I received a weird note the other day while working at the Spooner Advocate.
Maureen Slauson called and had found a paper I'd written in high school for her father. Mrs. Slauson, as I knew her, was the guidance counselor at McDonell Central High School when I attended there -- I use the word "attended" loosely. She wondered if I wanted the copy.
Her father as the legendary Marty Crowe, who as coach won four state basketball championships in his long coaching career.
Mrs. Slauson had told my colleague I would not remember her but of course I did. I hadn't sought her out for guidance in my four years in high school because that would have been like a vegan looking for the best steak in town.
I certainly remembered Marty as he was a character of epic proportions, as well as one of my coaches -- and my poetry teacher.
He may have been the only sports coach in high school sports history who taught poetry.
And here's the thing: He taught it well. He introduced a bunch of us morons -- I was the leader of the moron gang -- about poets we'd never otherwise hear.
I can still hear him reading from Randall Jarrell's "The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner."
Imagine a growly voice reading:
"From my mother's sleep I fell into the State,
And I hunched in its belly till my wet fur froze.
Six miles from earth, loosed from its dream of life,
I woke to black flak and the nightmare fighters.
When I died they washed me out of the turret with a hose."
He repeated the last line for dramatic purposes.
I remember the paper, which Mrs. .Slauson is sending me. At the time during freshman year, I was tone deaf for poetry and initially picked Walt Whitman. Although I'm now an acolyte, that was a poor choice. Whitman remains a tough read. We were supposed to take give poems from the same author and write about style.
So I asked Marty -- everyone called him Marty including the students -- if I could instead go with a novelist and he said yes.
Five novels are much more work than five poems. I've already told you I was a moron.
I had read "The Grapes of Wrath" during the summer before high school and so chose Steinbeck.
That's all I recall of the paper but Mrs. Slauson said Marty wrote a note on it so I look forward to reading that when I receive it.
She also talked about his other writings, including stories of his college teachers at St. Thomas in Minnesota. I offered help at finding a way to save his papers so we'll remain in touch.
Mrs. Slauson found me after reading about my homelessness in the Eau Claire newspaper and then tracking me down online.
As I have written, there have many blessings in a bad situation. We just must be mindful to acknowledge them.
Peace and good memories unto all of you my brothers and sisters.