Of Hometown Heroes
You don’t outgrow where you come from… Brian Fallon, Sleepwalkers
Brian Fallon is an American singer-songwriter and musician. He was the main lyricist of the rock band, The Gaslight Anthem, with whom he recorded five studio albums.
Fallon, also a member of the duo, The Horrible Crowes (alongside, Ian Perkins) is from a “small town.” By New Jersey standards, and other conventional standards too, Red Bank, though considered within the Metropolitan area of New York, is far from a sprawling metropolis. It sports a population between 12 and 13,000; but closer to 12.
The critically acclaimed lyricist once wrote for an album he entitled, Sleepwalkers, that You never get away from that thing in your hometown that it has over you. You don’t outgrow where you come from. Coming from a small town myself, I can certainly commiserate.
For so many, that thing the hometown has over you can seem lethal. I grew up in a town which neither accepted nor even liked me very well, if we are being honest. The impact on me of having been reared there is so painfully obvious, if one knows for what to look. Perhaps, it is I who was the culprit, but enough about me.
While I fear I have never escaped my hometown, though there are hours between us, three of my four children, William, Caroline, and Jack Whaley, have had a much more pleasant experience in Breathitt county, which they, all three, call home. They are Jacksonians; they tell anyone who asks.
They have felt warmly received and loved since moving here. I can’t speak for my eldest daughter, Sarah-Catherine, or my wife, Bebe; but I remain lukewarm to rather cool regarding my hometown. However, I am quite fond of Middleburg, Tennessee.
Though I was reared in western Kentucky, my father’s family hails from a small community in rural, west Tennessee. It is a place about which I am pretty sure you have never heard, though it is mentioned in the preceding paragraph.
It is called Middleburg. It was once called Longton, which upset the other three families living there, the Johnsons, Todds, and the Teagues; so they settled on Middleburg as a compromise. Our homestead there is on Todd-Long Road. Don’t know how the Todd’s slipped first-billing past us, after convincing us to give up Longton.
The community, of around 250 to 300-people, lies directly halfway in-between the towns of Parsons and Lexington in Tennessee. That is why it was named, Middleburg.
I have a cousin there, Andrew Jefferson Long, who has a list people either from or connected to “Middleburg” who have gone on to “do well” in life. The family and his friends and acquaintances call him “Bill.” I haven’t the foggiest how “Bill” came out of Andrew Jefferson; but that is what we have always called him.
I have a second cousin from there who because a federal district judge in Jackson, Tennessee. I know he is on the list. I understand both my father and grandfather are, likewise, enshrined. I am eligible for inclusion though I didn’t grow up there. My family has land there and many of us are buried there, so I count, I am told.
So am I on the list? Not yet, but there is always hope. Maybe, one day I’ll make it. I am young yet.
I understand the importance hometown heroes take on in small, rural communities. I understand how the folks, back home, triumph with these heroes while feeling every loss.
So, when I got a call from one of my closest, in-county buddies, Coach Glenn Gross, inquiring whether I was going to watch the livestream of the Boyle County/Franklin County, Class 4A Championship football game, I was happy to report that both William and I would be. When he asked if we wanted some company, “yes” was an easy answer.
We love it when Glenn comes over to the apartment. We even whip up some food and drink for him. We don’t do that for everyone.
Life in the mountains can seem isolated much of the time. Having some company to share an experience with your family and you can be quite a luxury.
Our very good friends, Jon and Betty Collins, have moved away and we have sorely missed them. Can’t say Jon ever came over to watch a game with us, though William watched a few at the Collins’ home (Betty cooks well and prolifically). Jon Collins tends to be reclusive, so you have to catch him on the “right day” for company.
Jon is fine company, when he feels like it. Betty is lovely, all the time.
So, Glenn came on over and took his customary place on the couch in our living room in front of the large screen television. Although the weather was clear, and we have purchased a strong signal from the company providing us internet, the broadcast seemed to freeze and buffer frequently. Hope I remembered to pay the bill.
We watched our friend, our neighbor, our former teammate, or whatever other description we can heap on Justin Haddix, the QB who led the Bobcats to Breathitt’s third title in 2002, win his first championship as a coach. Like he was when he guided the Bobcats to 15-0 in 2002, or like he was in 2003-2006 for WKU’s, Willie Taggart, when Justin accounted for nearly 9,000-yards of total offense and 50-career TDs, Haddix made the right moves at the right time.
The assembly couldn’t have been any prouder of him. You would have thought the Bobcats had just won number four (4).
It was Haddix’s third trip to the game. He went twice while at Corbin. This was his first time going for Boyle County High School, in his first season at the helm.
William and Glenn cheered their hearts out. They embraced when the Boyle County kid swatted away the 4th-down pass to the end zone which would have won the game for Franklin County had it not been deflected.
I don’t know that I have ever seen two men cheer on a team to which their only connection was the head coach any harder than what I witnessed from those two. It was quite the spectacle.
I was less jubilant than either Glenn or William, but still very happy for Coach Haddix. As a principal in Kentucky Prep Gridiron, I am friends with Franklin County’s headman, Dennis (Denny) Ledford, and have covered several of the Flyers stars over the years, just like I have done with Boyle.
My heart went out to Fred Farrier, II, Nick Broyles, and Coach Ledford as I watched them shoulder a difficult burden in accepting the outcome. If there ever were two games which didn’t have a “loser,” it was both that game and the 2A Championship which saw Beechwood win on a blocked PAT on the game’s last play against Lexington Christian Academy (LCA).
Anyway, watching Justin’s triumph, and Glenn and William’s reaction to it, made me think about cousin Bill, his list of greats, and my own tiny burg in the middle of nowhere many, many miles from my Appalachia home. Somewhere, there is a list of Breathitt Countians who have done well. Somewhere, there is a custodian over this list.
Justin Haddix is certainly on the list. If he were not on it before last night, and I strongly suggest he was, then he is certainly on it now. I believe both Glenn Gross and William Long are on it too. They both would be if I were the list's caretaker, as would be my wife, Bebe, my daughter, Caroline, and my son, Jack Whaley.
What about me? Am I on the list?
That’s not for me to answer. Maybe, one day, I will be; maybe, one day soon.
This is Fletcher Long and you can take this for whatever you find it worth, but THAT’S THE LONG VERSION!