After the prayer and the Pledge of Allegiance and during the sausage, sauerkraut, cornbread, biscuits and pumpkin pie, song leader Glenn Wright of the Weatherford ( Okla.) Rotary Club announced that it was time to entertain the evening's special guests, the two-time NAIA champion Southwestern Oklahoma State University women's basketball team.
"We've got people here from the college who are world and internationally famous," Wright declared. "Let's impress them with our singing." With that, the Weatherford Rotarians fast-broke into a rousing rendition of that Czechoslovakian favorite Stodola Pumpa.
"Why is it, in the 200 years that I've been with this club," Wright asked, catching his breath three verses later, "every time we have a celebration, we always serve kraut and wienies?"
John Loftin, the Lady Bulldogs' coach, laughed. This was the third time in three years that the club had invited him to give a preseason speech, and he certainly was full up to here with kraut and wienies.
He remembered his first speech, back in 1981, when he was new in town. "If we win half our games," said Loftin then, "we'll be lucky." Sheepishly, he sank back into his kraut. However, the Lady Bulldogs went 34-0 and won the NAIA title, and he was named Coach of the Year.
He thought about his second speech in 1982. "It'll be darn near impossible to repeat," Loftin had said in his Tulia, Texas accent. The wienies beckoned; he cut his speech short. But the Lady Bulldogs went 30-4 and won the NAIA title, and he was named Coach of the Year.
This season, the coach would throw caution to the wind. "Three in a row? Could be," Loftin said. "What's your secret?" the Rotarians begged. "Hard work," he said. "Hard work never hurt anybody." The Rotarians gave him a standing ovation.
Weatherford (pop. 9,640) is 69 miles west of Oklahoma City, and it's the kind of place where people leave their keys in their cars—with the motors running—when they're shopping downtown. The town sits in the Anadarko Oil and Gas Basin, site of the 1980 boom and the '81 bust. There were 900 rigs in the old days: Now there are just 230. Weatherford is smack in the middle of prime wheat-and cotton-farming and cattle-ranching country. But with the lack of rain the last couple of years, the money in that has dried up, too. "People around here needed something to believe in," says Doyle Jackson, a local businessman.
Say hello to John Loftin. Weatherford hasn't been the same since he arrived.
Fay Jackson, Doyle's wife, has worked overtime behind the stove. She's been baking cinnamon rolls hand over fist and firing up pots of chili for team dinners. Shirley and A.B. Cook haven't sat still a minute either. They're too busy following the team around the state to watch scrimmages and games. "We've spent more money trying to see Kelli Litsch play than we've spent on our own kids," Shirley says. And Pickle Ice, a farmer from nearby Fay (pop. 150), has become a Lady Bulldog fiend. "I'll sell a cow if I have to, to get myself to the Nationals," he says.