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Fond Remembrances Of Two Grandfathers | By Thad Mumau

When I was growing up, Saturday mornings were special times for me. They were mostly spent with my granddaddy.

My family lived down a dirt road in the woods off of what is now McPherson Church Road – in the country. What is Guy Circle today was a cow pasture back then, and that was behind our house.

Even though I didn’t have to get up for school on Saturday, I still woke early and walked through a thicket of pine trees up to my grandparents’ place. Granddaddy would be waiting for me.

He was a tall, thin, stately man with white hair, and his name was Thad Graham. He was extremely quiet – people said he was that way because he had no choice, the way my grandma talked – but when he spoke, he had plenty to say.

He had an old chicken coop back of his house, and he would take me with him on Saturday mornings to gather eggs. He took his old felt hat off, and we put the eggs in it. Then we threw out grain for the chickens and gave them fresh water. After that, we went in the house and played checkers or rummy.

Now, that might not sound like much to a lot of people, but it was big stuff for a little boy who admired his granddaddy and everything the man did. What memories!

I also remember our phone ringing in the middle of an autumn night and learning the next morning that Granddaddy had died. Saturdays would never be the same.

A dozen years passed, and I graduated from high school and college. And then, miraculously, I adopted a new grandfather. His name was D.T. Carter.

He was coaching football at E.E. Smith High School, and I was a rookie sportswriter covering the high school beat. I instantly liked Coach Carter for the way he coached -- not so much the football, but how to be somebody. He stood for principles and morality, and if any of his Golden Bulls did not reflect those qualities on Friday night, they might as well get used to splinters.

There was a game once in which a certain E.E. Smith running back was ripping off yardage in huge chunks. His halftime stat sheet had record-setting possibilities.

But just before the second-half kickoff, the young man got carried away with himself and boasted to his teammates, using “I” and “me” in great excess. Coach Carter did not say a word. He turned around slowly and simply pointed a finger at the player and then at the bench. No more numbers were added to his stat sheet that night.

You see, D.T. Carter did not care about individual accomplishments. It was the team. He did care about individuals, though, and about the kind of men they would become.

I attended many of E.E. Smith’s football practices, not always because I was working on a story, but just to be around Coach Carter. He stood on the sidelines, with that trademark little plastic-tipped cigar in his mouth, and he saw everything that was going on.

He was kind of like my own granddaddy; he didn’t talk much, but he said a whole lot. Not all of it was about football. And I listened … and learned.

Two of the finest athletes in E.E. Smith history played around that same time. Charles Baggett was a sensational quarterback and Joseph Harris was a hard-hitting linebacker. Both were standout basketball players as well.

They were also fine gentlemen, two young men far beyond their years in the manner they carried and conducted themselves. Baggett and Harris always represented their families, school and community in outstanding fashion.

I am sure much of what they were came from home. I am just as sure Charles and Joseph had a little D.T. in them.

I hope I do, too.