Here’s the thing about Austin College and me. The place is magical, and it’s magical because I am almost never there.
I had never heard of this north Texas school until my 18th year. I was only there for 3 thanks to a year abroad. The next 8 I was either out-of-state or out of the country. The last 20 since have been back in south Texas, a rare and full day’s drive. As a result of this distance, Grayson county still retains its charm. Absence does make the heart grow fonder.
I took a trip up to campus in 2015. The family of Wayne Whitmire had recently moved to Collin County, so John Talley, Frank Tooley, Kevin Pittman, and others headed over for a housewarming. We threw in an afternoon to nearby AC, and spent the day walking around the place. I took a photo of my daughter Ms. M. running across the football field. It may have been my first trip back during the decade.
And that’s when I did the math. Oh, the horrible math. Every single student I saw was not alive when I was a student. I guess there’s no escaping it now, I thought. I’m officially an old guy. That thought, however, was replaced with a new one. Old guys tell stories. All of those questions I always had about this really old school could now be answered thanks to the digitization of history. I could ask them.
And so I did. Because of the influence of people like Bob Mason, and because sports are just good clean fun, I spent most of my time on athletics. The Longhorns and Aggies have their own 100-year old stories, and I felt a little like Indiana Jones dusting off those of my own alma mater. Eventually, it was time to tell a few.
And so I did. Very short stories, sometimes no more than a paragraph or too. Only for former AC athlete friends who might have an interest. The stories were on a single Facebook thread, appended to one comment after another. All the while, I kept stumbling upon ties. Ties between Roos and non-Roos of state, national, and international interest. Yes! This little school of mine is not as silo-ed as I once wondered. Its story is a part of the story of Texas & the nation.
I figured this would be a fun project for a while, before I turned to something else. But I didn’t anticipate what happened next. A little community started to form. Roos I knew from my years. Roos I didn’t know from my years. Roos who didn’t even go to school with me. Eventually a good deal of non-AC folks. Many of these individuals were stories in their own right, and so naturally the story telling terrain shifted from 100-years ago to 50 years, 25 years or even the present day.
This community brought me back to Sherman after a long time away. Homecomings, Legends, “A” Board meetings, reunions, event speaking, even calling football games now take me back to campus regularly. I consider it a gift, like a chance to check off boxes I failed to check off 30 years ago. The community has also been motivation to make the stories better. They are longer now, more researched and written with greater emotion. It’s been a virtuous circle of community and storytelling.
All of the stories over the past 5 years are maintained at the “Go Roos” blog on the Roo Nation website. It’s now fully updated with every story written up to 2020. Well over a hundred! As I’ve said before, the real hero of Roo Tales is the patience and love of non-Roo Dianne Parrish; thank you hon, for all of your support for this passion.
For a long time, I didn’t think I had written nearly enough for a book, but those concerns have passed. It’s time for a book.
I still have a lot of open questions about how this book will take shape and what it will look like, but I do have a secret weapon. A community! As the book project progresses, I plan to ask you all for advice on everything under the sun. After all, y’all deserve more credit for inspiration and motivation than you realize.
That trip with the fellas back in 2015 kicked off this writing venture. Those guys were fraternity family at AC 30 years ago, and we bonded back in 1990 around a very meaningful Bon Jovi song. It’s a different Bon Jovi song though that for me sums that last five years of coming back around to the AC community.