Monthly Archives

September 2017

DHS Classmates

Fathers & Sons

September 24, 2017

Jeffrey, to the right.

Pics of Jalen Spriggins that will make you smile!

My father, Steve Tackett, died one year ago today due to liver failure caused by Stage IV cancer.  He breathed his last as my son and I were landing at Hobby Airport in an effort for Camden to see him one last time.  I had been saying goodbye for almost nine months.  A big thank you to Allen and Tre Cage, who allowed me to work remotely for over two months so I could be with my Dad off and on over the last eight months of his life.

How does one best pay tribute to his father’s memory?  I hope at some level my life is a reflection of what I learned in my Dad’s dying days.

___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Unless you’ve continued to live in the Dickinson area, are related or have remained a rabid Gator fan, chances are that you won’t recognize the young man in the pictures.  If you look to the left in the parents’ night picture, a face you recognize will emerge.

I had originally intended a post exclusively on Jalen Spriggins to post on his first day of college.  Hurricane Harvey ruined that plan.  I’ve since been looking for the right time and here it is – the one year anniversary of Big Steve’s death.

Jalen was the recipient of a scholarship this year in my Dad’s name.  That might lead you to believe that someone in my family had come up with that idea.  Let’s just say it was a member of my extended family.  Karen Beauchaw reached out to Stephanie, Maryann, and I earlier this Spring.  She had learned of a hard-working, smart young man soon to be a graduate of DHS who needed some help to attend UTSA.  She wanted to provide him the financial assistance he needed and put the scholarship in my Dad’s name.

This was an easy cause to get behind.  The fact is that I had received a scholarship from local businessmen in the Dickinson community that allowed me to attend the college I wanted to attend.  It was now my time to give back.

This blog was the perfect excuse for me to satisfy my curiosity about Jalen, so I reached out to him.  The results of that call revealed three things: 1) a case of mistaken identity; 2) my limitations as an interviewer and conversationalist; and 3) a worthy recipient of a scholarship with Steve Tackett’s name on it.

Let’s start with the mix up…When I saw the “Spriggins” name, I knew the family.  Somewhere along the way, some relayed that Jalen was the son of Troy Spriggins, a former Gator football star.  That made sense.  I’d worked at the Dickinson School Dept. with Troy and liked him.  I had once witnessed Troy perform an act of superhuman strength unloading pallets of paper from a box truck.  The idea that his son would be a starting H-Back for DHS just made sense…except it wasn’t true.

Naturally, the first thing I asked Jalen when I got him on the phone was about his father, which veered in a different direction when he explained his dad had played baseball, not football.  Jalen’s dad was Jeffrey Spriggins, fellow graduate of class of ’89!

The interview was pretty short.  It reminded me of some of the conversations I had through the years with his dad, Jeffrey.  Jalen’s a man of few words.  Very polite, accommodating, genuine, and sincere.  He’d answer any question I asked, I just needed to ask the right question. Interviewing Jalen was a job for Darlene Powell Price, not me.

Here’s what I learned in the half hour we spent together.  Jalen’s interested in study political science, business, and pre-med.  He chose UTSA because it wasn’t too close, nor too far away.  He might walk-on in the Spring to play football, but he had to establish himself as a student first.  Jalen was a kid who chose good friends and stayed away from trouble.  And, yes, he knew Troy, Archie, and Stanley, among others.  I wished I’d asked him if he knew Cain and Marcus and some of the guys with whom Jeffrey enjoyed playing baseball.

I came away feeling really good about Jalen and his future.

The story doesn’t end there, though.  The elder Steve Tackett’s death was the biggest driver of my blog, gatorsonlylater.com (GOL).  Through this blog and social media, I have reconnected with dozens of my former classmates and kept tabs on hundreds of others.  The best part is that other people have reported similar experiences through GOL.  It’s amazing what I have learned about shared memories through the lenses of adulthood’s life lessons.  Thanks to each of you who have participated or gone along for the ride.

More specifically, GOL led me to Kathy Rose.  We bonded over cancer.  Kathy shared her writing with me.  We somehow became closer than we ever were as kids.  Because of Kathy, I had the opportunity to learn how to fund raise (hint: find a cause or person in need people care about, then get Kendal Smith Lake and John Scarborough to make inspiring videos).

GOL and my time in Dickinson reconnected me with Karen Beauchaw.  I could never say “no” to anything Karen or her husband, Wayne, ever asked of me.  That led me to helping Jalen but it also set me on a path of learning about scholarships for high school seniors (and, how if you don’t have a foundation organizing the activity, you better be on top of your game).

Harvey came.  I was watching my hometown succumb to the floods in real-time, thanks to CNN, The Weather Channel, and social media.  Then, the most amazing thing happened…GATA spirit took over.  Dickinson was no longer a town of black, brown, and white.  Instead, it was what I remembered – a town and a team where everyone was blue and white with a little red trim (stole that straight from the Dub Farris playbook).

Then came a late night text message from Allison Farris Fox.  Along with Allison and two big-hearted former teammates (Eric Driskell and Bernie Smiley), I’ve been able to take the lessons I’ve learned in 2017 and apply them to the “Adopt A Gator” campaign, raising money so needy DHS students harmed by Harvey’s devastation could continue their college dreams.

In summary, this post was intended to be about Jalen Spriggins and his father, Jeffrey.  As you can see, though, it’s just as much about me and my Dad.  As I reflect on the past year, the impact it’s had on me, and the goodness that has somehow flowed from such a hurtful event, I now know his death was not in vain.  As much of an old school hardass as he could be, I know he’d be proud.

The happiest picture I have of my Dad, bottom left; of course, it was taken when he was a Gator coach!

 

DHS Classmates

The Helpers

September 18, 2017

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ ”― Fred Rogers

This past week, my hometown flooded. Hurricane Harvey crashed into the Texas Gulf Coast, and inundated Dickinson, Texas with water. I awoke Sunday morning to urgent texts from my brother, who is currently living in Korea, demanding to know what was happening with my parents. I quickly logged onto Facebook to see childhood friends posting desperate pleas for help and devastating photos of the rapidly rising water.

I finally did hear from my parents. Mom was safe at a a church retreat further inland. My brother, who was visiting my parents, was also safe at a friend’s house. And Dad, too, was safe on the second floor of their home.

Their home – my home for much of my childhood and all of my adolescence. It was a home that, despite being a few blocks from a bayou and despite weathering numerous storms, had not flooded in the decades we had lived there. That home was knee-deep in water and the rain was still coming, and high tide hadn’t hit.

From the safe distance of 2000+ miles (3500+ km), I watched as my hometown flooded. Dickinson was one of the hardest hit communities early on in Harvey’s path, and thus received much media attention. I obsessed over news reports and social media posts about the flood. I felt so helpless and powerless seeing people I love and care about losing so much and in peril of their lives. I actually felt physically ill when friends posted requests for evacuations from rooftops or desperate pleas for somebody to check on their aging parents with whom they had not had contact. By the time I saw familiar images of my youth – now underwater – flashing on international news stories, I was numb.

Hurricanes and floods. These aren’t new experiences for me. Growing up on the Gulf Coast, they were so much a part of my experience that my friends and I often played “Hurricane” – a game where we saved all of our stuffed animals from crashing waves and rising waters. I’ve lived through my share of storms. And as a pastor, I’ve had the opportunity to reflect on the devastation of such storms from a theological perspective. So, when faced with this disaster from afar, I turned to some of my writings from the past for comfort.

I pulled out the article I wrote after spending a summer in Nicaragua, observing reconstruction efforts after Hurricane Mitch. I pulled out the reflections written after Tropical Storm Allison when I was serving as a chaplain in a flooded hospital in the Texas Medical Center. And I pulled out the sermon I preached the Sunday after Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans, a sermon congregants said was one of the best I’d preached. But none of these comforted me. Reflections on God’s presence in the midst of disaster did not ease my anxiety. Contemplating the various images of water throughout the Hebrew and Christian scriptures did nothing to abate the dread swelling in my spirit.

But I did find consolation. Surprisingly, it came from the same source as my anguish. It came in my obsessing over social media. It came from the responsive actions of my hometown, in images of care and concern from my people.

– There is the woman, two classes behind me in school (and Sunday School), who was out in her inflatable kayak for days getting people out of their homes (her boat could get places where bigger boats could not). Oh, and she had a sprained wrist through it all.

– There is the woman, whose mom drove me to school every day of sophomore year, who coordinated boats up and down various streets of Dickinson. The U.S. Coast Guard was asking her where to go!

– There is the man, who was a dishwasher at the seafood restaurant where I bussed tables when I was 15, who was out on his boat, rescuing people from rooftops and second floor windows.

– There is the woman, from my 8th-grade soccer team (we were Bay Area Champions!), who now lives in Sweden, who was coordinating rescue efforts via social media, matching evacuation requests with boats available.

– There is my cousin, who closed his restaurant to the public but still worked with the employees (those able to come in) to make meals for shelters and first responders.

– And there is my dad, who opened his home to neighbours from single-story homes, providing shelter to multiple dogs, grown-ups, and kids, including a two-week-old baby.

– The list goes on…

The above quote from Mr. Rogers has long been meaningful for me. I’ve quoted it in papers and sermons. And “looking for helpers” has often been a solace for me in the face disasters and devastations. But this time, when disaster struck home, when I looked for helpers in response to the flooding in Dickinson, I didn’t see anonymous heroes. Instead, I saw people I have known for decades. I saw lifelong friends. I could not have been more comforted or proud.

A few days ago, Susan Cook, the kid sister of my high school friend / choir rival Diane, took this photo of the flooded sanctuary of Faith Lutheran Church in Dickinson. It’s striking, the image of Jesus reflected in the flood waters. What’s more striking for me is the image of Jesus reflected in the faces of Dickinson – helpers, heroes, volunteers, victims, survivors, supporters, family, and friends.

 

Rev. Rachel Frey

Edmonton, AB

DHS Classmates

Adopt A Gator Now!

September 11, 2017

 

Allison’s dream, as it was first shared with me…by my sister!

Calling in the calvary – the DHS Alumni group

 

 

To donate to the “Adopt A Gator” campaign follow this link: 

https://www.com.edu/giving/adoptagator 

 

The last time I saw Allison (Farris) Fox was in May of 2010.  Before that, I’d met her for either dinner or lunch in the Spring of 1993 in San Antonio right before I graduated from college.  Before that…High school graduation?  Her parents packed up and moved to San Antonio shortly thereafter.  Allison and I were probably closest…when we were in fifth grade. 

So when my older sister Stephanie passed on a Facebook Messenger message from Allison to me late Friday night a week and a half ago, I was a little surprised.  Or should I say “terrified”? 

Allison had a big idea.  She’d already enlisted Eric Driskell, a.k.a. Cat Daddy.  Allison knew Cat wouldn’t be able to say “no” to helping the people of Dickinson.  Now she wanted my help.  Her vision was to raise money so that students of cash strapped families in Dickinson recovering from Hurricane Harvey could still attend college.

 

I was immediately overcome with a wave of nausea.  I tossed and turned and didn’t sleep that night.  This is how I react when I know I have to do something hard that I’m not sure I can do. 

The following day, I pulled in two key resources.  The first was Karen Beauchaw, who runs the DHS Alumni group.   She was my neighbor growing up.  Karen and her husband, Wayne, were surrogate parents to me.  I knew she would help, although I didn’t know exactly what I was asking for.   It was Karen who captured Allison’s vision into a perfect sound byte – “Adopt A Gator”. 

I then reached out to Bernie Smiley.  Since Bernie agreed to be interviewed for my blog, I’m pretty sure we’ve interacted more since than we ever did as kids.  Bernie is a professor at College of the Mainland (COM).  He could validate Allison’s vision and maybe give me some ideas.  He had spent the earlier part of the week ripping up carpets in his home in League City but was now driving to a nostalgic concert in Nacogdoches when he took my call. 

Bernie’s take was that it was a GREAT idea and that, in fact, he had planned to challenge his department to donate to a similarly aimed COM scholarship.  He began talking to me enthusiastically about the kids we could help and the different possibilities across different programs.  His passion for the idea was on par with his passion for music, which, if you know him at all, is saying something! 

Less than a week after Allison first reached out to Eric and I, we had a functioning web page that laid out what we were doing and why and could accept “Adopt A Gator” donations to College of the Mainland.  The “Adopt A Gator” campaign accepted its first “word of mouth” donations over the weekend!  Tomorrow September 12th, we launch “Adopt A Gator” in earnest. 

With that in mind, I’d like to explain what we’ve done and why… 

First, pictures are worth more than words.  You can hear Allison speak about this project, follow this link:

https://linksharing.samsungcloud.com/1505236830824CKMEcJq

“Adopt A Gator” is a fundraising campaign that is entirely focused on helping Dickinson students adversely effected by Harvey and enrolled at DHS in 2017-2018 attain their education goals exclusively through COM.  “Adopt A Gator” is not its own foundation.   

The team (Allison, Eric, Bernie, and I) emphasized 1) getting something in place quickly and 2) providing financial aid for college to as many as possible of the DHS students who needed it most.  In other words, our mission and COM’s capabilities were a natural match. 

In addition, we could leverage COM’s foundation such that all the proceeds of your donations went directly to funding students’ education.  We were not required to cover any administrative expenses, which often run as high as 10%; COM leverages their existing staff to run their foundation for “free”.  Even if you pay with a credit or debit card, the full amount you donate goes into the scholarship fund. 

Furthermore, we could establish the criteria for who received awards, as well as name the group of people to review and score applications to the “Adopt A Gator” fund.  Bernie Smiley is leading that team!  Bernie is the perfect choice – he has dedicated his career to helping these types of students. 

Students will be eligible for awards across three different COM programs: 

  • Full-time COM => high school graduates who enroll at COM 
  • Dual Credit => high school sophomores, juniors, and seniors that can rack up 30+ hours of college credits for which they also get credits toward their high school graduation; if fully leveraged, may reduce four year college costs by as much as 25% at a fraction of the cost 
  • Collegiate High School =>motivated high school juniors and senior who can attain an associate’s degree from COM before they graduate from HS; may reduce four year college costs by 50% 

Each of us is funding a scholarship and we challege you to join us!  We are excited to do this for our community in a time of need!  Give if you can, especially if you were fortunate enough to be outside Harvey’s path of destruction.  Here’s the link: 

https://www.com.edu/giving/adoptagator 

You’ll be hearing from us…G.A.T.A Gators! 

DHS Classmates

That Time My Hometown Went Underwater As I Watched From The Other Side of the World

September 6, 2017

It’s too early to try to get first hand accounts of Harvey.  I did ask some people who had the same experience I had – watching on TV and social media – to share about their experience.  This from Jeremy Parks, who lives in an undisclosed location somewhere in Asia.

Bean-Head Tackett, as usual, has bitten off more than he alone can swallow; now he wants the rest of us to chew. If the communal response to the tragedy in Texas has taught us anything, it should be that some things do indeed take a village to accomplish.

Good call, Stephen.

I’m one of those living too far away to help (Asia), and I am too disconnected from local residents to coordinate rescues or services. I’ve been gone too long and possess few local ties. Instead, I bit my fingernails and hit “reload” on half a dozen webpages, including Facebook.

My sister, class of ’87, works at a group home. She pulled an extra-long shift on the 24th/25th, went home for a nap, and returned Saturday morning around 9. Her replacement could not arrive, so she stayed through the storm and returned home some time on Monday. Her wards were content and fairly unaware of the tumult outside, knowing only that the usual schedule was not being followed.

Her son remained stuck at a friend’s place, having watched Mayweather outclass McGregor before realizing he had no way home. The rest of my sister’s family watched the waters rise near their home in Alvin.

We both tried to figure out what was up with Dad.
As morbid as it sounds, I’m glad Mom wasn’t here for Harvey. Her electric wheelchair could be charged up, but the hospital bed and electric Hoyer lift for moving her around required an active plug. The prospect of no power for days on end and floodwater sweeping around a woman he could not carry would have sent my father over the edge. As it stood, Dad simply had to worry about himself and his home of 48 years or so; one which has never flooded despite its proximity to Dickinson Bayou.

Dad hears less than I do, and lacks a smartphone, so we don’t call and can’t text.  He spends no time on Facebook. The only way to get news was to hope he would stop flood-proofing long enough to check his email; it didn’t happen. The second-best approach was to ask his relatively new neighbors. They bought the house from one of those neighborhood friends you never really miss once they move and turned out to be God-sent. Literally.

They and Dad hunkered down together, watching the waterline. They –thankfully – had iMessage and Facebook and were young enough to know how to use them. Through them, Sister and I kept tabs on Dad’s stress levels and eating habits.

He came through OK. My sister got water in her car, though I think it will come out fine.

Second to worrying about my father, the most stressful thing for me was the sheer helplessness. I could do nothing about floods and winds; I simply wanted to help. Asking me to watch events unfold and do nothing to help is roughly akin to asking your grandma not to rock a baby. I had to watch other fire up the boats, form human chains, swap addresses and phone numbers for those needing help. Even now I’m watching others gut houses and carry food; all I can do is send money, and count my blessings.

DHS Classmates

Blog, Interrupted

September 1, 2017

“I couldn’t just sit there and watch it on TV anymore.  I had to do something.” – anonymous Galvestonian citizen rescuer, who braved the storm in his john boat to pull families out of the water in Dickinson

 

One of the unintended consequences of being the father of a one week year old infant is that you are awake throughout the night and learning in real-time the devastation of Harvey to your hometown, even though you’re 2000 miles away safely in your bed.

Natural disasters in Galveston County are not new or novel.  We grew up with severe weather.  What can be said is that this storm was unique for a couple of reasons.  First, there are neighborhoods Dickinson that have historically been impervious to previous storms; they “bend but don’t break”.  Maybe the streets flood, you lose a shingle or two, or you lose electricity, but water never enters the house.  From all accounts, this storm was different.  This FB post this AM from Jenni Martin Fairbanks:

Jenni Martin Fairbanks added 2 new photos.

9 hrs · Houston, TX ·

I just learned that my childhood home in Dickinson flooded, and I’m bawling. We never flooded when I lived there. I watched it come inches from our front door once when I was in the 6th grade, but we were spared (random rain storm – not even a hurricane) – quite frankly we were spared by Mother Nature many a time. We are no longer the owners of this house, but my family owned it from the time it was built in 1977 until around 2008 or 2009 when my sister and her family moved. I hope whoever owns this house knows what a place of love it was. I’ve been listening to Miranda Lambert’s song “The House That Built Me” lately as I process why it hurts so much to see my hometown flooded. Dickinson made me the woman I am today, and I am proud. The walls of this house witnessed many a tear, much laughter as well as the mundane day to day happenings. My momma took her last breath in this house – unexpectedly. She was my very best friend, and the pain of her loss is deeper than words can describe. Lots of the big things of my life happened in this place. My momma and daddy loved me well on Thornwood Circle. I will forever have a sting in my bones when I see this house and the landmarks of this town. I hope whoever lives here in this house carries on the deep family tradition of love, commitment, and service to make this world a better place. I wish them well in these days of horrendous Hurricane Harvey. (P.s. That open window in this pic was my bedroom). Lynda Amason Pat Orrill Tamberlyn DeAnn Genevieve Foster Meador Shannon McGlothlin – my forever neighbors:)

 

The second reason Harvey was different was the coverage.  FB was dominated by posts on Harvey both from inside and outside the effected area.  Somehow, people were able to keep their phones charged and use them to provide those of us connecting to them through social media images and commentary of what they were experiencing firsthand.  The mainstream media and networks also featured round the clock coverage of Dickinson.  Specifically, watching CNN and especially The Weather Channel (TWC) made Dickinson appear to be the epicenter of storm damage.  TWC spent most of Sunday following a reporter first on a flatbed truck and later in a boat as his team cruised up and down 517, Deats, Hwy 3, and Spruce, Lobit, and Maple Drives.  On Sunday, I remarked to Kyle Gupton on FB that TWC cameras and reporters kept floating by the home he grew up in and which his mother still resides.  Shortly thereafter, Kyle posted this (you can see that he’s watching from the Seattle area because of the “Bothell today note in far left hand corner:

 

Kyle Gupton

August 27 at 2:33pm ·

That’s our house on the right.

 

 

The effect on those of us watching from outside the range of the storm is that you felt like you were there experiencing the storm firsthand but unable to help.  Read this exchange between Rachel Frey and Kyle Gupton:

 

Rachel Frey‎ to Kyle Gupton

August 30 at 6:40am ·

How is your mom doing? How are you doing? Watching from afar, while not the same as being in the flood waters, is traumatic in its own way. Peace to you?

Comments

Kyle Gupton Thanks Rachel. She’s okay as can be. Safe at least but worried about the future. I’m pretty much the same. Watching from afar is definitely traumatic in its own way. I’ve never wanted to be in a disaster zone so much in my life.

 

Here’s the amazing thing.  The whole experience conjures the opening line of Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities: “it was the best of times; it was the worst of times.”  As we watched the stunning loss and heartbreak of our community and then the volunteers on the ground rescuing survivors, our classmates mobilized.  Some like Rachel Frey, Emily Clock, and Ann Bell Worsley were using FB and their cell phones to guide people to assistance and provide Public Service Announcements (PSA).  Others were out in boats saving people.  You couldn’t help but feel the teamwork and pride, even 2000 miles away.  It’s still going, as I can see Sonja Faul Blinka and Michelle Hathway Martin delivering food to former classmate, Brian Moss and his family.  The energy hasn’t dissipated…GATA Gators!

 

This post will likely be the first of many about events and people surround the “500 year storm” named Harvey.  Candidly, there are better people to tell this tale.  People who were there.  I’m looking for your contributions.  Please reach out to me, whether it be with your story or pointing me to the hurt or heroism of someone we mutually know.

 

Here’s what I’ve sketched out for the upcoming weeks, although not necessarily in this order:

  • Cries for Help => people using social media to get assistance for their trapped loved ones
  • Bearing Witness => those who provided video and commentary from voices we trust
  • The Connectors => those who set about using their phones and FB to organize and help
  • The Rescuers => this needs no description
  • My Window into the HEB War Room

 

If you have better ideas, let me hear them.  Let me close with this post from former DHS science teacher and coach, Kurt Olsan:

 

Kurt Olsan

13 hrs ·

Love this town Love the school, Love these coaches, and really Love these kids!