I started ninth grade at Agate High School where my class size had almost doubled. We now had five students in the ninth grade, including myself. We had a total of seventeen students in the entire high school. High school sports there remained gender based though. Guys did not play on the volleyball team since we had enough to field a team. Guys did; however, play six-man flag football as a fall sport. While my small stature didn’t matter as much in flag football as it would have in tackle football, I still found myself on the non-playing end of a sport. We had eight guys that played and I suppose as a freshman who was both tiny and slow, I expected to not be allowed to play much.
One Saturday in the early Fall, my parents decided to go shopping in Denver without us kids. They decided to go with some friends in their car. Dad never really liked to put the miles on our cars since Mom was already doing that for her daily commute. On the way home, they decided to take a drive through the country. Most backcountry roads in Colorado are dirt and they are barely wide enough to fit two vehicles since they are so rarely traveled. Most people drive in the middle of the road and then get over to the side when someone is coming from the opposite direction.
Apparently, as the story is told, Mom and Dad were riding in the back seat of their friend’s vehicle. They were driving on a secluded dirt road approaching the crest of a hill. Another vehicle on the opposite side of the hill was driving in the center of the road and as they approached each other from opposite directions, neither vehicle was aware of the other. At the crest of the hill, both vehicles swerved, but it was too late and they slammed into each other…
LATER IN THE CHAPTER…
I’m not sure why I continued to participate in sports that I was rarely given the opportunity to actually play in a game, but I suppose it was better than being at home. When the winter season arrived, unfortunately, they did not offer wrestling due to being such a small school. For Agate, basketball season had arrived, I decided to play again hoping I had a chance because there were only eight players on the team, including myself. However, I was still not quite five feet tall and not even a hundred pounds. On game days, I had to roll my warm up pants multiple times. One time I even slipped on them going up for a warm up layup as the too long pant leg slipped underneath my black Converse hightops.
Our team was led by the Padilla boys. Both Larry and Rich were nearly six feet, three inches tall. We called them the twin towers and when they were both playing, we were hard to beat. Most everyone on the team was a solid athlete except for one other nerd boy like myself who I’m guessing his parents made him play. But I worked hard and did my best. I even wanted to demonstrate my toughness and tenacity by not drinking water during practice. Little did we know in the eighties how important staying hydrated was, but no one made me drink and I was foolish enough to think that was a good thing. I enjoyed the game during practice and dreamed of my chances to play and one day become like Michael Jordan. I would often do silly things like stick my tongue out when I drove to the basket to mimic my idol.
One Saturday afternoon in early December, Mom and Dad went into Denver to go to Wax Trax and Goodwill stores, shopping for Dad’s record collection. Us kids stayed home again this time and played around the house. I figured they were probably Christmas shopping and I was just happy about that. We spent the afternoon watching movies and hanging out. I went into my room to listen to Van Halen since I had just gotten their latest tape called 5150. I spent the afternoon in my room listening to my tapes.
“What the h*ll is going on in here?!!” my dad yelled from the living room. I had fallen asleep lying on my bed listening to my Sony Walkman. It must have shut off at the end of the tape. As I came to, I quickly tried to ascertain my whereabouts and situation. It hit me that Mom and Dad were home and I had no idea what my younger siblings had been doing. I came running out of my room, past the record shelf and into the living room.
“What? What happened?” I asked. Dad was standing over his desk, looking at his stereo that sat on it.
“Who the h*ll has been messing with my stuff, Shawn?!” Dad yelled. He was fiddling with his tapes and his open tape decks on his stereo.
“I don’t know. I didn’t do anything,” I explained. I could tell several tapes were strewn across his desk as if they were just tossed in the air and landed there.
Dad always kept his space immaculate and orderly. We were barely allowed in his space and only when we were in his presence. Suddenly, Dad noticed a pile of records out of place on the floor near his desk. There were stacks of records on or near his desk all the time. That was part of his process for going through his records; recording them in his binders, playing them to ensure top condition and cataloging them before they went on the permanent shelves. However, I didn’t know the difference between that and what I was looking at, except that I now noticed that several albums were out of their sleeves and laying directly on the ground. Suddenly, Dad did too…