Chapter 2 Section 4 Traditions of fame Traditions of Shame Tales of Dead Armadillo words and photo Esteban Erik Stipnieks all rights reserved. 

 

 

Stephen awoke early.  He had an agenda.  The shower and the rare use of Degree Antiperspirant he was going to be in close proximity to people.  The Crosscountry Team T-shirt 1993 had located.  It was placed carefully in a backpack and for once folded neatly.  Stephen put on his old yellow or orange black form with the dead Armadillo 1990 version of the T-shirt.  Stephen had decided to use Central office parking. 

Once there he made B-line early to Naegelins for a Cinnamon roll and then he picked up a Cappuccino at the new coffee shop on the circle.  Stephen knew that this coffee house was older women yuppie not the arts places he was beginning to miss from Denton.  He ordered his cappuccino looked at his watch tried to find a place to sit down.  Kimber had shown up with Britt Reidel.  Britt Reidel had been in his 5th grade class.  He was a coach's kid as Kimber was.  In the 3weeks of school,their paths had yet to cross until now. 

Tara and her dad showed up.  Her father offered Stephen a ride to the float.  Stephen accepted giving him some additional time.  That meant he could order his cup for there.  Tara ordered.  Stephen went up to pick up his cup.  He sat down Kimber looked strangely "What's that?"  Cappuccino Stephen replied lets see if it it is as good as the Kharma Kafe's is.  Kimber asked is that a Denton reference.  Stephen nodded indicating yes and then went off "EPA classes a little too little light on the fat" he pronounced…He took a bite from the Cinnamon Roll.  In it was a touch of the past.  Naegelins had been a bakery they went to since before he was aware of Unicorn pride Stephen smiled.  The quality of the product and its tradition it was small town and proud.  Stephen simply said remember. 

Brett said "Place has changed."  Stephen said "Remember  fair parades from our elementary years."  Stephen knew Brett would roll with it in his hipster and in doing so, he would explain Tara more then he cared to and another source was believable.  Brett asked, "Have you kept with Lee?"  Stephen responded last I saw of him was first year briefly.  Brett said "what about you and Rafe?"  Stephen replied "Blue and White for Truth and right we know the parties we know the law we know the policy finally the school is supposed to endorse." 

Tara's dad looked at Stephen understanding.  Stephen continued "Kind of hard to keep his social life and his phony Eagle Scout merit badges without counselors in our conversations."  Tara's dad asked "Why the dedication to the photos."  Stephen took another sip.  He started "Serving modeling the new course a virus containing the genes that will destroy the tumor that is killing the Unicorn." The look had understanding "Glad Kathrine helped with run through." Tara's dad said.  Stephen responded, "Yeah I am still officially in charge so if things go wrong it is my butt so I will brief them I am officially doing double duty tonight.  Funny till this year we were a collection of various groups who never hung out cooperation is always nice." 

Kimber nodded "We were hardly together except at meets."  Stephen said, “Yeah that was part of the charm of the team what is emerging though is another form of unity based upon deeper bonds I like it."  Brett asked, "When did you start drinking cappuccino Stephen?"  As Stephen thought about it, a memory entered his head.  His face was a plate glass window on his soul. "A get together for Amnesty International at the Kharma Cafe Denton Texas." came in noticeably flatter tone from Stephen. The tone was a man facing a realty that brought pain. Tara looked at Stephen along with Brett and Kimber.  The grief was evident Tara's dad saw.  Brett said, "I do not know what it is like to go through a friend being murdered."  Stephen responded "I wished her that her summer will last forever she will always be 17."   Stephen replayed a brief conversation in his mind by a scrub oak tree on campus.  He was going to bike to Krum the seniors were at graduation practice.  The two had taken their last final of their junior year.  Stephen had told her "This is the final summer of our youth may it last forever."  Three weeks later she was dead.  The thought made Stephen wince.

"Sorry about your loss."  Brett saw the intense grief on his friend's face comprehending its intensity.  Stephen responded, "Thanks amigo glad I got to talk to you this morning I guess Kimber has filled you in."Brett nodded.   

Tara's Her dad took her to coffee house.  She wanted a nice hot chocolate so it seemed like a safe bet.  Stephen was with Kimber and had started a conversation with Brett.  Tara's dad was surprised and the two joined Kimber, Britt and Stephen.  Tara and Britt had shared a couple classes.  It was soon obvious that Stephen and Britt were old friends.  Stephen was leaning back in the chair and allowed Britt to speak of clothing stores downtown.  The vision she saw in her father's face was one of understanding.  Britt's little lecture contained the lore she heard from Stephen.  Britt's version accented a bit on the innocence and fun.  School spirit was something out of the Bear Tara had read in middle school Tara found herself coming to the fact in New Braunfels it was real a force uniting.  When Stephen picked up his cup, it was clear Kimber did not realize Stephen had developed the taste.  Stephen paused with his flare for the drama and spit out the name of a coffee house owned by the parents of the girlfriend of one his buddies.  When the question was asked where he picked it up.  The memory had pain.  Britt showed concern for his friend.  Stephen was appreciative.  The friendship was being rebuilt the makings of new growth were strong.  Tara was welcomed like a sister by Stephen.  Tara's dad had understood her relationship with Steven and a brief conversation almost ended with him Steven calling him dad.  She was learning she was not condescended to.  Tara could feel a unity being born.  The NB Coffee House Conspiracy had been born.  Brett and Kimber were now aware and in the conversations an unsaid agreement was made. 

The drive to where the float was short in it took them in front of Central office NBISD.  Stephen changed his shirt at that point.  Then back to the location of the float.  Brett said, "I can't believe it is you."  Lot of turn over with coaches Stephen commented.  Brett replied "Good for us."  Stephen smiled "I am glad Kimber and Tara are getting along."  Brett replied, "Its tough we look after each other Coach's kids its like you military brats Kimber wants to diffuse tension."  Brett smiled as they arrived.  Brett as Stephen was getting out "Just because some of us do not take sides on issues does not mean we do not have opinions."   Brett then said, "You know your mom is going to start leaning on Coach about you running JV."  Stephen growled "Not on my watch."  Brett smiled "You could be backed up at the gates of hell on that one."  Stephen nodded.  Brett said, "You are earning greater amounts of moral authority each day."  The smile on his friend's face was one of a very willing coconspirator.  "I got the classy son of a man who is Robinson class himself on my side." Ace had just called his friend classy as the admiral of the spurs.  It was a sincere real compliment to the basketball player.    Brett made reference to the guitar playing of Stephen "Lay down the rhythm we'll riff with you."  Stephen smiled Brett on lead guitar! What a thought   Stephen liked the thought of his friend on lead good music.

Stephen joined the crew...they ran blue and white streamers around the rails of the trailer.  The jersey had lighter blue outline by the royal blue paint the cross-country logo and the year.  Rap was playing Stephen was shaking his head.  He helped tape the logos of each of the runners on the float.  Tara looked surprised.  Stephen then said, "Never thought I would miss Nirvana."  Tara smiled.  Special then said "Man where did you get your attitude?"  Leisha replied, "He's been in a college town for 2 years what do you expect?"  Brandy seemed surprised.  The talk about Stephen once his mom got the job as superintendent and him where very different.  Julie replied "So much for meek."  Everybody was working together.  Amanda looked at Stephen why you do not like rap.  Stephen replied "I'm so white so awfully white white baby !"  Bo replied "You still remember the parody?"  Stephen said "Yeah Jim Carey's good stuff."  Stephen then said "Putting down Vanilla Ice and those who listened to music...easier done then said."  Amanda quipped "You mean Bo liked vanilla ice?"  Bo was uncomfortable.  Stephen replied, "I feel a memory lapse coming on."  Stephen cut loose a laugh.  He let Bo off the hook.  She remembered then Dennis then quipped to Aero Raul and Julie "Bo for the record loved MC Hammer and Vanilla Ice his freshman year."  Stephen grinned at Raul.  Serg then said, "Yeah keep that in mind you underclassman."  Serg then shook his head "What do you listen to?"  Stephen put in Bob Seger and Silver Bullet band.  "You are puro gringo!"  Micheal said, "I thought your mom is Tejana."  Maturity got the better him he saw Tara had adapted and was enjoying her non-queen status so when "She can't do anything wrong."  Tara was shocked just a second.  Then Stephen's silence spoke.  It was dubbed her theme song in Denton. Stephen let what happened in Denton stay in Denton.  Tara looked at him with a smile that contained gratitude. 

A few more streamer taped blue and white the float was ready to go.  It was time to get on amidst the hay bails.  Stephen was relaxing and smiling.  The rap resumed after the CD of Bob Seger ended.  Stephen realized the beauty of the town celebrating itself ,its youth ,its cohesion despite the fact the 90s were raging some traditions were too sacred to be shed.  It was good to be home.  The troubles that plagued the high school and the town could wait.  As he drank some water and the parade took off.  Up the side street they went and then a left in front of Lacks down San Antonio Street.  The parade was routed.  Tara asked "Why you smiling?"  Stephen looked at her "Your dad has memories of communities still cheering their youth still celebrating their kids and young adults....the homecoming parades at Denton"  Stephen was aware of the remaining beauty and was enjoying it.  Down San Antonio St the parade went.  Stephen was a UNICORN and he was home.  The team was celebrated as the music down the ounce main street of the city.  The team enjoyed itself the nerds, party animals, ex preps and jocks with freakish tendencies the born again and hippie were together.  The unity was there that Friday.  The truck made its way parade speed down the route with thick crowds held up by a train on the Mopac line.  The Brauntex was advertising a midnight showing of Pink Floyd's the wall.  Stephen knew when JP Penny was in one of those stores now handling antiques.  A skate shop was nearby.  A tavern was on the main street.   Through the circle wound the route and over Dittlinger mill to Prince Solm’s park. 

For Tara the fair parade was an exotic exprience drive to the location of the float was an interesting one with her dad.  Tara could see a smile on her father's face...glad I took the job.  He and her reminisced over events of past homecoming parades and fairs of the past that had more glory.  The smile and joy when he dropped his daughter off and they talked where to pick her up.  Her dad was happy. 

Tara saw Stephen arrive then quipped.  Bo suddenly was on the defensive.  She saw that Amanda was allowing Bo to squirm.  Pay- back?  Stephen was backing off the hot seat.  Then Serg who was quiet never really speaking too much shoved the hipster of the team over the line.  Once the riffs of a CD Tara knew had a song that was her "Theme" was playing Serg started giving Stephen a hard time about being a puro Gringo.  Kim in the distance laughed at the exchange.  Julie looked a bit clueless.  Allison was doing all she could not to start laughing.  Her twin brother shouted over the exchange, "What’s wrong with being white."  More chuckles erupted.  He had taken to listening to Nirvana.  He then said "Good stuff." Tara looked at Jennifer and felt like telling her "Eat something."  The whole exchange got Lezlee and Anna Laughing.  Raul was even laughing he later called Stephen gringo.  Tara was stringing the banners and doing the taping.  She had never been a part of float decoration.  Coach Noel Scott seemed to be watching with a smile on his face.  When she heard the song "She Can't Do Anything Wrong", she was dreading Stephen's quip, which did not come.  The float was finished with many hands helping.  The people were boisterous the girls watched as some other zingers flew people playing around and having good time. 

The group got on the float and the truck.  Raul and Aero started looking forward.  Tara joined Kimber on one side as Stephen occupied the center of the trailer his height and allowing him to take in as if drinking deep.  Near the railroad, a tear was visible on the face as the music played and Stephen was waving to the hometown crowd.  Tara as she saw the crowd cheering yelling she could feel the small town...she knew as a part of the team her achievements were being celebrated by strangers old folks and she was being looked up to by little kids.  As the truck passed the Brauntex, she was realizing she was a role model.  She could see the roots of the anger Stephen felt that he was harnessing.  The town was lined up on either side of the street as the jam box played.  Around the circle the parade wound.  The number of people surprised Tara.  This was cool it was New Braunfels at its finest.  As the float passed the end of the parade, she started walking back to her father's parking spot she saw other floats. 

For Noel Scott the parade was bittersweet.  He saw the town loving its youth.  He saw the whole thing as the city holding on to roots that long since have started withering.  The once rural hills were becoming tourist traps and the cattle and goat ranches were giving way to tract housing.  The fair was an embrace of a lifestyle that was fading fast as if the town collectively was ignoring.  He saw the dichotomy of the myth and reality. Stephen obviously was on this day willing to avoid arguments other then the kidding.  Stephen seemed more content to pretend and indulge in the fantasy.  Him and Coach Bob watched the float decoration. Stephen made his point early about the music Bo allowed him his classic rock.  The point about missing Nirvana was sharp.  Coach Bob asked "That had about 4 statements made with one."  Coach Noel nodded "He hung out with the debate team and Amnesty International."  After making is point he mellowed.  The fair parade was sacred and Stephen was glad to be home.  Coach Scott watched from the porch of the house that had been new when the building that Central office was a spanking new school.  The past lingered in the town as if 70 years had not occurred.  Scott had less responsibility officially right now.  The town Stephen described was there.  Stephen had not fouled up things yet.  His rejection of the perks had been subtle but noticed.  Coach Bob asked, "It’s getting harder and harder to believe that Tara was a cheerleader."  Coach Bob then said "I am not surprised she is rejecting perks....it rocking the office two rebel daughters and son."  Coach Bob laughed "Kimber the quiet rebel!" Coach Noel then said "His Aunt is fiery."  Coach Bob replied "Yeah I notice Stephen and his cousin have not even talked in the halls...she is in your US History class."  Coach Noel nodded...Garfield is surprised Odie has more attitude then she does.  The two men laughed the name for Stephen and his cousin both knew.  Raul does not even realize Garfield is Stephen's cousin.  Coach Noel and Coach Bob had on their Team T-shirts with coach and assistant coach on either side Coach Bob walked driver's side Coach Noel walked passenger side Bo's dad drove the truck.  The town had tradition...Plano did not.  His Midwest roots liked the tradition of the city.  He identified the struggle of the town and Stephen. 

After it was over with Stephen did his homework and a Stratocaster belt out a song about a flight on the cusp of history.  The guitar with its rear pick up soared.  The loneliness of grandeur on the cusp of history riding magic wings as a great ocean was now completely vanquished.   In it the story of an observer homing in on facts that others were not observant. He also stowed his tackle box and did a Texas rig on his bait cast rod and reel with a Berkley powerworm.  It was time for him to head to Unicorn Stadium. 

Linda and Raul were uncharacteristically early.  Raul seemed surprised: I never knew Belinda was your cousin.   Stephen replied.  Linda asked, “How can you two be related?”  Stephen looked westward trying to find the words.  Stephen finally said, "Funny that part of our relationship has been forgotten by some."  Linda looked bewildered at the distance.  It was clear that Stephen King seemed torn almost between two worlds. What happened in Denton?  Stephen replied his voice showing the distance and having the grief. "Fired learned what I was about learned what truth is learned what happens after innocence is completely shed."  Coach Bob showed up when everybody is here a quarter up four strides a quarter down."  Stephen drank some from the hose.  Amanda and Tara arrived.  Julie with her glasses was surprised to see Stephen looking moody.  She asked "Whats up?"   Raul said "You really believe in being a virgin when you get married?"  Julie replied "Yes."  Julie was forced to defend her faith.  Stephen was watching.  The Jr could feel Stephen looking like a brother.  It would be years before Julie would realize how much grief her faith had saved her.  Coach Noel Scott smiled in a distance.  Amanda and Tara arrived.  Tom and Aero showed up. 

Dennis and Paul were eating at Shawmkrugs.  Tara went through the workout she was testing her body the legs were looser then they were 24 hours ago.  It was like running up an engine on an airplane before takeoff.  The quarter up was done at near econo cruise.  The strides were more systems checks and getting the legs keeping them loose.  Julie was smiling.  The mood was light systematic.  The race was emerging as something that had to be done. Stephen was getting attuned to the race the legs had healed nicely from the hard run he would have to eat like a pig tonight and have lots of carbs for breakfast the following morning.  He would supplement with a power bar.  Tom was friendly Bo was friendly the three were beginning to think of the race the following day.  The course was to Stephens likings.  Amanda and Linda were taking time to explain the course to Tara.  There were a couple dicey spots.  The verticality was suited to Stephens legs and style if he could plot the right passes he would do well.  He though aside from Tara, Raul, Lez and Aero the least familar with the course it had been a while since he ran it.  Coach Noel Scott smiled to the group "Got news no crunches and push ups eat well tonight though"   

What was unknown to the team family tensions at Special's house were rapidly increasing.  His brown hair blue eyes were at times firey his sarcasm was always on edge reflecting only hints of the turmoil.  Special had been in the shadow of his brother who would be playing for Texas A&M on TV.  The rebellion manifested itself in Pirate Cove but only hints of true cause were there.  Special who lived half a mile behind the stadium as his parents left to College station brought a second friend into the mix...Mr Jack Daniels.  While Stephen and Tara ate a heavy meal,  Coach Noel was enjoying some light fajitas with guacamole from Marinas.  Coach Bob was eating Chicken at his place deciding not to go to the game.  Special was getting drunk. 

Stephen looked a bit over dressed for the occasion his 35mm camera had the bigger 100-500mm lens on it.  He had one roll in the camera one roll in the pocket.  His roll for the following day was kept away.  He had his yearbook tag on the cam.  Stephens red JROTC shirt and blue jeans pressed were his uniform.  He had put a couple insoles in his boots, which were polished.  He showed up early.  He parked beside him JROTC center it would save a precious mile in the nights walking.  He checked in and headed out to his post.  Once there Stephen quickly outlined that he was doing double duty that night he was responsible for getting imagery he had a camera pass and was officially on yearbook/newspaper duty.  Kathrine would complain to him and any direction by her was defacto direction from him.  Stephen made it clear she was also a teammate of his so he would find out.  The sophmores understood the freshman was eager to make a good impression.  The crosscountry team kept score.  Kathrine scared the cadets.     

As soon as that happened there was the look of an orange jeep squealing top heavy barreling to the parking lot and two of his cadets closet to the loop dodging out of the way.  The jeep was fast and barely in control.  Special drove his jeep to parking lot.  Stephen recognized Special as he did so.  The jeep found a parking slot Special quickly got out and walked towards Stephen.  Stephen was angry at what was going on and he could smell the alcohol on Special's breath.  Stephen had in his memories some hints of this skinny freshman with attitude brown haired being overshadowed and that certain things were wrong now it was in his face demanding action.  The person that was approaching him was incoherent angry and the sarcasm was flowing out of his mouth faster then water the floodgates being wide open at Canyon Lake.  Stephen walked singalling Special  let him talk and he started going to a Sheriffs deputy Ormond who was at the field.  The plan was to get Special near law enforcement for them to take care of.  The thought of a potential for an actual fight was scary.  Special had to be taken care of,  Stephen growled at him "You know there is a football game going on and you almost ran over two of my cadets. "  They were nearing the ticket booth.  Officer Jennings was sitting shooting the breeze Stephen made eye contact.  The officer was on the way sensing the trouble.  As the officer approached in ear shot Stephen asked and aloud "Why are you drunk why you almost run two sophomores did  what are you doing parking in the lot detail?"  Officer Jennings heard.  With a slight gesture and eye contact, the police officer read the situation and as he approached.  In three steps he smelled the booze on Special's breath.  Special was just beginning to figure out what was going on.  Officer Jennings looked at Special and asked Stephen what happened.  Stephen described what happened and Officer Jennings called for back up another local police.  Special then said, "You can't do that to a teammate."  The look in in Stephen's face could kill.  Special took a swing Stephen ducked and  Officer Jennings tackled Special and put the handcuffs.  As he took him away, "You will be asked to testify and I will need a statement from your cadets."  Stephen replied, "Yes sir."  Another officer saw the jeep with three quarters empty bottle of Jack Daniels.  A tow truck was called the haul the vehicle off.  The road was blocked as the band marched to their place from the the band hall.  Six cadets three on each side blocked the road as the band marched down the sidewalk and across the street. The drum line was doing their thing.  That went smooth.  Lt Col Ron came by soon after.  The cadets were ok.  Ron asked who did.  Stephen replied "The Unicorn Crosscountry team will be short a JV guys runner."The tone of the voice was disgusted angry but matter of fact.  The deputy described to the JROTC instructor that Stephen had acted cool and in the best way possible. 

Stephen took the run through crew to their position.  He saw Kathrine and told her "We will be short a runner on JV tomorrow Special got arrested DWI give you details tomorrow." She looked surprised. The group took their position.  Stephen burned his waste three and got the underexposure.  Brandy heard the tail end of the conversation.  Kathrine explained why Stephen appeared to be angry.  Stephen went out for a while monitored the rest of the parking lot detail.  It went smooth.   

(sleeved negatives DHS Ryan Campus we were still the Broncos football including run through exposure photo Esteban Erik Stipnieks)

Stephen arrived the Unicorns won but the game but it was not a good Friday night. Stephen took a long hot shower his mother arrived and Stephen had gone off to bed.  She had made the call to Coach Bob and Coach Noel knew.  She had pride in her son.  No cadets had gotten hurt and a drunk was removed quickly.  A precedent had been set of her new leadership...she wondered if he would get to run varsity and if he did not how she could change that. 

 

 

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