards when he wasn’t passing, had the Demons in line with destiny. NSU had never swept three straight from Tech, but the purple and white were up, 26-15, at one time in the third quarter.

However, Bradshaw came back hot for the second half. He would fire six passes straight to Spinks that night. The game turned close and exciting; the cheers swept back and forth across the field, depending on who was moving towards the goal.

Still, when that same Boogaerts intercepted a Bradshaw pass with less than three minutes to play the case seemed close. Guidry’s 25-yard touchdown pass to his favorite receiver of the night, Al Phillips, had given NSU a four-point lead.

That’s the way it stood, anyway, with those 18 tiny ticks remaining. A hoarded of disappointed Tech fans were honking their way, mad, through the racetrack, headed for home in defeat. But Bradshaw still stood on that trapdoor of a field with NSU’s hangman’s noose around his neck.

Eighteen seconds. Time for a play or two. Could Terry shoot his way off the scaffold? Measured in 18 seconds, the 82 yards between Tech and the NSU goal was the distance between Ruston and Natchitoches. Even the State Fair queens on the sidelines knew all Bradshaw could do was shoot long. Miracle stuff. More Tech fans left.

Terry took his shot. He retreated with the ball, back to the Tech 10-yard line, almost under the gallows, looking all this time. The player Bradshaw saw, even as the trapdoor creaked, was flanker Ken Liberto. Football has its own pretentious jargon, but all Liberto had done was simply run down the sideline as far and fast as he could; a playground route.

Bradshaw, composed, the champion javelin thrower, speared the flanker with the ball at mid-field in front of the Tech bench. Then Liberto, a tall, dark-haired Shreveporter who at 190 pounds could move like a jackrabbit, simply outran the anguished Northwestern players to a touchdown.

It all seemed to happen in slow motion. One last Demon defender dove desperately at Liberto and nicked his heel at the NSU five. No good. And arriving in the end-zone almost simultaneously with Ken Liberto was, characteristically, a jubilant Terry Bradshaw. It was 42-39, Tech, after the extra point Tech and Terry had cheated the hangman.

That was the end, but for those Tech fans who remained there was the sense that something had happened; that more than a game had been won. President Jay Taylor vaulted his box-seat railing and led an impromptu Tech ban concert.

It was a turning point – for Tech football, Maxie Lambright and Bradshaw. The Bulldogs won the rest of their games in ’68 and were launched on a football dynasty that would last a decade. Bradshaw, who had only won Maxie’s confidence the spring before, had gone into orbit over State Fair Stadium.

This coming Saturday’s game renews the rivalry which produced the 1968 crossroads. And who knows: history may be haunting State Fair Stadium this October, too, See you there.

For complete coverage of Bulldog Football, please follow @LATechFB on Twitter or visit the official home of Louisiana Tech Athletics at

Box Score (Final)
Northwestern State vs Louisiana Tech (Oct 19, 1968 at Shreveport, LA)

Score by Quarters                     1              2              3              4               Score             
Northwestern State                   9              10           14           6               39                   Record: (3-2,1-1)
Louisiana Tech                           7              0              21           14             42                   Record: (4-2,2-2)

TECH Buster Herren 2yd run (Richie Golmon kick)
TECH Larry Brewer 7yd pass from Terry Bradshaw (Richie Golmon kick)
TECH Terry Bradshaw 1yd run (Richie Golmon kick)
TECH Terry Bradshaw run (Richie Golmon kick)
TECH Terry Bradshaw run (Richie Golmon kick)
TECH Ken Liberto 82yd pass from Terry Bradshaw (Richie Golmon kick)
NSU  TEAM Safety
NSU  Vic Nyvall 78yd kickoff return
NSU  Rusty James 21yd field goal
NSU  Al Phillips 13yd pass from Don Guidry
NSU  Al Phillips 29yd pass from Don Guidry
NSU  Tommy Wallis 2yd run
NSU  Rusty James 4-for-5 on PAT attempts

                                                                       NSU                     LATECH
FIRST DOWNS                                              17                        24
RUSHES-YARDS (NET)                                  45-177                52-265
PASSING YDS (NET)                                      196                      258
Passes Att-Comp-Int                                   28-9-1                 29-13-2
TOTAL OFFENSE PLAYS-YARDS                  73-373                81-523
Fumble Returns-Yards                                0-0                       0-0
Punt Returns-Yards                                     4-64                    2-12
Kickoff Returns-Yards                                 6-161                  7-119
Interception Returns-Yards                       2-36                    1-9
Punts (Number-Avg)                                   8-40.1                 8-39.9
Fumbles-Lost                                               1-1                       0-0
Penalties-Yards                                            6-49                    9-65
Possession Time                                          00:00                  00:00
Third-Down Conversions                           0 of 0                  0 of 0
Fourth-Down Conversions                        0 of 0                  0 of 0
Red-Zone Scores-Chances                        0-0                       0-0
Sacks By: Number-Yards                            0-0                       0-0

RUSHING: Northwestern State-Guidry,Don 12-82; Ware,Richard 12-46; Papa,Tony 8-31; Wallis,Tommy 8-18; Nyvall,Vic 4-15; Howard,Melvin 1-minus 15. Louisiana Tech-Sanchez,Bubba 8-97; Herren,Buster 11-75; Golmon,Richard 13-72; Lord,Mike 7-39; Bradshaw,Terry 13-minus 18.

PASSING: Northwestern State-Guidry,Don 9-28-1-196. Louisiana Tech-Bradshaw,Terry 13-29-2-258.

RECEIVING: Northwestern State-Phillips,Al 7-159; Nyvall,Vic 1-26; Haney,Wayne 1-11. Louisiana Tech-Spinks,Tommy 5-74; Liberto,Ken 4-131; Sanchez,Bubba 3-46; Brewer,Larry 1-7.

INTERCEPTIONS: Northwestern State-Boogaerts,John 1-29; Hrapmann,Ken 1-7. Louisiana Tech-Callais,Andy 1-9.

Stadium: State Fair Stadium    Attendance: 28,000