(A diversion – the surprising high school football traditions in Luna City. This particular project is coming right along, and may yet be my next book. More chapters are posted at my book website, here.)
The marquee sign outside Luna City High School makes note of the fact that the school is home to the Mighty Fighting Moth Football Team – District Champions – 1967 – 1971 – 1974. That there is only a small space left to insert another champion year or two is clear indication that the Mighty Fighting Moths football coach, school administrators and team boosters have completed their journey through denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and accepted the sure and certain knowledge that there will likely never be another district championship in their future with quiet fortitude. It’s not that the Moths lack heart and determination; players and boosters alike begin each football season in the spirit of game optimism, and in the hope that maybe this year the Karnesville Knights or the Falls City Beavers – which are the two regional football powerhouses and die-hard rivals – will not be able to defeat them 80+ to 6 with the casual absentmindedness of a man swatting a fly while thinking of something important. Texans live for high school football; it is simply the expected thing to do, and Luna-ites are heart and soul Texans, even those who came from somewhere else, like the Walcotts or the Steins, or Chris who bartends and manages the Ice House, Gas & Grocery.
It is simply the Done Thing – although why the Moths have not had a purely winning season in four decades is a matter of passionate discussion at the Café & Coffee, the Icehouse and regular BBQ picnics at the VFW. The usual conclusion is that this is due to the relative shallowness of the bench, as Luna City High School is a relatively small one. However, Dr. Stephen Wyler suspects dark machinations on the part of realtors in Falls City and Karnesville. He is convinced they have carried on a forty-year plot to offer absurdly good deals on residential real estate to families of sturdy youths with good athletic prospects in an organized effort to maintain a large pool of players. Most Moth boosters dismiss that theory, as well as criticism of the Moth’s current coach, Dwight Douglas “Music Man” Garrett, for he has only been coaching for the past decade. His immediate predecessors were renowned coaches of football in the old-school style, and one of them had overseen the Fighting Moth’s last winning streak. Otherwise, it is as much a mystery as the wholly unexplained random disasters which strike the Moth’s homecoming games with disturbing frequency, ensuring that liability insurance for participants and spectators is always paid up.
The Mighty Moth Homecoming game is most usually held in conjunction with Founder’s Day – a local celebration marked by a parade through Luna City led by the Mighty Moth Marching Band, a carnival set up in Town Square, and numerous other events, culminating in a football game on the Luna High School home field. It is a matter of historical record, however, that every few years, the game is disrupted, delayed, or even cancelled entirely due to an unforeseen accident. Sometimes this is due to human agency or a suspected misfiring prank, and sometimes to what can only be described as a freak of nature, such as in 1988 when Hurricane Gilbert roared through Texas, and a small tornado touched down on the Luna High playing field shortly before game time. Four years previously, excessive flooding from another tropical storm produced the interesting phenomena of a plague of frogs invading the field. During one Homecoming game (the year is a matter for intense disagreement) excessive leaking from a cracked water main dissolved a layer of limestone underlying the end zone, resulting in a substantial sinkhole opening up in the guest-team end zone – fortunately during half-time. The only near-casualty was the Falls City Beavers mascot, who happened to be standing in the end-zone, but he was pulled clear by quick-thinking bystanders who managed to catch ahold of his costume tail. In the mid-1990s, the Beavers mascot was a casualty of yet another Moth Homecoming incident; attacked by a live beaver, which inexplicably appeared just before the game. A human prankster was suspected; since then, Falls City has been reluctant to participate in Moths Homecoming games.
Human agency was involved in the stampede of nilgai antelope from the Lazy W Ranch, which broke up the 2000 Homecoming game. A section of high-fenced game pasture abutted on a paved service road near the high school. A quartet of poachers, taking advantage of Founders’ Day festivities appeared with a stock-hauling trailer, and having lured a dozen nilgai close to the fence, cut the fence and attempted to load them into the trailer. The nilgai were not cooperative, and galloped away in a body … straight across Moth Field. The most recent Homecoming game disruption was also in the form of an escaped large animal: one of the Wyler’s breeding bulls, who upon escaping from durance vile, inexplicably became enamored of one of the marching band’s tubas. The tuba player, understandably traumatized by the experience, immediately gave up marching band and switched over to playing the piano.
Which brings me to the Mighty Fighting Moth Marching band; the redeeming bright spot in Luna City’s sports program. Under the direction of Coach “Music Man” Garrett, they have swept band competitions from Laredo to Richmond, to Amarillo and Texarkana for the last ten years, with a combination of razzle-dazzle formations and mind-blowing musical selections. Their marching-band rendition of Orff’s O Fortuna is a show-stopper, although at least half the student body is convinced that the number is really called Gopher Tuna. Moth boosters comfort themselves over yet another double-digit to single-figure stomping on the football field by contemplating the case full of glorious band competition trophies on display in a glass case in the main foyer of the high school. And of those graduating Luna City students to go on to college? A good number of them go on band and music scholarships.
The PTA and Booster Club, though, keep a particularly thick cushion of funds, on hand, in expectation of the next Moth Homecoming disaster. As the last one was three years ago, the time is more than ripe for the next.
8 thoughts on “Friday Night Lights – The Luna City Mighty Fighting Moths”
I was hoping for 6 man football. That is a bit of Texiana that we don’t get much of up north.
Hilarious, these installments just keep getting better.
Thanks, guys — I have decided to do these background info-dumps in the style of blogposts, alternating with a series of stories dealing with the modern-day travails of Luna City.
I didn’t make up the bit about the deep-laid plot, though. One of our neighbors was absolutely certain that the local school district was in cahoots with the Air Force professional assignments office, in order to assign Air Force families who include ‘sturdy youths with good athletic prospects’ to Randolph AFB, in order to fortify the bench of a certain local high school.
My alma amter went back to 6 man in 2004 after 28 years in 11 man preceded by 16 years of 8 man………
I played in the 8 man years.
Also, not too many 6 man size schools left in South Texas. The ones left are waiting on others to start playing football again so they don’t have to drive 200 miles for a game….
Six-man football is played in many states. States with substantial rural areas that don’t have it usually have eight-man or nine-man football, instead.
Here in Washington state, for instance, we have eight-man football.
(Wikipedia seems to have decent articles on the three variants, for the curious.)
I believe a large part of the conspiracy theory of selective recruitment for high school football in Texas stems from the perennial success that the Odessa Permian and Midland Lee teams had for decades during the prior oil boom. It was widely believed that some of the locals and and the oil company operators actively recruited oil field and related workers based on their offspring’s football potential. Might or might not be true. Given the passion for H. S. football, especially in isolated rural areas like the Permian Basin, it is believable. My alternate theory is that the type oil guys that stand up to the work in a booming oil field area are pretty good physical specimens and they are no doubt pretty tough minded as well. Could this translate into offspring with football potential? I think so. Combined with intent, the recruiting might have been additive to the natural selection that the oil field economy brought.
I grew up out in that area, and the toughest schools to play every year were the ranching/oil patch schools. Of course this was the smaller ones that were 6/8 man or Class A/B 11 man, like Highland, Rankin, Eden, or Sterling City.
The folks that lived in Midland/Odessa were more industrial/service types, though I would not put it past Odessa firms to hire guys based upon their sons’ athletic abilities.
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