Doug Flutie and a Thanksgiving Memory
The following Thanksgiving memory is an excerpt from my first book, Lines in the Gravel. The book has recently undergone a makeover, of sorts. I have changed the cover design, tightened up a little of the previous copy, and added a couple more bonus chapters.
Doug Flutie and a Thanksgiving Memory
There are certain days that you remember exactly where you were. September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks – school library at the Christian school where I taught. Earthquake during the 1989 World Series – my rented house in Charleston, Mississippi, where I had just returned from a junior high football game. Collapse of the space shuttle in 1986 – my apartment in Hattiesburg, where I just returned from a morning class at the University of Southern Mississippi.
All of those are important dates in American history. November 23, 1984, was not such a date. Nevertheless, I remember where I was that day and why I was there. I recall the urgency of the morning and the steadfastness of my dad to teach his sons a lesson in getting along-ness.
I do not remember the lead-up to the morning of the 23rd. However, I have always been, by nature, an aggravator; a few months away at college had had not tempered this character trait. Therefore, I take responsibility for what certainly must have happened on Thanksgiving afternoon and evening the previous day. My brother and I had been celebrating our break from school by arguing back and forth about who-knows-what. This was normal fare for Andy and me, but on that day, my dad had had enough. He sent us to bed with the announcement that we would be rising early on Friday morning to go deep into my grandfather’s woods to cut a load of firewood.
This was devastating news to Andy and me. We had planned our weekend around the football game that would feature the #10 Boston College Eagles visiting the defending national champion and #12 Miami Hurricanes. Doug Flutie versus Bernie Kosar. David vs. Goliath. It was that week’s “Game of the Century,” and could not be missed by teenage college football fans. But Dad didn’t budge.
The morning broke bright and crisp, a perfect day to stay inside and watch Doug Flutie on TV. Or, as it turned out, to load up in the old, black longwheel-base Chevy truck and head to the back side of the place to serve our penance. Andy and I shuddered under several layers of clothes as Dad proceeded to fell a large pin oak. We passed the time attempting to calculate the time that would be required to cut, split, and load the firewood into the back of the old Chevy. Dad would cut the tree into the correct lengths for our woodburning stove, I would split the wood, and Andy would load it onto the truck. We did not anticipate completing the task by kickoff, but we were hopeful to catch the second half.
Andy and I caught a break when the oak proved easily split-able. (That is also the reason that the neck of the ax I was using survived that particular day.) We all quickly shed jackets and long-sleeve shirts as the day moved on toward noon and as the back of the truck began to fill with firewood. Maybe Doug Flutie would stall long enough for us to catch the end of the game.
When Dad finished cutting up the tree with the chain saw, he grabbed an ax and began to help me split. This, too, was an unexpected turn of events. Perhaps he saw that Andy and I had suddenly developed an unquenchable brotherly love through his little experiment. Indeed, we were chasing the same clock with a common goal of seeing as much of the BC-Miami game as possible. Though I do recall having to remind Andy of the urgency of our task a couple of times as he grew weary, we still had hope. Doug Flutie would have been proud of us.
When at last we emerged from the woods, Andy and I made a beeline for the television. We found that the game was still in the third quarter and that it was living up to the all the hype that had led up to it. The hype that had fueled the resolve of two teenage boys doing time deep in the Star, Mississippi, woods and cut off from all media. When Doug Flutie faded back with six seconds to go and his team trailing 45-41, he never knew the price we had paid to see it. With our muscles twitching from unexpected but well-deserved overuse, Gerard Phelan fell between two Miami defenders clutching the ball to his chest in the Hurricane end zone. Touchdown Boston College.
Watch the Doug Flutie miracle here.
A Thanksgiving Memory Turned Legend
The Doug Flutie miracle pass became the stuff of legend, and Al and Andy Ainsworth had seen it, never to forget the game or the lesson attached to it. It’s a story that we have often told and re-told. Doug Flutie went on to enjoy a long career in professional football, but we will forever associate him with a load of firewood.
Subscribe to his email list to see various segments of life from a different perspective and to keep up with his latest writing.
About Al Ainsworth
Al Ainsworth is a values storyteller. He works with individuals, businesses, churches, and other organizations to pass along their values through the stories they tell…and re-tell. Al is the author of Lines in the Gravel (and 52 Other Re-Told Childhood Tales), Stories from the Roller Coaster (of a Faith Life), and Coach Dave: Season One. Subscribe to his email list for more values storying.