Meanwhile, back at Grandpa Moses' house, the grownups had stopped talking about the weather, crops, kids and even baseball. They were all watching the game. At first they had paid very little attention to us, but as the pileups started getting higher they got interested. They thought it was baseball and that we were simply fighting more than usual. Some of the men walked out to the road for a better view. The ones remaining on the porch stood up to watch. The mothers looked on in horror, thinking of what Monday's wash would be like. Some mothers were in favor of stopping the game, but the fathers were against that. They didn't want it said that their sons had run away from a fight.
Watching the game
Peering from behind the curtains of the front window, with a befuddled look on his face, sat Grandpa Moses himself, in his rocking chair, watching the game. Up the road apiece from the house stood a dust-covered, used-to-be-blue '36 Ford. Around it were grouped a man, a woman and three young children. The woman held a newborn baby in her arms. They all wore their Sunday clothes, and all were standing there, shading their eyes from the sun, watching us play. The little baby was crying. These were the white folks who lived on the other side of the community and were on they" way home from church. Ol' Sport woke out of a deep sleep and lay in the yard with one eye open, watching the game. Belle, Ol' Sport's wife (I suppose you'd call her that) had been lying under the porch nursing her latest litter but, hearing all the commotion her son Shep was creating, she came out and sat on her haunches, directly behind Ol' Sport, watching the game. The puppies crawled all over her attempting to resume their interrupted meal. Sam, the cat, who had been napping in the pecan tree in the front yard, was now wide awake, watching the game. At the far end of the field the cows had stopped grazing and stood dumbly—watching the game.
On the field itself, Shep was impartially barking at both teams. With his long ears flopping in the breeze he was in on every play, chasing after all ballcarriers until they had been tackled and smothered under the pileup. Hawg kept pounding away at the line and being hit by Big Boy, and vice versa.
It was getting late, and local custom required that every youngster 15 and under had to be home before sundown in order to do his evening chores. The game ended by decree. Both sides claimed victory, 49-48, due to two disputes over extra points.
The disputes were soon forgotten but not the game. The word spread through the community that the kids had a new game—a wild new game in which it was all right to bash the other guys without first picking a fight. Baseball was no longer King: it had been dethroned. Sunday afternoons now found new faces at Grandpa Moses' place. People from far and wide were arriving by car, truck, wagon, buggy, horseback, muleback, tractor, bicycle and on foot to see the action. Some brought their lunches, and for those who didn't Louella, Grandpa Moses' youngest granddaughter, sold barbecue sandwiches for a nickel apiece. Grandpa Moses' home brew went up another nickel. Betting was sinful, but Plainview was getting used to sin. Grandpa Moses prospered to the point where he could afford to whitewash his house. The front porch became a sort of grandstand, where his best friends sat in the most comfortable chairs with him, of course, in the rocking chair, explaining the plays. He was as good as Bill Stern.
Eventually, other communities picked up the game, and we were soon getting challenges from as far away as Springfield, Flat Rock, Smyrna and Barrow Grove. One of the men in the neighborhood promised us a real football, providing we sort of let him show us a few pointers he had learned while watching from the sidelines. The idea of the football sounded great, but we kids vetoed the thought of some grown-up coming in to tell us how to run the option.
The mothers were the only holdouts. They didn't care for football at all. It took husbands and sons away on Sunday, and they got home late for dinner. And Monday's wash was worse than it had ever been, not to mention Tuesday's sewing. My family moved away from Plain-view not long after all this, and I've never been back since. I wonder sometimes whether the crowd still gathers on Grandpa Moses' porch of a Sunday afternoon, watching the game.