So after finish dressing, we all meet behind the gym, coach blows his whistle, and off we go North towards Oklahoma. After 100 yards there is a fence that has to be crossed, and then about 50 yards further you drop down into a creek bottom. Somewhere around 400 to 500 yards up a long hill, you come to some washed out canyons where the rain, over thousands, or even tens of thousands of years has eroded the soil down forming a system of canyons that in places is up to 10 - 12 feet deep. I can remember going up there when I was a kid, pretending that I was a cowboy, and the Indians were up on top getting ready to attack.I would have to maneuver through the canyons to escape from them, I always got away from them and kept from getting scalped! Man I was one good cowboy. Anyway, the canyons are pretty impressive, especially if you know how hard that panhandle caliche is, then you will understand what I'm talking about.
When we get down in the bottom of the creek bed we figure that we are far enough from the gym that it will be OK to light a our cigarettes. Somebody looks back, no one is at the back watching us. So everybody pulls out their cigarettes and lighters, except for Arnie. That day Arnie doesn't have a lighter, so he pulls out a box of matches, strikes the match, lights his cigarette, and tosses the match away. Now don't get ahead of me. When everybody gets their cigarettes lit, we start running up the hill. When we get up out of the creek bottom we can see that the real runners were already at the top of the hill, which was probably only about a half of a mile away, but it sure looked like it was at least 10 miles up to the top to me. After we had run only about 100 yards we start to hear something behind us. When we turn around and look, yep you guessed it, evidently Arnie's match had not gone out, it had instead caught the grass on fire!
Well what do we do. Do we go back and try to put the fire out, We could all be hero's battling a wildfire with gym shorts and tennis shoes, but if we do that then they will also know who started the fire. So someone hollers, "let's hall butt up to the canyons!" an even better plan in our minds! Everyone ditches their cigarettes and begins running just as fast as they can for the canyons, figuring that we can hide out in them. So, we reach the canyons in what had to be world record time( if they would have kept that sort of thing) and we duck off into one of the gulleys. "Oh man what are we going to do now" someone asks. "Well we wait here until the guys that run all the way come back by, and then we will follow in behind them and run back to the gym, just like nothing happened!" Except for the fire this plan is sounding better all the time. After a little while we can hear the fire whistle in town going off. We are all peeking around the edge of a gulley watching down the hill to where the fire is burning. In a few minutes we see the first fire truck arrive and start putting water on the fire.
After what seemed like hours some of the guys that had run all the way started coming back by. We knew that we all couldn't just jump in there with those guys, or coach would know that we hadn't ran the entire distance, and if we hadn't run the entire distance we were probably responsible for the fire. So while we stood there waiting we began thinking, what if when we get back to the gym they want to search us to see who might have matches, or a lighter on them. Somebody says, hey lets leave our cigarettes and lighters here. We can always come back later and get them. We all find little hiding places for our stuff, and then one by one we take off back down the hill to the gym.As we are heading back we can see the fire trucks running through the smoke, the emergency lights on the tops of the trucks spinning. We were all wondering just how much trouble we were going to be in. How many days suspension would we get, how many laps of bleachers would we have to run, and would our butts be able to take all of the licks we were going to get before we would get out of this !
By the time we got to the bottom of the hill the Fire Department had finished putting the fire put out, but we would have to run around the burned out area, we sure didn't want to get our shoes dirty! As we came around the end of the fire line, there was the Fire Chief standing there, and he had this look on his face, you know the one like he knew exactly what had started the fire, and exactly who the guys were that were responsible.I'm pretty sure he didn't really know, but it sure seemed like it. We ran by him trying to act like we didn't have a clue as to what was going on. When we got back to the gym coach was standing there, but we all had just the right amount of sweat on us, and we are out of breath just enough. Coach never said anything, now I am really starting to think, hey this is gonna work! None of us bothered with taking a shower that day. We just got our street clothes on, and got the heck out of there! We all figured that the faster we got out of there the better chance we had of not getting into trouble. To this day I don't think anyone ever did get into trouble over that fire, but I do know that I never did have to run to the State line again!