The Observer dialed up Myra Jones, the former state representative and city director, the other day and found ourselves talking to a clarinet player in the Cowboy Band in South Dakota.
We did not have the wrong number. We were talking to Jones, and while we usually picture her in a sweater set and pearls, she might have been wearing a straw hat, a red long-sleeved shirt, blue jeans, cowboy boots and white chaps. Or at least, that’s what she wears when, on her return to South Dakota every year, she plays the rodeo and other events.
Jones grew up on a ranch near Belle Fourche, and it’s there that she and fellow musicians in the Cowboy Band — sometimes as many as 65 come — marched in the Fourth of July Parade. She first played in the Cowboy Band as a high school student and when she was home from Oberlin College (as a music major), until the band fizzled out. Then, 20 years ago, the band “reconstructed,” and now she and former classmates and residents and folks from all over the country return to the Black Hills to play the three-day rodeo, give a concert in the bandshell, take part in the parade and play the streetcorners and bars during festivities in Belle Fourche.
Jones has also played on a cruise ship. If you don’t believe us, call Jones. She’s got a CD the band just cut.
The television commentators during the recently completed Wimbledon tennis tournament in England made note of the dearth of American players, both men and women, during the second week of the “fortnight.” Americans once took home plenty of Wimbledon trophies, or at least made it to the final rounds. This year we were nowhere to be seen in London after July 4, just past the midpoint of the biggest tournament in tennis.
Has American tennis gotten that bad, or have other countries turned out more players?
The Observer thinks we’ve seen the answer right here in Little Rock: We’ve seen little action on the numerous public tennis courts lately. The kids, it seems, are playing golf.
The Observer knows someone who has a child playing in the “Little Linksters” program at First Tee, over at the Jack Stephens Golf Academy off South University. The Observer happened along one recent Saturday morning. Kids, and a parent or both in tow, kept coming. Swarms of kids, hitting free balls on the practice range. Little tiny kids with little tiny clubs, flailing away. Some had good swings. Some had what you’d call “ball focus,” gripping the club like an axe and chopping at the white orb. As soon as one child hit a halfway decent shot, there were exclamations of “Wow, you’re the next Tiger!”
There were so many kids taking part, they were doubling and tripling up at each space on the tee, with each kid hitting a couple of shots before giving way to the next one. Then Mr. Bill, the friendly man in charge of it all, sent the horde out to pick up the balls they had hit. It was a race to see who could gather the most golf balls in the 20- to 70-yard area in front of the practice tee. Some of these youngsters already take their competition seriously, even if they don’t know all the precise Hogan points in the golf swing.
The Observer thinks maybe everybody wants their kid to be a Woods or a Mickelson these days, instead of an Agassi or Roddick, and nobody seems to remember Sampras, McEnroe, Connors, Evert or King anymore.
Maybe that’s just Little Rock. Maybe that’s Jack Stephens’ doing. We like golf. It’s OK with us.
The Observer got a letter from the kid, who’s away at camp. In past years, the kid’s written that she’s learned how to tie knots, canter, flip a canoe — all that great stuff. This year, the kid had something new to brag about.
She learned to use a record player.
Yes, she actually took Beatles records and put them on a turntable and put the arm holding the needle onto the record, where it traveled in grooves to the middle of the record. She was proud.
“Next thing you know, she’ll be using a rotary dial,” The Observer’s friend suggested. Like the record player was a gateway obsolescent invention.