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Great article about the cheerleading debate [“Flipping Out,” October 2005]. All I can say is this: It’s funny that the legislators mention “more of our young girls getting pregnant in middle and high school, dropping out of school, having babies,” when it’s the young ladies on the cheerleading squads who are, in reality, setting a good example for the other girls in school. Practicing their routines before and after school, exercising to stay in shape for their Friday night performances, studying late at night to keep their grades up so they can stay on the squad. How do they have time to “cut off their life at a youthful age”?
What the legislators should focus on is getting parents more involved in their kids’ education. If parents are paying attention to whom their kids are hanging out with and not just letting them police themselves after school, then this would not be a problem. Regardless of the cure, cheerleaders and their routines are not the cause of these ills.
Wheel of Fortune
Bravo! You did a superb job of capturing the flavor of both the town and the era, as well as the impact of the accident, in “Wheel in the Sky” [October 2005]. When I finished reading it, I somehow felt more at peace with it all than I ever have. You seemed to have applied some healing balm. It is my heartfelt wish that others involved will feel the same effect.
Fort Smith, Arkansas
I took a special interest in your piece about Memphis because in the photo of the marching band, my mother, Katherine Wright Reeves, is the drum major. My sister called early one morning to tell me to grab a copy, and after seeing the photo, I was quickly drawn into the whole article and read it in its entirety in the parking lot of Albertsons.
I spent a lot of time in Memphis when I was a kid. Both sides of my family originated there, and the main drag, Noel Street, was named for my great-great-grandfather. My grandmother was the Hall County treasurer, and I thought spending a weekend with her in Memphis and hanging out at the courthouse was sheer bliss. I grew up in neighboring Wellington, which is much the same but a little less edgy. Memphis to me was kind of a Peyton Place. And as a high school male seeking greener grass, the Memphis girls with their bleach-blond hair, heavy eyeliner, and wild ways were quite alluring.
In some ways, Memphis is even more interesting as a ruin, even though it would please me to no end to see life come back there. The problem with today’s life, though, is that it brings strip malls, fast food, and ugly houses. Having missed out on the prosperity of the past several decades, the fine old brick buildings of Memphis and other area towns, though tattered, have an air of dignity and grace about them so absent in our twenty-first-century environment. Despite a worn appearance and apparent absence of life, there is a vitality in places like Memphis that isn’t visible at first glance. Life is reduced to simple things, and largely it’s about helping one another and surviving on a small plot of earth that is unlike any other in the universe.
Even so, I believe you expertly perceived that pall of decline that has fallen over the town. People don’t expect much anymore, and that’s a shame. Maybe Memphis’s time will come again, or maybe it will crumble back into the red earth from which it sprang. Either way, it will always be one of the most interesting places I have ever visited.
I greatly enjoyed your article on the Von Erich family [“Six Brothers,” October 2005]. I have many fond memories of growing up in Denton in the eighties and playing “Von Erichs” with my friends. Many arguments and scuffles resulted from disputes over who got to be Kerry or Kevin. Interestingly, the topic of wrestling (and especially the Von Erich family) was the greatest (and perhaps only) shared interest between my grandmother and me during those years. Their appeal spanned generations.
When I was nine years old, my parents woke me up one Saturday morning and asked me a question I’ll never forget: “If there was one person in the world you could meet today, who would it be?” I answered, as any Southern kid trying to impress his evangelical parents would, “Jesus.” After my parents came down from their laughter, they said, “All right, who’s the second person you would want to meet today?” I innocently replied, “Kerry Von Erich.” And off we went to a hole-in-the-wall convenience store in Saginaw or Denton or Decatur—I don’t remember. All I remember is waiting in line for more than six hours to meet Kerry himself. My dad got the chance to pull Fritz Von Erich aside and tell him about my honest answer to their question that morning, and Fritz made a point to have Kerry single me out. That’s what they were back then—practically Biblical characters. Bigger than the Cowboys, bigger than politicians. They were celebrities among celebrities.
What’s funny is, just about everyone who was a fan of World Class Championship Wrestling considers himself an expert on the subject. But reading your article, I learned more than I ever knew. I never knew Kerry had a prosthetic foot after that accident. I never knew Dave killed himself. I thought he was the one that died “innocently” (I wonder now if my parents sugarcoated the story so I wouldn’t be confused as a little boy). I also never knew there was a younger son who died in a puddle of melted snow.
The picture of Kevin is so striking. You can almost read every sad story in his expression. It’s good to know he is doing well. I hope he knows that people around the world genuinely care about his well-being. I can’t imagine another human-interest story where more Dallasites, Texans, Japanese, Israelis, and sports fans around the world are rooting for a happy ending (I suddenly have an interest in Denton Ryan football).
I won’t call them heroes; that word gets overused. But when I rank them just below Jesus, they must be something special.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Mimi Swartz’s November 2005 tort reform story [“Hurt? Injured? Need a Lawyer? Too Bad!”] generated a vigorous response from our readers, but nothing matched, in depth or decibel level, the correspondence we received from Texans for Lawsuit Reform. We’ll publish the organization’s rebuttal to our story, along with our response to its letter, in our January 2006 issue.