Monday, July 27, 2009

The Mortimer Jordan High School Dixie Devilettes

Look at them! Aren’t they somethin'?

Those are the 1977 Mortimer Jordan High School Dixie Devilettes.

They kicked.

Let me clarify--
they kicked HIGH...
toes reaching well above their Friday-night-football-game hair ... WHILE wearing pom-pommed cowgirl boots.

My daddy usually just called them "those purty high steppers."

I wanted to be them.

There was just one small problem. Or, I guess I should say, one large problem....

I was too fat to be a Devilette.

I tried....When I realized Devilette tryouts were a few weeks down the road, I quit eating the biscuits and gravy and bacon and eggs mama lovingly set before me every morning. I started doing sit-ups and jumping-jacks. I even practiced my kicks when I thought I was the only one at home....My evil little brother would have never let me hear the end of it if he had ever caught me.

(By the way…chubby-wanna-be-kickers be warned--if you have to sprinkle baby powder on your thighs just to keep them from chafing while standing…then trying to maneuver said thighs to kick one’s pointed toes above one’s head is probably not the brightest idea.)

My wanna-be-a-Devilette determination and discipline lasted about…three days…until I got hungry for mama’s biscuits and gravy and tired of that awful stitch in my side during jumping-jacks.

But, while my ambition faded, my obsessive admiration never dimmed.

I remember sitting in my cousins’ bedroom—frequent Devilette hangout—watching them become Devilettes. Before the days of Sudden Tan, Patty and Lisa and Denise would rub a concoction of brown liquid shoe polish and baby lotion on their fiendishly-skinny legs, instantly transforming them into bronzed, lubed kicking machines. One of the Devilettes in my life even used a baby-oil-and-Mercurochrome mixture to achieve instant tan--for the life of me, I can't remember who it was. (I would tell you what happened when I attempted to practice kicking after using that oily concoction. But, I don’t remember much about it—I think it was the closest I’ve ever come to a major head injury.)

Once my cousins' shoe-polished tans dried, they would don their practice uniforms, which basically consisted of an elasticized “diaper” with a cropped top that, every now and then, showed off their cute, flat little belly-buttons. (Come to think of it, I think Patty and Lisa's mama, my Aunt Barbara, was one of the primary Devilette costume seamstresses, which explains why their bedroom was Devilette heaven.)

Of all their costumes, I loved that practice uniform the best. It was just so dadgum CUTE. I wanted one. I wanted to step into those bloomers and show off MY flat little belly-button in that cropped top.

But, alas, I wanted my mama's biscuits and gravy just a little bit more.

And, in addition to being too-fat-to-be-a-Devilette, I had one additional challenge that stood between me and pom-pommed-cowgirl-boots. You see, the Kimberly Church of God, of which I was a teenaged-bun-wearing member, frowned on belly buttons. Come to think of it, they frowned on thighs…and knees…and sometimes even elbows. So, even if I had managed to lose 30 pounds and get my kicks higher than any other Devilette, I don’t think Audrey Hasenbein, Devilette-sponsor-extraordinare, would have allowed me to kick in knee-covering culottes.

Anyway...all during July and August, those highsteppers practiced in the heat and humidity of Alabama summertime. By the first Friday night home football game, you'd have sworn they were Rockettes instead of Devilettes—their perfectly synchronized, gravity-defying kicks made even more glorious by those white-leather-cowgirl boots with the sassy, red pom-poms. Every kick and shrug and curtsy flawlessly choreographed to the music of the Mortimer Jordan Blue Devil Marching Band which, for a few proud years, marched under the fine direction of my cousin, Gary Paul Kelley.

During the years when the Devilettes reigned, even the football team played better—eventually earning them a trip to Brewton, Alabama—to advance toward a state title.

My Uncle Paul and Aunt Adalene (Gary Paul and Denise’s daddy and mama) asked me to go with them to that game. During that 40-miles-per-hour trip, I remember two things--the smell of my Uncle Paul’s Hav-a-Tampas and hearing the song “Blinded By the Light" by Manfred Mann's Earth Band play on the radio about 32 times. (To this day, every time I smell cigar smoke, that song plays in my head.)

We stayed in one of those mom-and-pop motels that once dotted the South before the interstate system put them out of business. The morning after we arrived, I heard a noise out back, so I pulled the curtains and…staring back at me through the window was a goat munching on grass. A whole herd of them lived right there at the motel. We just stood there staring at each other for a minute until he (perhaps he was a she) "baaahhed" and then turned and walked away. I laughed out loud.

Well...the Mortimer Jordan Blue Devil football team lost that game in Brewton. But that wasn’t the biggest heartbreak ever suffered in This-Is-Blue-Devil-Country-Love-It-Or-Leave-It.

Sometime after that trip, the Mortimer Jordan Dixie Devilettes were grounded. No more gravity-defying kicks. No more envy-inducing costumes. No more sassy, pom-pommed cowgirl boots.
Their kicking days were just over…just like that. Those of us outside the kicking circle never really did know why.

One thing we did know--football games were never quite the same without those purty high-steppers.

Another thing I know is that, even though it wasn't my destiny to be a Dixie Devilette, I owe them.

Being too-fat-to-be-a-Devilette was just the kick-in-the-butt I needed to begin realizing that eating biscuits-and-gravy for breakfast EVERY morning was probably not the healthiest idea, even for a Pentecostal girl who could hide a few extra pounds under those double-knit skirts and long-sleeved blouses.

Being too-fat-to-be-a-Devilette also forced me to find something I could do, something I could be as passionate about and committed to as they were to those endlessly-rehearsed, always-smiling, flawlessly-choreographed kicking spectaculars.

So…“Thank you, Mortimer Jordan High School Dixie Devilettes.”
You were beautiful, amazing, inspiring. Perhaps my daddy summed it up best when, after one of your half-time performances, he turned to me and said, "Well aren't they somethin'?"

I’m sure you still are.

But, in the event there's ever a Devilette Reunion Tour and a spot needs to be filled, I think I should warn you that...when Keven and the boys are miles and miles away…if my dog Hallie could talk (and she certainly tries)...she would tell you that every once in awhile she's caught me practicing a kick or two.

And, if I do say so myself, I’m gettin’ pretty good!...Well, at least I haven't suffered any more concussions.
....Now, where did I put that baby oil and Mercurochrome?
(Thanks to once-a-Devilette-always-a-Devilette Tammy Wilson Brown for allowing me to use her photo.)
He knows us far better than we know ourselves...
and keeps us present before God.
That's why we can be so sure that every detail
in our lives of love for God is worked into something good.
God knew what he was doing from the very beginning.

He decided from the outset
to shape the lives of those who love him
along the same lines as the life of his Son.
The Son stands first in the line of humanity he restored.
We see the original, intended shape of our lives there in him.
After God made the decision of what his children should be like,
he followed it up by calling people by name.
After he called them by name,
he set them on a solid basis with himself.
And then, after getting them established,
he stayed with them to the end,
gloriously completing what he had begun.
(Romans 8:27-30, The Message)

1 comment:

  1. I liked your story... my dad was on the MJ football team those years and my aunts were in the band, I dont think they were part of the devilettes..... anyway, your story was so cute!!! thanks for sharing! i would love to hear some more about those years at mortimer jordan and see any other pics you have....