They were every bit up to their credits. The 6-foot-3, 180-pound Turek played with exceptional basketball sense, timing and touch. His rebounding was superb. Wally Ortman's back dribble evoked many a long ah, and little Joe Riggs—"inspired," his mother said afterward when the parents got together on the floor—scored 16 points on long one-hand shots. "Unh-unh, Unh-unh, those Bobcats can't be beat!" cheered the cheerleaders. Bryce Valley became Panguitch's 17th victim, 71-48, and the state tournament was just five games away.
"Now what do we do?" I asked Hot Rodney as the crowd filed out. It was barely 10 o'clock.
"Nothing to do," said Rodney despairingly. "Unless—" He brightened. "Unless you want to ride up and down Main Street a couple times."
The next day, training rules notwithstanding, there remained the question of whether little Joe Riggs or big Brent Turek was in the lead with the beautiful Melanie. Between classes, Mrs. McEwen discussed this, but first she brought out a bundle of papers, the classroom compositions of Joe Riggs. One was entitled "Marriage Before Education?" and in it Joe wrote: "To a teen-ager of a small country town who has any foresight into the problems of the near future, the bonds of matrimony is a dread."
"Look at the others," said Mrs. McEwen. There was a poem, "Panguitch," in which Joe vowed to stay in his home town "forever," and a thesis on the multiple horrors of opiate analgesics. They were well written. On one of them, Mrs. McEwen had scribbled, "You're such a swell guy."
"This is a smart, sensitive boy," she said. "But, most important, he realizes there's more to this world—and should be more to Panguitch—than basketball. Oh, they know how I feel," she went on, eyes flashing, "I'm still as much a fan as anybody. Go to all the games. But km also the oldest teacher here. My husband has done well in the motel business and we have been many places and seen many things. We're going to Hawaii next month and we're going to send Melanie to Paris to school if she wants to go. What I'm driving at is this: as a teacher, I want a great deal more for these kids, these very fine, wonderful kids, than just a score and a winning streak." Her voice had been rising. She stopped.
"Now," she continued quietly, "Melanie was named after that fine young woman in Gone With The Wind, the one with such high character. I'm pleased to say Melanie has lived up to the image. And as for her love life, that's pretty much her own business."
Brent Turek, the third corner of the triangle, lives in Hatch, a village of 198 people, 16 miles south of Panguitch. In "My Story," a composition for Mrs. McEwen, Brent depicted himself as being initially amazed by how fast the crowd was at Panguitch High and how dumb he must have seemed. The night after the Bryce Valley game Mrs. Turek, a large, friendly, pink-faced woman, served a dinner of venison, rice, pear salad with strips of cheese, great slices of homemade bread baked in a wood-burning stove and milk. "I'm really very sorry," she said, "but there's no coffee." She said they didn't get much company in Hatch, and coffee-drinking strangers are rare. "It was funny last fall," she said. "Two bandits were supposed to be on the loose and the man on the radio said to lock your doors. Nobody in Hatch owns a lock."
It was suggested to Brent that he obviously had a talent for basketball and would surely get a scholarship offer. But what of the fair Melanie?
"Oh, gee, she's Joe's girl now, I guess," said Brent modestly. "I'm no heart smasher. Besides, girls are plenty destructive. 'Come on, come on, you don't have to be in training all the time,' that's what they say. Not Melanie, mind you, but some of them.