Monday, February 20, 2006

Mineola Missives: The Coach

Every high school has one, I'm fairly certain. Every school with a population smaller than the average college, that is. That one ex- or current coach who, because his schedule isn't full with other things, winds up with the scut jobs around the school. And Mineola High School is/was no exception. Our Scut Job Coach taught Health, Remedial Study Skills (yes, my school needed it), Drivers' Ed, and even a little fill-in Spanish (I think he was tapped to teach English as well at one point, but someone saw the folly of that situation before it was too late). He was also a minister at a Baptist church (his church was the first place my Christian metal band, Sanctification, played), and still coached baseball from time to time. A veritable Renaissance man of Mineola High School, he was. Coach Reginald Earl Day, I salute you.

A brief little sidenote before I continue. I don't actually think Coach Day's middle name was Earl. My friends and I had this really weird habit of giving people unnecessary middle names that weren't theirs. We had others we'd use, but Earl seemed to be our default. Try it in your own name and tell me it doesn't work to some degree, even for the ladies. We also lengthened names with odd appellations that made them sound vaguely like we were trying to name a restaurant in the TGI Friday's vein, and gave names based on who/what they looked like as well. Sometimes it got a little out of hand. Thus the reason that by the time I graduated in May 1994, our band director (tenor sax and drums, before you ask) was known to many of us as "Machine Gun Ray Slapdaddy Shotgun Kenny Rogers Santa Claus Vardeman". Thus also the reason one of the school administrators, of whom we were not very fond, was known simply as "Frog Lips". Our parents even used that one (my mom still does to this day).

So back to Coach Day. I took the requisite Health course with him as the teacher, and got to experience the drug box and the smell of burning oregano (or whatever they use to simulate marijuana) accompanied by his infernal laugh. Imagine The Count's laugh sped up ever so slightly, that one note "Ah ah ah ah ah," and you're pretty close (I do a passable impersonation of his laugh; fun for parties!). That laugh accompanied virtually every story the man ever told, and he told a lot. All you had to do to sidetrack him was ask some simple, random question, and off he went on a yarn-spinning journey. My favorites all came from Drivers' Ed., but there were many to choose from over the years. And so, I present to you a few tales passed on by Coach Day.

*DISCLAIMER - I offer no claims as to the veracity of these stories, just the associated hilarity.*
  • At some point in his life, Coach Day had been involved in law enforcement of some kind, and was apparently trained in several defensive techinques for disarming perps. Or, as he so eloquently put it, "I can apply my maximum force to a man's minimum force, and rip his hand in half down to the wrist. Ah ah ah ah ah ah." That sort of became my measuring stick for judging defensive techniques. "Yes, but can you rip a man's hand in half to the wrist?"
  • Coach Day was a big fan of those old Drivers' Ed. films like "Blood on the Highway" and so forth, the scare-your-ass-straight style of education so popular in the 60s and 70s. Being as I was in high school, and male, I naturally had a morbid fascination with those films and once asked if he or the school had any. He looked, to no avail, but came up with a little gem about a crash test dummy that one day becomes sentient, decides this life of abuse is for the birds, and hoofs it. At least, that's what I think it was about. About a minute-and-a-half into the film, it melted in the classic style, all melting from the center out and nasty burning petroleum smell. I think we spent the rest of the class making him tell us stories.
  • I'm pretty sure every small town has, in addition to Scut Job Coach, that one backwoods dirt road that's really nothing more than access for the various farms, ranches, and isolated houses in the area. And somehow that road acquires a mythic reputation, full of tales of Satanic activity and ghostly sightings. In Marshall, where I went to college, it was Stagecoach Road. I've forgotten the name of the one in Mineola, but I can still picture it pretty well in my head. Why is the picture still clear, but not the name? Well, because that was Coach Day's favorite place to take us for our driving practice. In theory, it was an ideal place for such activity. There was virtually no traffic on the road, and really nothing out there for the errant driver to hit besides trees and barbed wire fencing. But if some of the things Coach Day told us about the road had been true, then he was a crazy man for taking us out there. My favorite? He swore that, while driving out there one day, he crested a hill only to see a pentagram painted in the middle of the road, with...wait for it...two severed Doberman Pinshcer heads sitting in the middle of it. Lovely stuff.
  • Of course, these little drives were not limited to tales of the dark and macabre as interpreted by Reggie Day. Culinary tips came into play once or twice as well. This was where I learned that soft-shelled turtle makes a delightful soup (this was prompted by one running across the road in front of our car one afternoon; the look of the thing was enough to make me take him at his word). I also learned that ostrich was the most flavorful meat he'd ever tried (and he's tried it all - rattlesnake, the aforementioned turtle, squirrel, rabbit, buffalo, a variety of deer-like ungulates, etc.; I've not tried ostrich, but rabbit and elk are both quite tasty). His opportunity to try ostrich arose when a local man who raised them called him seeking help in freeing one of his birds which had gotten its head trapped in a fence. After much pondering, they decided the best and, lest you think him a cold bastard, most humane way to free the unfortunate creature was simply to kill it and eat it. Which I gathered from his story they proceeded to do with vigor.
One of my favorite subsets of the already subsetted Coach Day Drivers' Ed. stories was the Snowflake set (Coach Day stories-->Drivers' Ed. stories-->Snowflake stories). Apparently at some point in the past, Coach Day had taught an unfortunate soul known to his peers (and at least one of his teachers) as Snowflake. This nickname was ironic on a level that our insertion of "Earl" never quite reached. You see, Snowflake was apparently a 300-400 lb. black student who was mercilessly and relentlessly teased by his fellow students (although, based on the stories Coach Day told us about him, he might have brought some of it on himself) due to his weight and inability to control his anger. As a result, I was left with two of the funniest stories ever told by Coach Day (you may disagree, but that's because you can't hear Coach Day tell them). These stories were so popular, in fact, that Coach Day was asked to tell them on more than one occasion, and virtually every time he wound up laughing so hard he was in tears, as were many of his students.
  • One day, Snowflake's need to follow the call of nature led him into one of the school's restrooms. Now as the business at hand was sure to be...ahem...long and arduous, Snowflake was forced to enter one of the stalls. Fortunately, the stalls were unlike other school restrooms around the country in that they still had doors with functioning locks. Snowflake entered the stall and proceeded to continue the circle of life. When finished, he attempted to stand and exit the restroom. However, due to his rather large girth he had become entrapped in the stall, squeezed between the two walls like the trash compactor from Star Wars. I guess the theory was that, in his haste to enter the stall and complete his task, he failed to notice how tightly he fit. So after several attempts of his own and on the part of school officials to release him, a welder was called in to cut down one of the walls and thereby free Snowflake from his lavatorial prison.
  • Apparently as a result of the above shenanigans, Snowflake's time at MHS became a bit more unbearable. The already unrelenting teasing was amped up a notch, which led to a potentially horrible event that, nonetheless, is gut-achingly funny in my mind's eye. Snowflake was apparently an avid fan of Shop, and spent as much of his spare time as he could in the workshop tinkering away. One day the teasing reached a height Snowflake could no longer stomach (pun TOTALLY intended). The Red Curtain of Rage descended over his brain, he picked up a ball peen hammer, and proceeded to chase the offending student around the parking lot, screaming obscenities at the top of his lungs. According to Coach Day, Snowflake's voice was rather high-pitched and grating, a la Adam Sandler in the "They're all gonna laugh at you!" skit. So picture, if you will, a 300-400 lb. black man waving a ball peen hammer over his head, cursing to turn the sky red in a voice out of a cartoon, and chasing another student around a high school parking lot, and then tell me that's not hilarious. Sad, yes, but funny nonetheless.
The glory of Coach Day was truly in his ability to tell a great story. At least, that was true in my eyes. From what I understand, he was a loving and attentive father (his daughter Misti was in my graduating class; yes, her name is Misti Day) AND pastor. His genuine concern and fondness for his students was evident, and despite the fact that he was easily sidetracked and could lean a bit to the fundamentalist way of thinking, he was fascinating to talk and listen to. I hated a lot of things about my home town and my school experience, but Coach Day will always be a fond little gleam in my memories.

Ah ah ah ah ah ah.

8 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think the road is called "Greer Road," or something to the effect. Loved the stories, I know you have one in queue for Mr. Young, with his fanciful stories of two-hour cigarettes and car rides with Bigfoot -- or did you not have him? Anyway, love the stroll down memory lane, I anticipate plenty of pentagrams and severed dog melons to keep us entertained along the way.

5:14 PM  
Blogger The Bagboy said...

Yes! Greer Rd. is absolutely it! I knew it started with a G. And I hadn't thought of Mr. Young, but that's a great one. Good to have a Mineola ex on here to help prod my memory a little.

5:23 PM  
Blogger J.T. said...

Did you say that a turtle RAN in front of your car??

11:56 PM  
Anonymous lane said...

of course, there was always the story of him being trapped underneath a multi-ton crane after which he dragged himself on his belly several miles to the nearest phone. then there was the time he made me drive (in drivers ed) to garden valley baptist church in van, texas to drop off a trunkload of textbooks. then there was the time that he nonchalantly dropped in a conversation with me that, because of drivers ed, he was the highest paid teacher in the school district. rumor also had it that he had a wire tap put on his phone line because of all the prank phone calls that his daughter received. i know with certainty that i was responsible for at least several of those calls over a number of years. oh, and there was the story about the time he was driving a corvair and, while sitting at an intersection, the engine fell out. why, this could go on all night.

2:25 AM  
Blogger The Bagboy said...

JT, my reaction was much the same as yours. This bizarre looking creature ran in front of the car, and I was all "What was THAT?!". And Coach Day was all, "That was a soft shelled turtle. They make great soup." *shudder*

Lane! I'm glad you stopped by man! The crane story was in the back of my mind, but for some reason it converted itself to the idea he worked the oil fields. I can't believe I forgot that one. Or the one about the engine (AND transmission, I think he told us) falling out. Good times.

12:12 PM  
Blogger linz said...

In high school I had a teacher who was alot like Coach Day. One time, My teacher and his parapolegic friend were swimming way out in the ocean, I'm thinking it was about a mile out as I recall. Apparently my teacher somehow passed out, I am thinking it involved a Portuguese Man-of-war, but I can't be certain. Anyway, his parapolegic friend swam all the way into shore holding him with one arm, and paddling with the other.

1:55 PM  
Blogger hello jamie: said...

oh Bill... you sentimental fool.

What makes better stories than small-town middle America?

Remind me someday to tell you about Leroy's Chocolate Love Bus.

10:39 PM  
Anonymous Joe said...

Some notes:

Reginald Earle Day (that was his real name) also taught Biology at one point, and read the Genisis story of creation as part of the lesson on evolution.

I noticed, however, that Lane recalled one of my favorite stories about RED in the comments...the crane trapping incident. I believe he also allowed Bryan Smitha to once somke a cigarette into the trash can as part of some demonstration in health class.

In regards to prank calls, I remember hearing one about a picolo once. Does that ring any bells with you?

3:47 PM  

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