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Mack Williams column: Neighborhood ‘green stamp’ football

In micro-communities along rural roads in the Fall, pairs of teams sometimes play “neighborhood football.”

The Old Concord Road was no exception, then or now, rural still, despite “additions.”

I recently saw the picture of a sheet of Green Stamps posted on Facebook with the caption: “Remember These?”

“Affirmative” responders weren’t referred to as “older than dirt” (possibly out  of respect to those seniors who may wish to see “soil reference” made only when it comes to the planting of roses).

I had my one-time saving of Green Stamps in the very early 1960s for a Rawlings football.

Seen at the old Salisbury Green Stamps Store on East Innes, I admired its look, feel and leather smell. I also like the smell of new shoes. I guess my “fetish”(sort of) would be the shoe, rather than the foot.

My parents saved the stamps and I glued them into the Green Stamp books (with damp rag, rather than damp tongue). When I accumulated the required 4 1/2 books or so, I traded them in for the football.

I finally had my very own football to contribute to the neighborhood game, but it was a pity that Green Stamps books couldn’t have been traded in for “football talent.”

I did have a fairly decent kick, though.

In those early days, long before Yates and Yarborough ever imagined “Yates and Yarborough,” I aspired to nothing of the sort, because I knew my talent ( deficit of) would never match such aspiration.

For those of you native to the Scots-Irish, western section of Rowan County, “Yates and Yarborough” was an extremely talented East Rowan Senior High School football duo in the late 1960s. If of certain age, you may recall your team falling to theirs.

Those of you native to Rowan County’s eastern section, whether young or old, need no explanation, as those names are probably still brought up in conversation today.

Our neighborhood football games always took place on “Cline Field.”

Looking across the road to the Cline property from my house, there was a field to the far left where the gravel piles were parked, and where a go-cart track was later added. To the far right was a field which included a row of muscadines and scuppernongs. “Cline Field” was in the middle, and borrowing from Andy Griffith: “What it was, was the Clines’ front yard!”

As in cards, our neighborhood teams were “The luck of the draw.” Among them were my 10-years -senior brother Joe, W.A. Cline III (also an age gap), his brother Wayne, Alan Lyerly, Steve Ritchie, sometimes Steve’s cousin Johnny Pritchett, sometimes Joe’s friend Roy Hopkins, and Joe’s little brother, me. I seem to remember there being others, but can’t recall just who. In neighborhood football, all positions are not filled ( kind of like gaps in memory).

I proudly took my Green Stamp football to the game, without bringing much “game” of my own with it.

During the course of the game, by some miracle I wound up with the ball. I was running as fast as my short legs would carry me when I was tackled.

Being tackled was no fun, but in addition, every molecule of air in both my lungs was suddenly expelled. In other words, “ I had the breath knocked out of me”(and due to the great difference in size between tackler and “tacklee,” probably the “gas” as well).

A big neighborhood kid, always considered a bully by me, had done the tackling, purposely throwing his entire weight on my little form. He may not have been a bully to everybody; perhaps I was special in that I may have been afforded my own personal bully (abandoning his “bully” ways years ago, he became a gentleman).

My brother Joe was incensed, seeing me lying there gasping for air. When sure I was OK, he grabbed the back of that kid’s shirt collar and kicked him in the rear (noun, not adjective) all the way to his home about 100 yards away.

You might say that it was a 100-yard penalty with “something else” added, personally administered by my brother Joe.

Many football fans now would probably like to administer such a penalty to members of the opposing team, but it would inevitably lead to the involvement of police in riot gear, along with tear gas.

In those days of the 1950s and early ’60s, my brother Joe and I sometimes had our brotherly arguments and wouldn’t get along, but I recall nothing of the sort for that day.

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