"Son of a gun," a man said, obviously impressed.
"But," Tonto said, "next season was pretty bad, and I heard that these same alumni who wanted me to have a lifetime contract were now planning to go to court and have me declared legally dead."
Tonto took out a handkerchief and mopped his brow. "It is just a little warm today, isn't it? Warm, but dry. That's the great thing about the weather here in this part of Texas. It may be hot, but it's usually dry. Puts me in mind of the time I was trying to recruit a football prospect. I told him all about the advantages Abilene Christian had to offer and then, trying to be honest with the boy, I said, ' Abilene does get pretty hot, but I tell you, son, if it were just a little cooler and we had a lot of nice fellas like you it would be just perfect!' Know what the boy said? He said that if it were just a little cooler and there were a lot of nice people there, the same thing could be said about hell."
Tonto and his followers stopped in front of a one-story frame building with a sign reading ATHLETIC DEPARTMENT on it. Tonto pointed to the building, but before he could say anything a man spoke up and said, "Tonto, it seems to me you've never had any trouble getting jobs—the jobs always came after you."
"That building—" Tonto started to say, and then he stopped and said, "Well, I can tell you, sir, there was one job I really went after. This was before I was married. I had to get a job before I could get married. I heard about this opening for a coach at a high school in Chillicothe. Now, this was back during the Depression and jobs were very hard to get. People were taking jobs for room and board, no salary at all. Well, I heard of this opening and I hitchhiked to Chillicothe to apply in person. I made a real sales pitch to that high school principal, and I must say he couldn't have been more courteous. He told me to go on back home and wait until I heard from him. I came back and told Ann and then watched the mails. The days dragged into weeks, and there was no word. Finally I just couldn't stand it any longer. I believe it was a dollar phone call, but I got a dollar together and called this man in Chillicothe person to person. I said, "Sir, I'm just so anxious about that coaching job that I couldn't wait another minute. I'm just wondering if you good folks have come to any decision.' Well, sir, the principal couldn't have been nicer. He said, 'Mr. Coleman, we had 138 applicants for that job. You made a very fine impression and I'm glad to tell you that you came in second.' I said, 'What does that pay?' "
Tonto chuckled and said, "I finally landed a job in Sweetwater, and went from there to Baird and then to San Angelo before I came back to Abilene Christian as head track coach and assistant to Coach A. B. Morris in football. But, now, I started to say something about that frame building there which is the headquarters of the athletic department. That building was government surplus that we got hold of at Camp Hood after the war. It was the plan to make it an athletic dormitory. We trucked it up to the campus and we saw that there would be some rearranging to be done. We found we would have to dismantle one wing and set up in another spot. There was Oliver Jackson, the track coach—he was coach of Abilene's great Olympic champion sprinter, Bobby Morrow—and Guy Scruggs, an assistant coach, and myself. We didn't know anything about how to dismantle a building, so we started at the bottom and worked up to the top. The three of us were up there on the skeleton of the building when Oliver said, 'I think this thing is moving.' I said no, it's the clouds going by that give that impression. That seemed to reassure him, but a minute later the whole thing came tumbling down and the three of us with it. We crawled under that mesquite tree over there and people came running to help us. Had to call an ambulance. We were all banged up. I broke an ankle, I recall. Well, that building was finally put together by some real carpenters. When the new Coliseum is built, there'll be space for the athletic administration office and no further use for that old building. But when it comes time to dismantle it, the authorities had better not count on Oliver Jackson, Guy Scruggs and Tonto Coleman."
Tonto looked at his watch. "I'd better be going to my daughter's house and go over my notes for my talk tonight. It won't take but about 10 minutes, but they say the shorter a speech is the harder it is to write." He slipped off his coat. "It is a bit hotter than usual for this time of year," he said, adding loyally, "but very, very dry. This kind of heat doesn't bother me. I wouldn't mind getting out on the running track and running a mile or so right now. I usually run—I guess jog is the word—most every day. I took up running about five years ago, when I was 54 years old. I noticed I had trouble fastening my seat belt on an airplane and decided to take off weight. I even run when I'm traveling, even if it's just running—or jogging—in place in front of a television set. Usually jog when the news is on. I figure sometimes I do about three miles during Huntley-Brinkley." He waved to his friends and cut across the campus to the home of his daughter Kay.
That evening the people and the cool breezes came to the track stadium. The college orchestra played as the crowd began to fill up the stands. Promptly at 8 o'clock the parade of caps and gowns began to enter far down at the end of the stadium. It moved past the spectators at a slow and dignified pace, the graduates two abreast, led by Abilene President Don H. Morris and Commissioner A. M. (Tonto) Coleman.
Tonto's talk was just fine. Its principal point was that the 1966 class was the best ever to graduate from Abilene Christian, just as his own class had been the best 37 years ago, just as next year's class would be even better. That, said Tonto, was because each class left something uniquely its own to enrich the traditions for the classes that came after. It was a good talk and just right for the occasion. The only thing wrong with it was that hardly anybody heard it. The public-address system had broken down just before the start of the ceremonies.
If Tonto was disappointed, he didn't let on. As usual, he was reminded of a story—about the time he was making a speech in New York and, sensing a restlessness in his audience, he called out, "Can you folks in the back of the room hear me all right, or should I turn the volume up?" There was an immediate and somewhat disconcerting response. "We can hear every word," a man yelled. "Turn the volume down!"