Tuesday’s Tune: “Back on the Chain Gang”

learningtocrawlTuesday, it’s almost over. But, there’s enough time remaining on the clock for a Tuesday’s Tune post.

It’s been a full day. I’ve been pushing my kids at school in history and science. In history, we’re covering the period immediately before the Declaration of Independence and the American Revolution. In my science class, I tossed six pop cans in a bin of water and asked students to explain why some float and some sink. They’re vexed. I stayed late to work on grading and arrived home long enough to take the trash out before heading off to a scout meeting.

one Coca-Cola can floats, the other sinks, why?
one Coca-Cola can floats, the other sinks, why?

This past weekend heavy thunderstorms rolled through the area Friday afternoon. Friday night is football night, at least for the next five weeks. The rain wasn’t enough to stop W’s football game, but the lightning was and it pushed W’s game from Friday night to Saturday night.

W’s football team was playing a school from my school district and I knew, or had taught, several of the players, when they were in middle school.

I signed up to work the chain gang – the group of men who work the yard markers during the game. I worked the ‘chain gang’ the first home football game of the season – the game we won and it was fun. It’s an interesting perspective being on the sideline during a football game, especially on the visiting team’s side.

my view from the sidelines - the chain gang is up close
my view from the sidelines – the chain gang is up close

There are four of us on the chain gang. One person manages the down marker that also doubles as the line of scrimmage marker – from where the ball snapped and put into play. Two others manage the ‘chain’ two markers linked with a ten-yard chain – the distance needed for a first down. Then, there was me, I ran the clip, or the marker, that would be used if the game officials needed to measure for a first down. My job was to move the clip every time the chain was moved for a first down or change of possession. And, of course watch the game without with rooting for the Tigers.

It was a tense game and the teams were evenly matched for the first quarter, then it began to unravel for the Tigers. It was 0-14 at the half and 0-21 before the Tigers scored. 14 points was as close as they got and they fell to the Wildcats 14-28. During the game, I recognized several players along the sidelines – we spoke, had a brief conversations and exchanged handshakes. I did recognize another person, and it turned out he was working as an volunteer assistant coach as college freshman – he was also a former student – from that class that prompted me to start this blog over five years ago.

When I walked up to him on the sidelines, I asked, “Jimmy?”

He responded, “Mr. Watkins.” Confidently.

We talked briefly and sharing what we were doing and how things had turned out. Things had turned around for the two of us, I became a better teacher and he grew up, like we all do.

It was a short conversation before the second half began.

After the game, he approached me as both teams filed off the field and we shared another laugh. He asked if he could take a photo with me, I was honored and I asked if I could take a photo with him – it’s below.

me and my student, Jimmy after the game
me and my student, Jimmy

It was a good night, if you put aside the football game.

I’ve been thinking about that exchange ever since.

Several weeks ago, I was downstairs working and watching CBS Sunday Morning. A story came on – it was about Chrissie Hynde, the lead singer for the 80s rock band, The Pretenders. The story took me back to my youth – the early ‘80s, when I was like my student, Jimmy. The world was full of possibilities.

The English writer George Bernard Shaw wrote, that youth is wasted on the young. How true, if I only knew then what I know now, how my life might have been different. It’s a moot point, I am satisfied where I am.

I found a picture of you, oh oh oh oh
What hijacked my world that night
To a place in the past
We’ve been cast out of? Oh oh oh oh
Now we’re back in the fight
We’re back on the train
Oh, back on the chain gang
from “Back on the Chain Gang”

I dug out my vinyl and gave it a spin, I enjoyed it so much, that I ended up downloading the album, Learning to Crawl; “Back on the Chain Gang” is the eighth track, but there some other gems, like “My City was Gone,” “Middle of the Road,” and “Time the Avenger.”

The lyrics are below, as well as the CBS Sunday Morning video, and a music video for the Pretenders and “Back on the Chain Gang.” Enjoy.

It’s been a great day and tomorrow will likely be a million and six times better. It’s Tuesday, at least for a few more minutes and tomorrow is Wednesday, the first day of fall – the days are getting shorter and cooler. It feels right. Making the Days Count, one day at a time.

If you found a picture, where would it take you?

“Back on the Chain Gang”
I found a picture of you, oh oh oh oh
What hijacked my world that night
To a place in the past
We’ve been cast out of? Oh oh oh oh
Now we’re back in the fight
We’re back on the train
Oh, back on the chain gang

A circumstance beyond our control, oh oh oh oh
The phone, the tv and the news of the world
Got in the house like a pigeon from hell, oh oh oh oh
Threw sand in our eyes and descended like flies
Put us back on the train
Oh, back on the chain gang

The powers that be
That force us to live like we do
Bring me to my knees
When i see what they’ve done to you
But I’ll die as I stand here today
Knowing that deep in my heart
They’ll fall to ruin one day
For making us part

I found a picture of you, oh oh oh oh
Those were the happiest days of my life
Like a break in the battle was your part, oh oh oh oh
In the wretched life of a lonely heart
Now we’re back on the train
Oh, back on the chain gang 
lyrics by Chrissie Hynde, performed by The Pretenders

CBS Sunday Morning – Chrissie Hynde, The Pretenders’ voice and soul

Music Video – Back on the Chain Gang

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