Sinking River Beds / College Football Heroics

Trip Start Sep 17, 2006
Trip End Dec 23, 2008

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Flag of United States  , Texas
Saturday, November 1, 2008

Today was to be a bit of an epic day, and certainly one of the best of my time in Texas. We had lunch with Whitney’s mother at a pretty little cafe that wouldn’t have been out of place in a small English town. They hid the fact they were next to a highway and had a large concrete car park by having the windows face a small green garden, where some small boutique shops were based.

After lunch Whitney drove me an hour down the road to what can only be described as a deserted river bed under a series of bridges for cars and trains. I had been expecting some kind of nature reserve or something, but instead this was literally the middle of nowhere. We changed into clothes more suitable for exploring river beds and began to hike. The ground was a mixture of dry clay, sinking sand style clay, and ankle deep water. I was somewhat hesitant knowing that sinking sand is potentially lethal. Whitney had no idea that anybody had ever died in sinking sand.

This area was more than just your average dry river bed due to its location. It was in a completely dry area, meaning the water we saw would be fresh rainwater. There were no plants growing in the water, however we did see some fish in a deeper section. The idea was that we would walk to a rock that Whitney and her high school friends had spent quite a lot of time on a few years ago. This turned out to be a large white rock formation that was smooth enough to lie on. The temperature was around 80 degrees Fahrenheit, and so I had no problem wading out in the fresh water, although I didn’t attempt to swim.

The horizon was completely barren apart from a wind farm in the distance and a few telegraph poles behind us. Back towards the road we heard a goods train pass by, the railroad is used exclusively for the transport of goods, running a passenger service would not be profitable.

Once we were done with sunbathing we headed back to the car. This seemed to take less time than the hike out there, most probably due to my increased confidence on the not so solid ground. Whitney stopped for a moment to look at some fish, whilst I kept going towards where I had left my shoes. As I approached the bridges and the location of our car I noticed that a larger white vehicle had pulled up behind us. Oh dear I gasped under my breath. It seemed likely that the car behind us was some kind of police car.

As I scrambled around on the river bed I heard a voice shouting “Excuse me Sir, is this your vehicle?” Being in the middle of nowhere and not wanting to be shot at I decided to leave the search for my shoes and head straight up to this man in uniform. He introduced himself as Randy something, head of the railroad police, and also decked out with a gun and various gadgets. He asked if the car was mine and of course I said no. I explained that it was Whitney’s mums, and that we hadn’t stolen it. This story was more of a necessity because Whitney had decked me out in a green top with a number on it, very prisoner-esque!

The man explained that the car was illegally parked too close to a railroad, and was also on railroad land and thus it and we were trespassing. I cringed knowing that Whitney had led me astray, although there wasn’t any obvious signage saying that this wasn’t an acceptable place to park. In the distance I could see a rather embarrassed Whitney scrambling up the river bank. The railroad cop, who I must add wasn’t anything other than very polite and friendly, asked if I had a secret signal that would tell Whitney that all was okay, I said I did not.

Thankfully it seems we had got back just in time. I hate to think how this guys mood may have soured if we’d not returned for a few hours more. It looked like he’d arrived just minutes earlier. He did say that he could have us arrested for trespassing and put in jail, thankfully though that sounded like a worst case scenario. Still he did note down our names and addresses and dates of birth in his notebook. Whitney found it funny that I gave my name as Oli, rather than Oliver. I guess I panicked.

The railroad cop left and we cleaned our muddy feet. I thanked god that Whitney hadn’t gotten me into even more trouble, as the last thing I need is to be deported! The drive back to Lubbock didn’t take long at all. I had expected that I would be able to enjoy a nice long shower at this point, as I was covered in mud, however Whitney drove straight to her mum’s, who had prepared food for tonight’s big game.

Tonight’s big game was Texas Tech versus the number one ranked team in the country, University of Texas. The University of Texas (Texas from now on) were favourites however Texas Tech’s home advantage and good start to the season would help them. We were joined by Ashton - mine and Whitney’s housemate, and Stephen and his brother James, both friends of ours. I managed to grab a comfortable seat and cope with Weenus the chubby little dog sitting next to me!

For the citizens of Lubbock this match against their state rivals was the biggest in years. In football terms it could be compared with a local derby, for example Manchester City facing Manchester United, or Everton facing Liverpool. However Austin (home of UT) is of course 350 miles away from Lubbock, and so it’s as local as Tottenham versus some Dutch team!

Texas Tech made a great early start, going into a 19-0 lead. This had happened in the same game in 2006 though, and then Texas had come back to win then. As half time approached then passed the yelling at the TV increased in decibels. It seems to me that whether you are in Lubbock, or London, or Oundle, or Melbourne, watching your local sports team on television provides the same sort of experience. As we moved through the third quarter the footballers of UT began to show why they are rated number one in the USA. Before long they were right back in it.

This match was even more significant as not only were ESPN (a major sports channel) showing it as their key match, ABC (a free to air national channel) were also broadcasting the coverage. This meant many millions of Americans were probably watching. This sort of exposure for Lubbock is apparently rare, and had created a carnival atmosphere in the town.

With one and a half minutes to go in the fourth and final quarter the University of Texas went into the lead. Their pressure had paid off and Texas Tech had probably blown it. I could feel hearts sinking both in the household and also in the stadium, which was about a mile away as well as being on the box in front of me. Going into the last minute Tech had nothing to do but throw caution to the wind. Their attacking play won them several consecutive first downs until they were about 40 yards from the end zone. It was now or never.

Star Quarterback Graham Harrell collected the ball and looked for a pass, just moments were left as he threw a do or die long pass to the right towards star player Michael Crabtree. Crabtree sensationally took the catch which under normal circumstances might have led to a long kick for potential victory. Crabtree though had other ideas, he took the catch on one foot then twisted back into play and past one of the two defenders marking him. In the same movement he then dodged the final defender and made for the end zone. With one second on the clock he raced in to score a touchdown and give Texas Tech an unbelievable victory.

Many of the record 56,333 crowd at the Jones AT&T stadium raced onto the pitch. The game wasn’t over but the (mostly student I presume) section of the crowd racing on didn’t see this and within seconds had covered the pitch. Two more pitch invasions occurred before the final second of the game could be completed. At the final whistle celebrations across Lubbock started. As we left Whitney’s mums we could hear fireworks exploding down the road.

Later on in the evening (it had been a 7:15pm primetime kick-off) Lubbock was filled with Tech supporters celebrating their greatest victory in decades. We went out to witness scenes that Whitney said were very rarely seen in this sort of town. The roads were blocked with cars beeping, people climbing on roofs singing, and random strangers embracing each other. I even had a University of Texas supporter congratulate me on the victory, I was wearing a red and black jumper which conveniently are the colours of Texas Tech.

The victory itself lifts Texas Tech to the top of their conference, and an expected ranking of 2nd in the country, behind only Alabama. If they continue to win then they have a good chance of being the number one college football team in the country for 2008/2009. It was 3am before we got back home, which due to the clocks changing back from summer time became 2am. I may never see another live Texas Tech game, but they are my college football team now, and I’ll follow their progress online for many years to come.
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