“Them wild-eyed boys that had been away.” – Thin Lizzy
Every August I meet up with old buddies of mine that attended St. Gregory’s College in Shawnee, Oklahoma. St. Greg’s used to be a small two-year Catholic college. Now, it’s a small four-year university about 30 miles east of OKC. Some of these guys have been meeting every year since they were attending St. Gregory’s, some 26 years running! I have been attending only in the past 10 years or so, and have missed a few of those through the years as well. I don’t really even remember the first year I attended. It might have been longer than 10 years ago. I’d have to look back through Danny Link’s photo albums and see.
We usually gather at a designated spot near Lake Texoma (a trailer park in Alberta Creek for many years when I first started coming, and now at various rent houses close by). 2015 was the only non-Lake Texoma to my knowledge. We stayed at a house owned by Trey Riley and his brother at Grand Lake in the NE corner of Oklahoma (a much closer drive for me in NW Arkansas). There are usually somewhere between 10-20 guys that show up every year and most of the ones that show up graduated between 1990-1992.
“Man, I still think them cats are crazy.”
It’s so great to see these guys every year. We’re a year older, some of us a little heavier, some of us a little grayer, some of us a little softer than the year before. Some of us snore a little louder (Jay). I love you brother! Remember, – the love is why I didn’t kill you in your sleep! We catch up on each others’ lives, and then it’s the same stories that have been told for 25 years. There are a few less beers drank and the bed-time hour seems to get earlier and earlier every year, but the camaraderie never changes. The love that we have for each other is reconfirmed during these 2-3 days.
Some six years ago in 2010 we lost one of our brothers, Doug Taylor, to complications following a surgery. He was one of the most unique of all. Though he didn’t always attend every one, I didn’t even consider the possibility of Lake Texoma weekends without him at the time. He was so full of life and just a month shy of his 39th birthday. I was sure he would be able to join us at many more Lake Texoma weekends to come, but as we are all too-often reminded – Doug’s healing and recovery weren’t in God’s plan for a reason that we’ll never fully understand in this lifetime. There is nothing like the death of a peer to hit you with a quick reality check of your own life. After my morning workout in my garage the day after he died, I finished it with a quick (but poor) rendition of Muhammad Ali shadow boxing in honor of Doug, because he was a huge Ali fan. I thought of Doug again when Ali died earlier this year. I think of Doug when I see Facebook posts by some of his friends from Noble, Oklahoma where Doug attended high school. I see pictures of Doug when I rummage through my St. Greg’s stuff in my attic, and I think of Doug at every Lake Texoma event. We all do.
He was a responsible father and husband by this time in 2010 with a job as superintendent of the Gage public school system in western Oklahoma. But when you are college friends with someone you know them on a different level. You know them as a kind, funny and sometimes impetuous late teen, early 20-something trying to figure out who they are and what part they will play in their adult life. Most of us knew Doug as a smart dude and as a friend that didn’t shy away from a good time in college. Everyone of us has a Doug Taylor story. Doug loved sports (particularly basketball), music, and knew way more random facts than you and I combined. He loved the game show “Jeopardy!” and you stood no chance against him.
I say that all about Doug not only to remember him but to also preface the fact that through the years we have gathered up money from many of us to invest in a college fund for his son, Drew. We have also renamed our golf round on Friday, The Doug Taylor Memorial Golf Tournament, with a trophy of Doug going to the outstanding player of the day. That person gets to keep it for a year and ink their name into history on the back of it. I had the privilege of winning it in 2015 and proudly displayed it in my office at work all year.
We were there for each other during this time. We’ve seen each other through other illness and losses of friends and family members. We’ve had divorces and promotions and job losses. We’ve celebrated the highs with each other and helped each other through the lows.
Just like any large group we have a diverse group of men vocationally – doctors, educators, lawyers, representatives in the financial industry, electronics, sales, etc. That is part of the uniqueness of our group and what makes it fun and entertaining every year. But above all is the commonality we all have of one place and of one period in time.
I veered out of the 80’s decade for this 1976 song today because it reminds me of Doug (there are actually numerous songs that do). Each of my two years at St. Greg’s I put together a video (VHS style) of our year from all of the footage I had on my video camera. It was a tedious and sometimes frustrating process. I had very basic equipment – two VCR’s hooked up together and a music player to dub music in.
At the beginning of the 1990-91 school year, Doug suggested this song as an appropriate intro to our year-end video our sophomore year, and I thought the song was perfect so I used it to begin the video. Also, if you’re out there and you happen to have an old VHS tape of that video, I’d love to have it because my master copy was misplaced many many years ago! I keep holding hope that a copy will show up magically one day.
Anyway, it’s the biggest hit by the Irish rock band, Thin Lizzy. From 1976…
“The boys are back in town. The boys are back in town. The boys are back. The boys are back.”
Thanks for reading.
the 80’s / late 70’s / early 90’s