Hail to the Chiefs excerpt: College life at Bainbridge in 1969

Andrew “Pappy” Paxton, the Chiefs leader, is settling into college life at Bainbridge, a small liberal arts university in Indiana. He notices that quite a few of the guys there were “taking advantage of the college exemption from the draft” for the Vietnam War, which is at its height—but Andrew and his friends, and everyone else on campus, are cloistered away in the bubble of college classes and social activities.

The Vietnam had engulfed the country. Nixon was President; troop strength was at the highest; and there was no end in sight. Yet in the insulated world Bainbridge, the students’ days focused on classes, attending parties, making friends, and playing sports.

For the Chiefs, their current greatest collective concern was which fraternity to join. As homogenous as the five seemed, their individual personalities would eventually split them between two houses. But for now, there was the ego-boosting courtship and the endless string of parties.

Barrett and Pappy were establishing a routine. Both studied while listening to music. Barrett fielded at least three phone calls from girls each night. Ten o’clock meant study break at the Union, and then a quick swing through the library to see if there was any action. Letters to family and friends rounded out the day. Luckily, neither snored.

 

* * *

Advertisements

Bring in the New Year by reading an excerpt from Hail to the Chiefs—Enjoy!

 The Chiefs size up their new teammates

It’s Monday, August 25, 1969, and the Chiefs, a group of five teammates from a championship high-school soccer program who are now freshmen at Bainbridge University, show up right on time for their college team’s first practice. While they’re warming up, the Chiefs and their leader, Andrew Paxton, get a glimpse of challenges that lie ahead.

The Chiefs formed their own group, making quick passes and traps while stretching. Andrew Paxton stopped to study the other players. Soon all the Chiefs were watching. It wasn’t a pretty sight. Players kicked the ball all over the place. For some, just hitting it in the general direction of another individual was a major task. They had to stop a rolling ball or risk missing it entirely. Heading was another adventure. Those wearing glasses jumped at the ball with stiff necks and closed eyes, striking it with the tops of their heads. Some worked hard on their form but lacked the years of practice necessary to control the ball.

Mercifully, there were exceptions. Scott Driver hailed from Ohio, a growing hotbed of soccer. He played for two years in high school, and he could trap and pass; he understood the game. David Nakano was talented and experienced, and his compact athletic body was well suited for the game. The seniors showed some proficiency, but some seemed more interested in talking than practicing.

It soon becomes obvious to Andrew that the team’s biggest liability might be some of its most experienced players: the seniors.

The seniors led calisthenics and stretching; then they broke into groups for heading, trapping, and passing. Next was pass and shoot. It was hard to decide what was more disastrous, the passes that went everywhere or the wild shots. The field was rough, but a third missed the ball entirely. After ten minutes, [Coach] Hancock blew his whistle.

“Let’s scrimmage,” he said. “Williams and Landon, pick up sides.” The Chiefs were the first five chosen. Williams’s squad, in red, included Paxton, Barrett, and McIlroy.

They lined up, and blue kicked off. Play was erratic, and Hancock was trying to referee, watch the players on the field, and make substitutions. At first, he shouted instructions: “Don’t bunch up … Move to the open space.” But after a while, he just let them go. It was clear who was in shape. The Chiefs, after playing all summer, raced up and down the field. Johnson, Sheffe, Randy Williams, Landon, and a few others were in the flow. The energy was generated by the underclassmen. The remaining seniors, some with developing beer guts, only ran when the ball was in their vicinity and played no defense.

Barrett and Paxton roamed all over the field, constantly stealing the ball from the gasping upperclassmen.

“Take it easy,” said Roush to Paxton, when play stopped for an injury. “You guys are making us look bad. You’re hustling for nothing. We’ve been here for three years. We get to play first.”

* * *

 

Happy Holidays

This week my daughter Julie Chandio and her husband Adam went to a sponsor appreciation dinner, in my place, put on by the Military Warriors Support Foundation in San Antonio at the Pecan Valley Golf Course Clubhouse.

The Foundation gives homes to disabled veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.

Pecan Valley will be the new home of the Valor Club, a residential and recreational community designed in part for the disabled, both veterans and civilians, and for senior citizens. All book royalties from Hail to the Chiefs go to this wonderful organization, and they expressed their deep appreciation for what we have done for the wounded soldiers.

I wish you all the happiest of holidays!
Steve

Book Signing

I recently had a book signing for Hail to the Chiefs that was a great success! It took place in my hometown of San Antonio. Lots of  good food, friends, family, and business associates were all in attendance!  We raised over $500 for the Military Warriors Support Foundation, a foundation I will continue to donate the proceeds of the book sales to.  A huge thanks goes out to Mike Hogan, Kelley Liserio, Ginger Miller, and all those who helped plan and support the event. You all are the best!

HOMECOMING

What is it about fall and homecoming that always brings you back? For me homecoming at Wittenberg was great. I connected with lots of old friends and teammates and had the opportunity to see Coach Bob Hamilton after forty years! He and his wife thankfully survived a horrific auto accident in February, and both are on the mend.

People have been doing a super job promoting Hail to the Chiefs, my first novel–of many. And everyone who reads it wants to find out what happens next, so Volume II is in the works, I promise! A big thanks to Don Nichols, Tom Hildebrandt, President Laurie Joyner, Linda Beals, the Witt Alumni Association, and everyone else who had a kind word to say about my first book!