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Bob Barron

John W. Pinkerton


Bob Barron was a friend.

Bob and I met when he became the athletic director and head football coach at Somerville High School.   The first time Bob and I spoke was a revelation of personality for both of us.  As we conversed, the volume of Bob's voice kept diminishing.  I kept leaning closer to him until at last I realized that he was intentionally playing me.  I snapped, “Bob, speak up. I can't understand a damn thing you're saying.”  I think Bob was a little surprised that I had caught on so quickly.

Soon we were playing golf at the Caldwell golf course.  To say we played a lot would be an understatement.  We played almost every afternoon that we were both available.  If you spend enough time with anyone, you have to learn a little about them.

At the time, I was in my late twenties and Bob was somewhere in his forties.  He had been coaching for a long time.  Of course, like most coaches he had plenty of coaching stories and had coached in a lot of little schools around Texas.

As a youth Bob had been a pretty good baseball player.  His big opportunity came the day some pro scouts came to watch a game in which Bob was playing second base.  Bob's opportunity ended that day on a single play.  The ball came to Bob on one hop.  He tried  to retrieve the ball from the netting of his glove…three times.  When he finally retrieved the ball, he hesitated, then threw the ball with all his strength over the bleachers and walked away from the game.

Our usual pattern when playing golf was to continue our game until a little past dark, and then we would head for the clubhouse where I'd drink beer, and Bob would sip a soft drink.   One night it occurred to me that Bob never ordered a beer or any other alcoholic drink.  I asked him if he had ever drank to which he responded, “I lost a few years.”  Upon my prodding, he expanded on his statement.  He told me that he once drank to excess, and  when he came home, his wife, Billie Sue, had threatened to leave him if he continued to drink.  Bob and Billie Sue had two children, Sharla and Billy Bob.  Bob came to an agreement with Billie Sue: he would not drink another drop of alcohol until both of the kids completed school.

Bob and Billie Sue worked at the Somerville School District for three years, I believe.  During that time, Bob and I spent a lot of time together.  I can testify that I never saw Bob touch alcohol.


Of course, like most coaches, he moved on to another school district.  A few years later, one evening he and Billie Sue showed up at our door unannounced.  It was great to see them, and we sat around the dining table exchanging stories.   Out of the blue, Bob suddenly asked, “Do you mind if I bring in my beer from the car?”  I thought he was joking and laughed and said, “Bob, you don't drink.”  He went out and retrieved his beers, opened one and drank it---Sharla and Billy Bob had finished school.  Billie Sue didn't smile, but what could she say?  He had kept his word.

After that evening, I didn't hear from Bob much.  Finally, once again he and Billie Sue showed up unannounced at our door.  Bob had had a stroke.  He could only speak with difficulty.   Billie Sue finished most of his sentences.  I could tell that Bob was still with us.  Other than this handicap, he seemed fine; he seemed like the Bob that I had always known.  When they were leaving, I commented to Bob that his limited ability to speak didn't bother me because I could never understand what he was saying anyway.  We both laughed.

Once again I didn't hear from Bob for a year or two. 

One day while in the lunchroom at Somerville, I was surprised to see Billie Sue sitting across the table from me.   Of  course I asked her why she was in Somerville, and she told me that she and Bob had moved back to Somerville.  Immediately I wondered why they hadn't told me this.   After some prodding, she told me that Bob had had more strokes and was bedridden.  I asked her if it would be appropriate for me to visit with Bob.  She told me that it would be a useless exercise and discouraged me from visiting with him.   It wasn't long before Bob passed.

I often think of Bob. 

Bob had a sense of humor about coaching and about himself.  He once told me that the secret of coaching was scheduling.   I had to laugh because it's so obvious that he's probably correct.

Once while playing golf, Bob was in the passenger seat of the golf cart and being a little discouraged  with the way his game was going that day, he asked me to drive the cart near his ball without stopping and he would make his next shot from the moving cart.  Unfortunately for Bob, I made a slight adjustment to the heading of the cart just as Bob swung at the ball.  I'll never forget seeing Bob about three feet off the ground slowly turning upside down.  He only suffered a minor shoulder injury but later repeatedly claimed that I had ruined his coaching career because he couldn't toss a football very easily anymore.

Bob was normally very temperamentally level; however, the golf gods seemed to have his number; I once saw him throw a club in a lake.  Oh, Bob.

I didn't mind losing our golf matches.  Heck, I wasn't very good, and Bob seemed to always be able to pull a shot out of his backside when he needed it.

Bob in his “aw shucks” manner denied being a good classroom teacher, but nothing could have been further from the truth.  He worked at it…primarily history.

Bob, Billie Sue, and Sharla have all passed away; however Billy Bob, after playing football for the University of Texas, went on to a fine career as a football coach here in Texas, and to my knowledge, is still coaching.

I'm proud to say that Bob was my friend.