Melvin Haggins, Part II: Writer and Football Hero
Melvin Haggins: Installment 1 & 3-5
This is volume II of the Melvin Haggins comedy. As I mentioned in our last installment, this is a fictitious 5 part series written in a journalistic style. One might liken it to the mockumentary in the film genre: This is Spinal Tap, Best in Show, The Office, etc.
In this installment we follow Melvin's life through adolescence.
An excellent tool for writers
Every writer needs a grammar book
Thad and Beatrice: Aspirations for Their Son
As a student at Wilburton, Melvin was foremost known for his excellent attendance. He was also polite and often paid attention. He rarely failed to hand in his work on time. As a result, he did well academically, bringing home primarily B’s and some A’s, with an occasional C in science or math, which is exactly what would be expected of a student with an average intellect who applied oneself.
Tim Reed, a former junior high science teacher, gives the following description of Melvin’s aptitude:
“Yeah, I remember he was always there, sick or otherwise. Don’t remember exactly how he did. Thinkin he was a C student. May have given him a B, though. I did that a lot. You know, if they were always there and tried, I bumped their score up a little bit. Can’t say he really had a skill for it.”
Melvin’s father didn’t want his son following in his footsteps. Teaching, Thad thought, while a noble profession, was fraught with aggravation and offered too little pay, and though Thad relished working on the farm, he didn’t want a life of toil for his son either.
Very typical of most all parents, Thad wanted his son to be a doctor, lawyer, engineer, scientist, the usual list of things that parents want.
Conversely, if Beatrice had had her druthers, Melvin wouldn’t have pursued education past early childhood: books, science, math, fine for children, but a waste of time once you reached ten or so and could enter the workforce. And why would he need to ever leave for some college that most likely wouldn’t be free?
Beatrice wanted her son home always, so she could love and protect him, as well as manage his bank account.
Melvin Loves Words
As luck would have it, Melvin’s aptitude would suit the wants of neither of his parents. Melvin loved words. He loved to read, a thing he did voraciously throughout his life. But most of all he loved to write.
Susan Logan, a former English teacher, describes Melvin’s abilities as follows:
“Melvin had excellent grammar skills. It was rare that he would ever make a grammatical misstep. And unlike most students, he would light up with excitement whenever given a writing assignment. That being said, he was far from my best writer. I think he took things too literally. I think Melvin was just too afraid to ever take a chance or be wrong. We never could convince him to take chances, and since he made few grammatical errors, paid attention, and followed rules, he usually made A’s or B’s…he had excellent attendance.”
Below is a tenth grade comparison and contrast essay written by Melvin:
A Bicycle Compared and Contrasted to a Car
One can compare and contrast things. Comparing and contrasting is fun. Bicycles and cars can be compared and contrasted. In this essay, a bicycle and car will be compared and contrasted. This essay will compare and contrast the differences between wheels, engines, and seats on bicycles and cars.
First, bicycles and cars both have wheels. Wheels are a similarity between bicycles and cars. A car has four wheels, but a bicycle only has two wheels. This is a difference between bicycles and cars. Both bicycles and cars would not work without wheels. One could try making a bicycle or car work without wheels. It would not work. Wheels are essential for bicycles and cars. Wheels on a car are wide and heavy. Wheels on a bicycle are narrow and light. These are some of the differences between wheels on bicycles and cars.
Second, both cars and bicycles have engines. Cars have mechanical engines. On a bicycle a person is the engine. This is fascinating and different. Both cars and bicycles have pedals. Pedals on a bicycle go up, down, and in a circular motion. Pedals on a car just go up and down. Legs work the pedals on a car. This causes the engine to respond. In comparison, legs also work the pedals on a bicycle. In contrast, Human legs make the bicycle go. Legs are the engine. Monkeys sometimes ride bicycles. This can be seen at a circus. It is amazing to think about the difference of the engines in bicycles and cars.
Third, both bicycles and cars have seats. The seat on a bicycle is long, narrow, and light. The seat on a car is long, wide, and heavy. A car seat on a bicycle would not work. It would be too heavy. One could not make the bicycle go. A bicycle seat on a car would work, but it would make riding in a car less comfortable. Bicycles usually can seat one person. Sometimes they seat two. A car can seat as many as six people. Some cars can only seat two people. Seats are on cars and bicycles, but they are different.
Cars and bicycles both provide transportation, but they are different in many ways. Cars and bicycles are even different in more ways than discussed in this essay. This essay has compared and contrasted the differences between wheels, engines, and seats on bicycles and cars.
Melvin Gets Bullied
Though Melvin possessed a passion for language, his skills were, at best, limited. Yet from as early on as sixth grade he knew he wanted to be an internationally acclaimed author. Few of his classmates found their calling so quickly, and his aspirations both garnered acclaim from friends and teachers, as well as made him a target for bullies.
Jeff Neil, a boyhood friend, explains:
“Most everybody liked Melvin. He was always on time, and had direction in life. But he was short and a little soft looking. The jocks, they’d see him with his nose in a book, knock it out of his hand and say things like, ‘Haggins …’ well, and then say a bad word that rhymes with haggins”
And Melvin’s mother didn’t help things. She would often call Melvin a “sissy” when she caught him reading or writing. In her mind, such activities were fanciful and impractical.
Melvin’s father was more open-minded. He was bothered that his son had chosen a creative path because he knew it would be a hard go, but by the time Melvin entered high school, Thad had amassed a small fortune, due in part to the family’s stinginess with money, but primarily a result of gas-well monies received from land royalties.
Thad didn’t feel his son would ever be burdened with financial ruin, and being a person who enjoyed an occasional book himself, he tolerated Melvin’s dreams.
Melvin and Football: A Round Peg Fitting in a Square Hole
Thad was, however, concerned with his son routinely being bullied, so he suggested that Melvin join the football team to earn more respect amongst his peers. In tenth grade Melvin began playing for the Wilburton Diggers.
Chuck Allison, a former assistant coach, gives the following account:
“You know how a lot of the time you get kids into athletics, and it molds them into strong, young men? Well, Melvin just kinda stayed small and soft lookin. He was really the same kind of specimen his senior year that he was in tenth grade. But he wasn’t without qualities. He never missed a single practice, and his stamina was above average. He also did what he was told the best he could.
He never had a position, just wherever we could stick him on scout team or mop-up duty in games that were far gone one way or the other. We’d stick him on d-line or running-back or wherever, and he’d just get lit-up. You could tell he was hurting, but he’d just keep at it.
I remember after his first practice thinkin he won’t be back and his second and so on, but he just kept comin back.”
Despite Melvin’s almost complete lack of athletic ability, Thad’s intuitions proved correct. The bullying dissipated, and his Junior year Melvin even gained a new nickname.
Teammate Chip Reardon relates:
“After the initial hazing and stuff like that, he became one of us. You could just knock the hell out of him, and he always got up. We respected that. We made fun of him, sure, but it was the kind of teasin you expect among boys.
He got his nickname in a game against Stigler. We were whopping them pretty good, and there were a couple of minutes left. He went in on defensive-line and somehow managed to make a tackle.”
In sports your statistics are referred to as stats. Having made one tackle, his teammates gave him the nickname “Stat,” a nickname that would remain accurate until the final game of his senior year.
Melvin a Football Hero?
It was the first round of the playoffs senior year at Vian that would be the pinnacle achievement of Melvin’s life. Down 35-0 late in the fourth quarter with the ball on the opponent’s twenty-one yard line, Melvin would come into the game at wide-receiver.
With the buses already warmed and the majority of Vian’s athletes celebrating victory on the sideline, the Diggers snapped the ball. Melvin shot down the field with all of his below average speed. On this play not only did Vian’s cornerback manage to slip, but the free-safety as well.
Wilburton’s backup quarterback heaved the ball with his second-rate arm towards the end-zone. Outstretching his short, soft arms towards the heavens, the brown pigskin fell from the sky into Melvin’s hands as the referee raised his arms skyward, and thus Stat, on paper, anyway, became Stats.
Teammate Bill Sampson gives the following account:
“No, he didn’t catch it. The ball mainly glanced off his hands. He may have held it for a moment, but nothin that would constitute possession. I don’t know what the ref was thinkin. Maybe he just thought, ‘Surely he’ll catch this’ or maybe he was sick of Vian scorin so much.
I don’t know, but once they gave us the touchdown, it wasn’t taken back. Vian didn’t care. It wasn’t even the last score of the game. Vian returned the kickoff for a touchdown.”
All player accounts, even a film of the game, grainy and weathered, reinforces Bill’s description. Nonetheless, the touchdown “catch” would become a lifelong source of pride for the Haggins clan. Even Beatrice, who saw little use in sports, would laud her son for his heroics on the football field that night.
Do you have anything in common with Melvin?
“We were all so low after that game, and it was kind of the way things were, after a loss the bus ride home was supposed to be sad and quiet. Melvin respected rules, but he was just so happy. He started smilin and talkin bout his touchdown.
Things could have turned different, but all of us went along with it. I don’t know, we liked him and he had worked so hard; he deserved this. We’d laugh about it when he wasn’t around, not to his face, would just be wrong.
I remember the last time I talked to him, before the cancer took him, he still talked about his touchdown.”
Thad also played the role of proud, doting father. Val Vincent, a former student, recounts:
“That week after the game I don’t think a single History class went by where he didn’t spend at least ten minutes talking about his son’s catch. We didn’t mind it at first. It was a way to keep from doing any real work, but after a while it’s like, enough already! Even towards the end of the year, he would still bring it up sometimes.”
Are you enjoying the story so far?
Melvin Haggins: Chapter III
- Melvin Haggins, Part III: College Student and Lady’s Man
Installment III of the life of "Melvin Haggins," a comedy in which Melvin goes off to college and has his sexual awakening.