Right Guard GrantŮÍŗųŗÚŁ ÍŪŤ„ů ŠŚŮÔŽŗÚŪÓ
ďYouíve got to learn, Johnny,Ē explained Slim, ďthat you canít become an aristocrat, even in this free country of ours, in less than five years. That gives you about two to go, son. Be patient.Ē
ďPatient my eye,Ē responded Johnny serenely. ďItíll take more than five years to make aristocrats of the McGraths, for theyíre not wanting it. Just the same, Slim, it makes me sick, the way some folks put on side just because theyíve been out of the tenements a few years. I guess the lot of us, and Iím meaning you, too, couldnít go very many years back before weíd be finding bananas or lead pipe or something ple-bee-an like that hanging on the old family tree!Ē
ďSpeak for yourself,Ē answered Slim with much dignity. ďOr speak for the General here. As for the Stapleses, Johnny, Iíd have you know that weíre descended from Jeremy Staples, who owned the first inn in Concord, New Hampshire, and who himself served a glass of grog to General George Washington!Ē
ďThat would be a long time ago,Ē said Johnny.
ďIt would; which is why we can boast of it. If it happened last year weíd be disclaiming any relationship to the old reprobate.Ē
ďMcGrathís right,Ē said Leonard, smiling but thoughtful. ďWeíre all descended from trade or something worse. I know a fellow back home whose several-times-great grandfather was a pirate with Stede Bonnet, and his folks are as proud of it as anything. If it isnít impertinent, McGrath, how did your father make his money?Ē
ďIn the War, like so many others. He was a plumber, you see. Heíd gone into business for himself a few years before and was doing pretty well. Joe Ė thatís my oldest brother Ė was with him. Well, then the War came and Joe read in the paper where they were going to build a big cantonment for the soldiers over in Jersey. ĎWhy not try to get the job to put in some of the plumbing?í says he. ĎSure, we havenít a chance,í says my dad. ĎíTwill be the big fellows as will get that work.í But Joe got a copy of the specifications, or whatever theyíre called, and set down and figured, and finally persuaded the Old Man to take a chance. So they did, and some surprised they were when they were awarded the contract! Dad said it was too big for them and theyíd have to give some of it to another, but Joe wouldnít stand for that. He had a hard time getting money for the bond, or whatever it was the Government wanted, but he did it finally, and they did the job and did it honestly. Their figures were away under the estimate of the other firms, but in spite of that they made themselves rich. Now I say why isnít dad as much of a gentleman as old Pete Paternos? Sure lead pipeís as clean as rotten bananas!Ē
ďThatís just the point,Ē replied Slim. ďThe rotten bananas are old and the lead pipeís new. Give the lead pipe another two years, Johnny, and you can slap Paternos on the back and get away with it.Ē
ďIím more likely to slap him on the head with a crow-bar,Ē grumbled Johnny. Then: ďSay, fellows, want some lemonade?Ē
ďNot for worlds,Ē answered Slim promptly.
ďWhere is it?Ē
ďIíll have Dora make a pitcher in a shake of a lambís tail,Ē said Johnny eagerly, as he disappeared. Slim smiled over at Leonard and Leonard smiled back. Then the latter exclaimed protestingly:
ďJust the same, heís a mighty decent sort, Slim!Ē
ďOf course he is,Ē agreed the other calmly. ďI told you that across the street. Johnnyís all right.Ē
ďWell, then, arenít you Ė arenít you afraid of hurting his feelings? Talking to him the way you do, I mean.Ē
ďNot a bit. Johnny knows me, and he knows that what I say is for the good of his soul. We aristocrats, General, have got to make the hoi polloi understand that they canít shove into our sacred circle off-hand. Theyíve got to train for it, old man; work up; go through an initiation.Ē
Leonard observed Slim in puzzlement and doubt.
ďWhy,Ē Slim went on soberly, ďwhat do you suppose old Jeremy Staples would say if he could see me now hob-nobbing with the son of a plumber? The poor old rascal would turn over in his grave, General. Bet you heíd turn over twice!Ē
ďOh,Ē said Leonard, ďI thought you meant it!Ē
ďWho says I donít? Ah, that sounds mighty cheerful, Johnny! Sure you didnít put any arsenic in it? My folks are English on my uncleís side!Ē
ďIíd not waste good arsenic on the likes of you,Ē answered Johnny, pouring from a frosted glass pitcher. Followed several moments of deeply appreciative silence during which visitors and host applied themselves to the straws that emerged from the glasses. Then Slim sighed rapturously and held his glass out for more.
ďIt may be poisoned, Johnny,Ē he said, ďbut Iíll take a chance.Ē
ďAre you at Alton?Ē Leonard asked presently of his host.
ďDidnít I tell you he was?Ē asked Slim in mild surprise. ďHe certainly is. Johnnyís the one bright spot on the basket ball team. Youíll never know the poetry of motion, General, until youíve seen him toss a back-hander into the hoop. The only trouble with him is that, true to his race, he always mistakes a basket ball game for the Battle of the Boyne. At least, I think I mean the Boyne. Do I, Johnny?Ē
ďMaybe. I wasnít there. Anyhow, youíre giving Grant here a wrong idea of me entirely. Iím the most peaceable lad on the team, Slim Staples, and you know it.Ē
ďI know nothing of the sort,Ē protested Slim stoutly. ďAll I do know is that whenever youíre playing the casualties are twice as heavy as when youíre not. Oh, I know you have a foxy way of handing out the wallops, and that the referee seldom catches you at it, but facts are facts, Johnny, and Iím nothing if not factotum.Ē
ďYouíre nothing if not insulting,Ē corrected Johnny. ďWhy does he call you ĎGeneral?íĒ he continued of Leonard.
ďWhy, he hit on that Ė Ē Leonard began.
ďIs it possible you never heard of General Grant?Ē demanded Slim incredulously.
ďOh, thatís it? Well,Ē as Slim stood up to go and Leonard followed his example, ďIím pleased to have met you. Come again, wonít you? Iíll not be asking Slim, for heís too insulting.Ē
ďOh, now that I know where you live and what good lemonade you keep on draught, Iíll come frequently,Ē said Slim kindly. ďMaybe we might drop around next Sunday afternoon about this time, or a little before. Youíd better make it a point to have plenty of lemons on hand.Ē
ďWhy, if you come weíll not be without them,Ē Johnny assured him sweetly.
ďFine! And now, before we go, may we see the pig, Johnny?Ē
ďSure,Ē replied the other, relapsing into a rich brogue, ďitís sorry I am, Slim my darlint, but the pig do be haviní his afthernoon nap in the panthry, and heíd be that angry if I was wakiní him!Ē
Going back down the slope of Melrose Avenue Leonard remarked: ďHe said there were six of them, Slim. Are there other brothers beside the Joe he spoke of?Ē
ďThere were,Ē answered Slim. ďThereís one other now, a little chap about twelve. I donít know his name.Ē
ďWhat happened to the other brother?Ē
ďKilled in the War,Ē replied Slim briefly.
ďThere was a citation,Ē added Slim. ďJohnny says itís framed and hanging over his motherís bed. Itís a lucky thing for the country, General, that it doesnít have to look up a fellowís pedigree before it can let him fight; what?Ē
THE SEASON BEGINS
In spite of Slimís predictions, Leonardís calm announcement to Manager Tenney that he was a candidate for guard on the football team occasioned no evident surprise. Considering that within forty-eight hours Tenney had registered the name of a fat and pudgy junior whose consuming ambition was to play quarterback and had listened to the calm assurance of a lathe-like youth that he would be satisfied with nothing save the position of center, the managerís absence of emotion was not surprising. Anyhow, Leonard was relieved to find that he was not to meet opposition at the outset, and took his place in Squad C quite satisfied. Football practice at Alton Academy differed from the same occupation at Loring Point High School in at least two essentials, he decided. It was more systematic and it was a whole lot more earnest. There was little lost motion during the hour and a half that the candidates occupied the field. You didnít stand around waiting for the coach to remember your existence and think up a new torture, nor, when the coach was present, did you spend precious minutes in banter. From the moment of the first ďLetís go!Ē to the final ďThatís all, fellows!Ē you had something to do and did it hard, impressed every instant with the importance of the task set you. Of course, practice was less amusing, less fun here at Alton. There was no social side to the gathering. Even after a week of practice Leonard knew almost none of the fellows he worked with. He did know the names of many, and he had a ďHelloĒ acquaintance with a half-dozen, but there was no time for the social amenities.
He had been put down as a lineman and spent at least a half-hour daily being instructed in the duties of blocking and charging. Always there was another half-hour for each squad with the tackling dummies, of which headless opponents there were two. Generally the balance of the period was occupied in learning to handle the ball and in running through a few simple formation plays. In these Leonard was played anywhere that the assistant coach, usually acting as quarter, fancied. Generally he was a guard or a tackle, now on this side and now on that, but on two occasions he found himself cast for a backfield r?le and trotted up and down the field as a half. On Tuesday afternoon the first and second squads held the first scrimmage, and by Thursday Coach Cade had put together a tentative eleven to meet Alton High School on Saturday. No one was surprised to see Gordon Renneker occupying the position of right guard, for Rennekerís fame had already spread throughout the school.
That first engagement was played under a hot sun and with the temperature hovering around seventy-two when High School kicked off. Naturally enough, as an exhibition of scientific football it left much to be desired. High School showed lack of condition and her players were to be seen stretched on their backs whenever time was called. Alton appeared of somewhat sterner stuff, but there was no doubt that half-time came as a welcome interruption even to her. ďJohnnyĒ Cade started Gurley and Emerson at ends, Butler and Wilde at tackles, Stimson and Renneker at guards and Garrick at center. The backfield consisted of Carpenter, Goodwin, Kendall and Greenwood. But this line-up didnít persist long. Even by the end of the first quarter ďRedĒ Reilly was at right half and Wells was at right tackle. During the remainder of the game changes were frequent until, near the end of the final period, secondĖ and third-string players made up the team. Coach Cade tried out much unknown material that afternoon, and it seemed to Leonard that he was the only candidate who hadnít been given a chance. As a matter of fact, though, there were some twenty others in like case, for the squad had not yet been cut. It was when Alton was presenting her weakest line-up that High School cut loose with her second bombardment of overhead shots Ė the first essay, in the second quarter, had netted her little enough Ė and secured her lone touchdown. She failed to add a goal since her line didnít hold long enough for her kicker to get the ball away. The final score of the slow and ragged contest was 23 to 6. Talking it over afterwards in the comparative coolness of Number 12 Haylow, Slim was pessimistic. Perhaps the fact that his own efforts during approximately half of the forty minutes of actual play had not been brilliantly successful colored his mood.
ďWeíve got plenty of material,Ē pronounced Slim, elevating his scantily-clad legs to the window-sill, ďand I guess itís average good, but itís going to take us a long time to get going this year. You can see that with half an eye. Look at the army of queers that Johnny tried out this afternoon. Thatís what slows up development, General. Now, last year we had the makings of a team right at the start. Only three or four first-string lads, I think, but a perfect gang of experienced substitutes, to say nothing of second team fellows. Result was that we started off with a bang and kept going. You bet High School didnít do any scoring last season!Ē
ďBut,Ē objected Leonard, ďwerenít you telling me the other day that the team had an awful slump about the middle of the season, and Ė Ē
ďOh, well, that had nothing to do with the start. Two or three things accounted for that. What Iím getting at is just this. Itís mighty poor policy to spend the first two weeks of a football season finding out that more than half of your materialís no good to you. If I ever coach a team thereíll be no mob under my feet after the first three or four days. Thirty meníll be all Iíll want. If I canít build a team out of them, all right. I get out.Ē
ďGlad that rule doesnít hold good now,Ē said Leonard. ďIf it did Iíd be out of it already.Ē
ďWell, I donít know. No, you wouldnít either! Thatís what Iím getting at. You can play football. Youíve done it for two years. Youíve had experience. All right. But look at the run of the small fry that Ė thatís infesting the field so you have to watch your step to keep from tramping on íem. Why, suffering cats, most of íem wonít be ready to play football for two years yet! There are chaps out there who couldnít stop a ball with their heads! The ball would knock íem right over. Well, Johnny gives each of íem the once-over, and it takes time. He knows they arenít going to show anything. Itís just this silly policy of giving every one a chance to make good. Thatís why youíre sitting on the bench and a bunch of scrawny little would-beís are letting High School shove over a score on us.Ē
ďYou may be right,Ē answered Leonard, ďbut it seems to me that itís only by giving every one a chance to show what heís good for that you can be sure of not overlooking something. Iíve seen more than once a fellow who didnít look like anything at all at the start of the season turn into something good later on.Ē
ďSure, that happens now and then, but what of it? If the fellow really has ability he keeps on playing. He goes to the scrubs or one of the class teams. If he makes good there he mighty soon finds himself yanked back to the first. And the coach hasnít wasted a week or two trying to find out about him.Ē
ďWell, I guess Iím Ė Iím conservative, or something,Ē laughed Leonard, ďfor I sort of like a team that starts slow and gets up its speed gradually. I know that back home our coach used to point us for our big game, the last one, and all the other games were taken as they came, more or less. Of course, when we played Delaware Polytechnic we smoothed out a bit and learned two or three new plays just beforehand, but we didnít go out of our way much even for her.Ē
ďOh, thatís all right, General. I donít want to see any team hit its stride too early. Safe and slow is my motto, too, but that doesnít mean youíve got to get started a fortnight after school opens. Look here, Iíll bet you that next Saturday Johnny wonít be any nearer settled on the teamís make-up than he was to-day. Well, of course, heíll know about some positions, but heíll still be experimenting. Rus Emersonís the same sort he is, too; has an ingrown conscience or Ė or sense of responsibility toward others. If Rus had his way any fellow who could borrow a pair of football pants could have a weekís try-out!Ē
ďWho plays us next Saturday?Ē asked Leonard.
ďLorimer Academy. Theyíre a nice crowd of chaps, and they donít give us much trouble. Last year, though, they did sort of throw a scare into us. We got three scores to their two. It was right after that we played a tie game with Hillsport and went into a jolly slump. Say, that guy Renneker didnít show up so mighty wonderful to-day, did you think?Ē
ďN-no, he looked a bit slow to me. But I guess he hasnít got used to the place yet. Either that or he was sort of saving himself.Ē
ďSaving himself for what?Ē demanded Slim.
ďSearch me.Ē Leonard smiled. ďMaybe he thought there wasnít much use working too hard against a weak team like Alton High.Ē
Slim shook his head, looking incredulous. ďAll I know is that the short time we were in together he was generally Ďon the outside looking in.í Rather gives me the impression of being a poser. Still, to-day wasnít much of a test; and heís pretty big and perhaps the heat stalled him some. Hope he pans out big, for we sure need a corking good guard. Smedleyís a pippin, and Raleigh isnít too bad, but we need another. To look at Renneker youíd expect him to be a hustler, but he didnít show it to-day. He was outside most of the plays when I saw him. Not like Jim Newton. Jimís always in the middle of it. For a center, Jimís a live wire. Doesnít matter much where the play comes in the line; Jimís always sitting on the enemyís head when the dust clears away! Say, I wish youíd switch your game, General, and try for tackle or something, something youíd have a show at.Ē
ďBut you just said,Ē answered the other demurely, ďthat the team needed another good guard.Ē
Slim grinned and shook his head. ďAll right, son, but Iíd like to see you on the team. Thatís all.Ē
ďThink one of us ought to get on, eh?Ē
ďHuh? Oh, well, thereís something in that, too. Iím not very sure of a place, and thatís no jolly quip. Gurleyís a good end, worse luck! And thereís Kerrison, too. But Iíll give them a fight for it. Theyíll know theyíve been working if they beat me out, General! Letís go and see what theyíre giving us for supper.Ē
Leonard met the captain that evening for the first time. Met him socially, that is to say, Russell Emerson and Billy Wells overtook Leonard and Slim on their way to the movies. Wells was one of those Leonard already had a speaking acquaintance with, but Emerson had thus far remained outside his orbit. Continuing the journey, Leonard fell to Billy Wells and Rus and Slim walked ahead, but coming home they paired differently and Leonard found himself conversing with the captain, at first somewhat embarrassedly. But the football captain was easy to know, as the saying is, and Leonard soon forgot his diffidence. Of course, football formed some of the conversation, but Leonard sensed relief on the otherís part when the subject changed to the pictures they had just witnessed. After that they talked of other things; the school, and Leonardís home in Rhode Island Ė Rus, it seemed, had never been farther south than he was now Ė , and the faculty and some of the fellows. The captain seemed to take it for granted that his companion was familiar with the names he mentioned, although as a fact most of them were new to Leonard. Mention of ďJake,Ē the trainer, introduced a laughable story about Jake and a track team candidate, in which Rus tried to imitate Jakeís brogue. That reminded Leonard of Johnny McGrath, and he asked Rus if he knew him.
ďYes, Iíve met him several times,Ē was the answer. ďIíve been trying to get him to try football. Heís a very good basket ball player and Iíve a strong hunch that heíd make a corking half. But his folks, his mother especially, I believe, object. He had a brother killed in the War, and his mother is dead set against taking chances with another of them. Too bad, too, for heís a fast, scrappy fellow. The good-natured kind, you know. Plays hard and keeps his temper every minute. Thereís a lot in keeping your temper, Grant.Ē
ďBut Iíve heard of teams being Ďfighting madí and doing big things.Ē
ďYes, the phrase is common enough, but Ďfighting earnestí would be better. Just as soon as a fellow gets really mad he loses his grip more or less. He makes mistakes of judgment, begins to play Ďon his own.í If he gets angry enough he stops being any use to the team. Of course there are chaps now and then who can work themselves up to a sort of fighting fury and play great football, but I suspect that those chaps arenít really quite as wild as they let on. Thereís Billy back there. He almost froths at the mouth and insults the whole team heís playing against, but he never loses anything more than his tongue, I guess. The old bean keeps right on functioning as per usual. Billy doesnít begin to warm up until his opponent double-crosses him or some one hands him a wallop! By the way, Grant, youíre on the squad, arenít you? Seems to me Iíve seen you out at the field.Ē
ďYes,Ē Leonard assented, ďIím trying.Ē
ďGood! What position?Ē
ďGuard,Ē answered Leonard stoutly.
ďI beg pardon?Ē
Emerson smiled. ďI mean, are you certain thatís the position you want? You look a little light for guard.Ē
ďI suppose I am,Ē said Leonard ruefully. ďI tried hard to grow last summer, but I didnít succeed very well. Our coach back home insists that I ought to play guard and so Iím sticking to it. Probably I wonít have much of a show this year, though.Ē
ďHave you been in a scrimmage yet?Ē
ďNo, I havenít. Iíve been on Squad C for a week or so. Iíve been at guard and tackle, and played back, too. Sort of a utility man.ĒŮÍŗųŗÚŁ ÍŪŤ„ů ŠŚŮÔŽŗÚŪÓ
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