Balmorhea- A Favorite Spot in Texas

Memories by John McElligott , Don Patteson and Mike Morris

John McElligott:

Head out to Pecos and down to the mountains. There you will see lots of irrigation canals and the largest swimming pool ever. This is where a 7 year old kid became Starman.

Balmorhea, the pool, is where we would would float down the canals all the way to the town of Balmorhea. Walking all the way back was hard, but worth the trip since my mom had sandwiches made and ready to eat along with a jar of jalapenos.

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Don Patteson: My Move to Midland!

It has been so interesting to read all the stories and histories.  I have especially enjoyed learning more about the elementary school and early junior high days because I didn’t share any of those times with those of you who “grew up together.”  Truthfully, the stories have made me envious and wishful that I have gotten there sooner.

So, my story begins in the middle of the 8th grade.  Between the fall and spring semesters, we moved from Lovington, NM, a town of less than 10,000 to Midland, then over 60,000!  In the small and sheltered environment of Lovington, I was a big fish in a little pond.  In Midland, a much bigger pond, not so much.  As I have read your stories of Little League, grade school, the Terminal kids, and so forth it has helped me see just how much of an outsider I was when we moved to Midland.

So, this stud (in my own mind), showed up for class my first week at San Jacinto Junior High wearing my finest duds.  In Lovington, the fad at the time was, shall we say, colorful attire.  I wore my favorite “electric” blue slacks and an equally awesome (and bright) shirt with miniature plastic clothespins (also bright colors) hanging from the collar.  In New Mexico, if a girl liked you, she gave you a clothespin and I had managed to collect a very respectable number of them!  Well, it took about five minutes in my first class to ditch the pins, but there was nothing I could do about the rest of my garb except hope no one saw me as being as out of place as I felt.  I got home from school that day and said, “Mom, I need some new clothes!”  She assured me we would take care of it that weekend – still four miserable days away!  So, my discomfort continued for the rest of the week, sans clothespins, because I had to wear the clothes I had.  Thankfully, I don’t remember any of you ever commenting on my clothes – to my face at least.

Fortunately, I had been blessed with some athletic ability and had played football, basketball and baseball in New Mexico.  Having said that, I quickly learned that there is football and there is Texas football.  For you see, in New Mexico, if you were carrying the football and someone tried to tackle you, you tried to run around them.  At SJJH I was about to learn that if you were going to tackle a ball carrier, he was not going to run around you – he was going to run through you.  I learned this lesson during spring training under Coach Callahan.

Basketball and baseball were my true loves, but I knew that football would be a good way to gain acceptance so I went out for the team.  I grew early and was tall for the 8th grade, so Callahan decided I would make a good defensive end (a position I really enjoyed until I quit growing and everyone else started getting bigger and stronger).  You are all familiar with the athletic accomplishments of Bill Sallee.  If my memory is correct, that spring, even though Bill was a grade behind, Coach Callahan had him working out with the 8th grade (soon to be 9th graders).  We finally reach the point in training when we are having a live scrimmage.  I am the left defensive end and Bill is the running back and Coach Callahan has called a sweep my direction, giving Bill the ball.

You know how you have those defining moments in life?  Well this was one of those.  By now, I had learned that Bill was not only going to try to run right over me, I could see he was grinning as he took dead aim.  Thankfully, I was more afraid of embarrassing myself than I was of getting hurt, although I was pretty sure the coming collision was going to hurt.  As my life flashed before my eyes, my reflexes took over and I made the tackle.  The amazing thing was that Bill and the rest of the team were all pounding me on the back and saying good hit.  Me?  I was just happy I survived.  I didn’t realize it at the time, but after that it was a lot easier to make friends among the guys.  I had passed a test I didn’t even know existed.

Looking back, moving to Midland was a wonderful turning point in my life.  I wish I had gotten there sooner, but there is no doubt about this “something was in the water” business.