Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

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March 31, 2014

Back-to-back state championships will stand in the record books

— — I have a lot of respect for the guy who runs the “Bouncy House” concession in the Mercer and Tazewell county area. He travels to small fairs and festivals throughout the region to provide a diversion for young children.

Some of the larger bouncy houses have slides and chambers, but children seem to enjoy them. Kids fall, and some carry on when they get bounced pretty high, but the guy who operates that concession locally keeps a close eye on the patrons of the bouncy empire, and works to make the experience fun and exciting for kids.

I’ve been seeing the guy around for several years. He did a nice thing for me and my nephew a month or two after my sister died in 1990. My nephew was only 20 at the time. He had been living with the reality of cancer for nearly half of his young life. Quite out of the blue, the Bouncy House guy offered a few moments of a golfing diversion for my nephew and I. The torrential downpour that pre-empted the outing wasn’t his fault, but it served to make the memory memorable in an otherwise tragic time for my nephew.

A few years ago, I saw the Bouncy House guy on Virginia Avenue in downtown Bluefield, Va. It was raining hard that afternoon during the Autumn Jamboree, and the Bouncy Houses were the only things operating. Most of the people had given up on the outdoor activities, but the Bouncy House guy was still on the job. I saw him do that once before at the Mercer County Fair. Outdoor event organizers can’t always depend on sunny skies and fare weather. It’s good to know that there are the kind of people out there who will come out in the worst weather.

As I remember, I saw the Bouncy House guy working with a group of young men at the Community Christmas Tree in 2009 when the area had been hard-hit by a winter storm that had winds so strong that they blew 31 tiles off of my roof at home. The weather was bad enough that my music partner, Karl Miller, couldn’t make it to town for the Community Christmas Tree concert, so those of us who made it had to improvise. I recruited nine of the young men that were with the Bouncy House guy to act a fool as I performed “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.” They were good sports to act out the roles of Dasher and Dancer and Prancer and Vixen; Comet and Cupid and Donner and Blitzen as well as Rudolph.

I have always enjoyed the sight of young people helping other young people. At a time when young people are accused of being self-centered and spending all of the time playing games on their lap-top computers, these young people were eager to help other children who might not have had a Christmas without their help. As I recall, the children attending the party really enjoyed seeing the young men run around like Santa’s reindeer.

Most working people in these parts know what it’s like to work two or more jobs at a time. One of my good friends works two full-time jobs, but most of us just work one full-time job and one or more part-time jobs at a time. I have no complaints. The world has changed a lot in my lifetime.

People who are willing to work realize that they have to make personal sacrifices to help support their families. For some of us, the goal of community service is worth the sacrifice. We have families who accept the fact that we go the extra distance to serve our community and provide for the family. On the nights I don’t get home until midnight or later, my wife never asks me what I was doing. Instead, she’s thankful that I made it home either from my job or from serving the community.

The Bouncy House guy also does a lot of work behind the scenes to serve his community, and he’s surrounded by a crew of people who have committed their entire lives to service. They don’t work at the Bouncy House, but guys like Tony Webster, Don Jones and David Hubbard put forth a gallant effort every day to share their commitment on their part-time jobs just as they do with their full-time jobs.

Anyone who follows the Bouncy House circuit probably already knows that the Bouncy House guy I was talking about is Buster Large, head coach of the Class AA State Champion Bluefield High School Men’s Basketball team. I have known Buster for a quarter of a century, and throughout that time, I have been proud to call him my friend.

Of course, Buster would be the first to credit the fine young men on his team for listening to their coaches, working hard and being successful as a team.

However, it is never enough to be successful in sports. Everyone who participates in any kind of sports knows that not much separates success and failure. The last varsity team I played on finished 5-3-1, and it was a great team effort. It was the first winning season we had in four years.

Back-to-back state championships will stand in the record books, but the life lessons the young athletes gained while working with Coaches Large, Webster, Jones and Hubbard will last a lifetime. Congratulations.

Bill Archer is the Daily Telegraph’s senior editor. Contact him at barcher@bdtonline.com

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