LSS: Believing in Golden Chickens

A golden chicken defined my childhood.
The Golden Chicken, in fact.
I grew up in a place where chickens – very ungolden ones – ruled the roost.
In those days, processing chickens was the only industry, and growing
chickens was the primary agricultural endeavor in Scott County,
Mississippi.
In that sense, times haven’t changed much. Chickens are still the
driving force of the local economy. And, the Golden Chicken still
matters.
From my childhood perspective, it made complete sense to me that the
two biggest high schools in the county, Forest and Morton, played the
final football game of the season – and the winner of said game went
home with the spoils.
And the spoils, of course, were The Golden Chicken.
It was right that the school superintendent, a serious and
distinguished man named L.O. Atkins, started the Forest pep rally
holding the Golden Chicken and recounting his morning conversation
with said chicken. The Golden Chicken always started with, “Hello,
L.O.”
All of that was just the way it was supposed to be.
Questioning anything related to The Golden Chicken, even now, seems
near sacrilege.
With a faith I suppose is the essence of childhood, I believed in the
mystique and power of the Golden Chicken, sort of like a person
believes in God.
Every game was important. Since my dad was the coach, our family’s
mood was set by how 25 or so high school boys performed under the
lights on a Friday night.
Victories were sweet.
Losses were humbling and sorrowful.
It was Mudville, and there was no joy when Mighty Casey struck out.
I remember losing and thinking, “Somewhere bands are playing and
somewhere hearts are light.”
I remember winning and not thinking. I remember running. In total
euphoria. Middle of the field. Everyone hugging. Pom-poms glittering.
Trombones sliding. Football players dancing.
And at the center of it all, my dad.
With a smile that could stop time.
There is nothing like waking up on a Saturday morning after your team
wins one of those games. It’s a rare “All is right with the world”
feeling.
Don’t get me wrong. Life is good now. But, how I wish I could wake up
on any given Saturday and feel that way again.
Forest and Morton.
Place names that resonate to the depths of my soul.
Each of those games mattered to everyone who mattered to me.
The word rival doesn’t begin to explain the relationship between
Forest and Morton.
The importance of that game went beyond a coach keeping his job. It
was about happiness, in general. It was about personal conviction.
Like believing could make a difference.
Maybe it did.
Decades later, I remember the scores of specific Forest-Morton games.
22-20.
10-7.
I remember particular plays. I remember double, even triple overtimes.
By the time you read this, one of those two teams will be basking in
the thrill of victory for another year. On Friday night, the Golden
Chicken went home to roost once again.

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