Saturday, November 23, 2013

100 Things I Want to Tell My Children and Grandchildren: #6

(Me in high school - 1964-ish)

You can be different, and that’s OK.

Not unlike most of life’s lessons, I came to the above realization in a rather round-about way during my brief, but colorful, days of caving.

It all started around 1962-ish, when one of my high school friends, Dee Dee Wright, told me that Opal Hail, wife of the owner of the local Ford dealership in our tiny home town, Iraan, Texas, had offered to take us caving. I was a little surprised, but not totally. Unlike all the other women in town who wore lipstick, dresses and heels, and spent most of their days homemaking, Opal wore blue jeans and work shirts, nary a spot of makeup, and she rode horses and drove an old beat up, open-top jeep. I remember observing her from afar, not really knowing what to think, other than she was just so different.

It was still dark the morning Opal pulled up in front of our house in her jeep, the sun just threatening to peak up over the horizon. She and Dee Dee and I were about to set off on another caving adventure. We’d already been caving a couple of times, nothing big, mostly just a lot of driving to climb in and out of caves we’d heard about. Anywhere you drive out in west Texas is separated by 50 miles or more of nothingness. And more often than not, that nothingness includes a dirt road. I remember driving for what seemed like forever, the wind whipping our hair into straw and our yelled conversations into the dust billowing behind Opal’s jeep. After the examination of a small cave on the Joe Chandler Ranch, we followed the dirt road through a number of bump gates to an old ranch house that just seemed impossibly far from anything.

A tall, lanky cowboy sauntered out of the house screwing on his cowboy hat to greet Opal and us junior cavers, who really just wanted to get on with the cave hunt. After courtesies, we trekked up the steep side of a hill to an outcropping of rock that demarked the top of the mesa. What we found was a cave that looked promising, at least from the outside anyway.

We built a small fire at the mouth of the cave to chase out any Javelina hogs or Rattlesnakes that might have called the place home. Not only did we not rustle up any critters, but when we were able to enter the cave, it was really pretty shallow. We didn’t care. It was all part of the adventure.

On the way back home that day, Opal yelled over the roaring jeep and the wind, “Do you know who that guy was? That was Bud McFadin,  a famous football player.”

It wasn’t until much later in my life I realized just how famous.  Bud McFadin  played football for the University of Texas, was an All-America and a five-time pro bowl player for the Rams, Broncos, and Oilers.

Not too long after that caving trip I became more interested in boys than caves, but I’ve never forgotten the great times Dee Dee, Opal and I had squirming in and out of dirty, dark, muddy holes in the ground. And I’ve never forgotten Opal Hail because she taught me that you don’t have to be the same as the people around you. You can be whatever your heart tells you to be, and as long as you are good to yourself and good to others, that’s OK.


  1. Funny, but I've come to see that beneath your deep red lipstick and the designer dresses you are most often photographed in, I see a woman who cherishes her gounding experiences and cherishes the natural world to that of cheerleaders and beauty queens. You write most eloquently about caving, driving into the desert, across the west, building camp fires, etc. It makes me wonder if the girl has really ever left West Texas. Jane

  2. You are correct Jane. My body may reside in Austin, but my soul is still out there in those endless vistas.