The week after our Houn’ Dawgs brought home back to back Baseball Class 4 championship titles back to Aurora, I am still basking in the glow of their amazing season that ended Saturday, June 2, in O’ Fallon.
I am thankful for being a lifelong Houn' Dawg. I can't imagine being anything else. The adage, ONCE A HOUN' DAWG, ALWAYS A HOUN' DAWG holds true.
Several of you have heard my stories about the history of the Houn’ Dawg, my own family’s journey to Aurora from northwest Arkansas after World War II and how the course of that fateful decision has deep roots that have grown tenacity, determination and loyalty in our blood.
My Mom, Dad and sister moved to Aurora in 1950 for a better life. Coming from Arkansas- -- where they had both farmed -- they had heard there were good jobs here. Faye and Stan Estes arrived in downtown Aurora on a train and lived in a hotel until they could find a home to rent with Kate Lehman, a teacher here. Mama always laughed and said their goal was to get jobs, get rich and return to Arkansas.
My parents' first date was to a basketball game. Daddy would coach, play, listen to or watch any kind of contest or game that came within the reach of Lowell School’s basketball court, White Park, the Aurora Armory, Kelley Field, a transistor radio or his black and white television set.
That would set the tone for what our lives would entail here in Aurora -- where my dad, brother, brother-in-law, sister, son, nephews, nieces, etc. and the rest of us have marched, coached, played and cheered at thousands of events supporting Aurora and representing the Houn' Dawgs. It never gets old. I get goosebumps at the old armory, Kelley Field and White Park -- as I recall the names, the faces, the uniforms and the wins and losses in those familiar places.
I recall the long line of folks who taught us what being a Houn' Dawg meant -- people like Dewey Pennell, Junior Waggoner, Ed Cook, Craig Weldy, Fred Baum and Jim Newbold -- who would become just like family. They taught us to hold our heads up, give everything our best shot, to never quit and to embrace the idea that we are as good as anyone else.
The history of that unique mascot has its roots in World War I -- where the first dog's name was Winston. He would be buried with full military rights -- long after returning home with those soldiers.
I met a man a couple of years ago at a Civil Rights Institute in Birmingham, Alabama. He became my Facebook pal as we are both educators and like to share information from time to time about other workshops and opportunities. He posted last week that he loved watching all of the Aurora news about the Houn’ Dawgs and said if he could choose any other place (besides where he lives) to coach, teach, live, work and play, he would choose Aurora, because being a Houn’ Dawg seemed like the best thing ever. I messaged David Green and told him I was making him an honorary Houn’ Dawg as we speak. What a great compliment that was for our school and our town.
Yes, my parents are both gone, but they did get rich here. They taught us the value of being rich in love, rich in friendship and RICH in embracing ALL THINGS HOUN' DAWG. For that, I remain eternally grateful.
These 2018 baseball players made me remember the Houn’ Dawg story and my own Houn’ Dawg journey once again. Thanks, Coach James Hoffman and your crew of assistants and players, for putting Aurora on the map once again. Congratulations on another state title. We are honored to have been part of your journey.