Friday, December 29, 2006

Talkin' Kendall

James Farmer is a Poly graduate, about 3-4 years older than us who has known Kendall a long time.  His dad coached the Baptist Church baseball team on which Kendall found his first athletic success and stardom.  The conversation that follows is a good example of some exchanges that can occur occasionally in Facebook and result in a good information transfer.  James taught school in Ft. Worth for 40-years, some of them with Kendall in the early years.  His recollections actually start just after we left EH for the next chapter...they stayed in Ft. Worth.

Another eccentric, colorful, talented, intelligent person I've been blessed to have as a friend for almost six decades is Kendall McCook. Kendall is a teacher, writer, poet, activist, and great friend. Our adventures over the years are things of legend and mythology. He continues to write and do poetry readings. He was a big inspiration for me as a writer when we were young men. I appreciate his big heart and passion for life and learning.

Gus Highlander Of all the pictures made of the wizened '63 Highlanders at our 50th last year, Kendall's was the finest character a long margin.

  • James Farmer Wow! Great photo, Gus. Really about the most realistic and good quality of Kendall I've seen in years. No doubt, Kendall has that "character" look about him. If I could use fictional characters and slip the story in as fiction, I'd write a book about our adventures together over the years. It is not to be believed anyhow. Maybe if I live long enough I'll do that.

Gus Highlander One of my closer confidants thought him remote and difficult to engage at this event and I found him moderately so the last time I spoke with him, 30-years ago. He's probably one of a handful of '63s that, upon leaving EH for the rest of my life, combined to leave me with a lingering sense of, what the heck was that all about?

He'll be a key player in an upcoming blog piece I’ve tentatively entitled, “The He-Man Woman Haters Club” telling of our early trek into the mysteries of finding high school romance. I don’t think it worked out well for anyone and it ended up killing one of us—almost 30-years later. Such were the tribulations of trying to get our young wheels securely on the track.

His brother, Danny, was a great early contributor to the blog and forwarded me this 2009 Kendall piece about his EH friends. The quality of his writing blew me away as I hadn’t recalled him having exceptional skills in that area from my EH days with him. You may have already read this one…I’d like to have more from him for the blog. Kick him in the tail for me and see if you can help work that out. I’m sure his recollections combined with his writing skill would be priceless.

James Farmer Gus...I really relate to your comments and I must say that I appreciate your honesty and even-handiness in your perspective about Kendall. I love him like a brother so it is not within my abilities to be even in all that. I've almost died with him and lived on mountain tops with him. In fact, many parts of that wonderful piece he wrote in your blog there I was part of the crowd and saw it first hand. I decided a long time ago that you can't like Kendall. You have to love him. He is a very fine writer BTW and I will say a word to him about some contributions. He needs to do that and I appreciate your invitation. I knew Carol, his first wife, very well. Was there from the beginning to the bitter end of that. I also have known Ginny his wife now for many years. I met her when we were teaching at Dunbar High together in '74. She is a jewel of a person. Very intelligent and successful in her own right as an educator and administrator and wife and mother and grandmother. Beautiful person. I was around those people you went to school with a great deal and knew some of them all through the years including McCoy, Leo, Bob Dillard, Larry Guthrie, Paul Tate. I've always considered them to be a special group of people even with all the human flaws that went with the territory. They sure kept me on my toes back in the day. I appreciate being able to converse about these things now with you.

Gus Highlander Doing the blog in the manner I've chosen, an "anonymous Boswell" as one (very intelligent) old friend terms it, has enabled me to connect with members of several classes either side of ours while eliminating possible reticence resulting from those old EH perceptions. It seems to leave folks free to speak their minds without pulling punches and has yielded some fine, honest insights. The '63 crew you knew, really were an exceptional group of boys; their commonalities being, humor, intelligence, lively personalities, and some credible athleticism. They were a tough group to compete with in all areas of school activity and they were well liked. One top member of our trailing class of '64 termed them, "The Rat Pack." And that's probably an accurate description.

James Farmer I do understand how powerful the group of them were and always felt like an outsider that was allowed to hang around the periphery with them. They knew Kendall and I were close so I was accepted. McCoy was employed in the food and beverage at Colonial and he got several of us employed parking cars up at TCU parking for the bus ride down to the course. It was a gravy job. Guthrie, Tate, Kendall, I think Leo was there. Not sure who else. It was a riot from day one. We had fun, ate a lot of sandwiches which were sent up to us, got tips for guiding people into a parking place, and I was entertained by the wild and crazy antics of Guthrie and Tate. Both of those guys went on to PhD's and college professorships later. But, we were young and dumb and bullet proof. Growing up hasn't been easy for any of that group or for me. Life can dish it out to all of us and usually does at some point in time. I enjoy your blog so very much. It is a good even handed look at things I do believe. It is thought provoking also.


Gus Highlander It's interesting to connect with someone who has had a similar experience or has observed a similar situation such as the one we're discussing. Your description of being let into the gang but always feeling like a peripheral associate very accurately describes my feeling while I was with them. My tenure with them started in the 8th grade but tentative acceptance was slow in coming and may have not come until well into the 9th grade or even the 10th.

It apparently took the sponsorship of one of them who found you a worthy friend to achieve an introduction and ultimately an acceptance into their circle. Kendall brought you in while another guy brought me in. I’m sure it was an ad hoc situation. The group changed over the time I knew them and apparently settled into its final or mature form you recall and Kendall writes about. Clearly, the original spark plugs of that group were those you knew and who remained tightly bound for much of their lives.

I think retirements from the crew were precipitated by 3 things: pairing off with a girlfriend; pursuing football interests rather than basketball (Larmer, Dillard, McCook were varsity basketball players); and finally, going away to school after EH. Most of those guys were together as early as the 6th and 7th grades; a couple of them, Tate and Larmer, went all the way back to 1st grade.

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