Trooper just completed his two weeks at Camp Longhorn outside of Burnet, Texas. Riding back from the bus station with his mother at the wheel of the family's 1955 Desota, she had a special surprise. No, she was not a fortune teller and did not inform her son that his cabin and canoe mate, George Bush, some day would be the President of the United States (more on that later in "About Trooper"). This section is about football - not politics. Anyway, back to the ride back, Trooper was to enroll at St. Michaels elementary in Houston, Texas as an eight year old fourth grader. Mamie (Troop's mother), announced she just got him on a football team. What came to mind was touch? But no! Full Body Contact Football!!. Baseball, yes at eight but nobody played school boy football at eight years old. The stage was set for a rough beginning. Because even today in the 21th century they still recognize St. Michaels, back in the day with coach Jerry Joe Martinez, football as hard hitting as football gets. When the Tigers weren't doing wrestler's bridges, it was lay down tackling. In fact, during half time of the St. Anne's championship game of 1957, because we were not hitting, instead of a talking to at half time we had, you guessed it, lay down tackling. I will never forget the first time mom dropped me off at practice. It was in the lobby where Jerry had already started a team meeting. “Yes Mrs. Keeton we'll take care of him, yes ma'am he will be fine". Mom smiled at her adoring son and no sooner had the door shut behind her that Jerry announced in a voice which could only be matched by a battalion commander, "AND WE DON'T MISS PRACTICE"!!! With the statue of Saint Michael the Ark Angel, sword drawn perched over his head that his command made a life long lasting impression. In fact, I never miss a practice in my life. Now late, that's another story. How that occasional habit was broken in high school, my sub senior year at Houston Lee. Coach Joe Clements had just been hired by head coach "Galloping" Gil Bartosh. Joe's first assignment was to station himself at the door to the practice field and administer a swat to any one late out the door. Now Joe played quarterback for the University of Texas so he could not only sling a football but swing a paddle. Don't let anyone tell you that kids don't learn from the great game of football. Getting back to the beginning, it is interesting to note that my first three years at St. Michaels were pre-face mask years. In fact, I can remember when Dale Sands got the first face mask on the 5th and 6th grade team. In spite of my consumption of lead based paint chips and only a dozen or so concussions to date, I was a fairly bright kid. After all, my dad Grover went to Texas and my mother, Mamie, to Rice. When I suggested that I get a face mask too, I thought my father was going to blow a fuse. He proclaimed that I quit football and take up knitting before I sport a face mask. Thank God he was over ruled in years to come. It was bad enough wearing the suspension Riddle Helmets. I wore that model until I was playing minor league football. That suspension helmet was finally removed from my hard head just before I was to start at center against the San Antonio Charros. With some two hundred and two concussions ringing between my ears, I accepted an offer of twenty dollars from a Houston Seagull team mate for the rather heavy but handy air helmet.
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