November 7, 2012 Edition

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Jimmy Slatton revisits field

Jeff Taylor
Guest Writer

Walnut Ridge has a local man who dedicated much of his life to helping the Bobcat sports teams over the years.

Jimmy Slatton started helping as the water boy and equipment manager in the mid-1960s. He was out on the field every day for those 100-degree, two-a-day summer football practices, through the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat over several decades.

He was there through storms, mosquitoes, hot sun, sweat and bloodshed, in the game we love. Through hundreds of wins and losses he was always working hard and supporting the Bobcats.

I happened to be playing some music recently for the residents of Walnut Ridge Nursing and Rehab, where Jimmy lives. Despite having not seen each other for over 30 years, he recognized me and called me by name. He then looked at me and proceeded to say that "I got old." I wish more people would say what they mean, even if it isn't what you want to hear.

I was privileged to take Jimmy back to Sexton Field for the recent Senior Night football game against Augusta. As we mingled with the crowd, many former players and friends at the game got a smile on their face when Jimmy repeatedly was able to call them by name. He would then pat their big bellies or take off his cap to display his bald head. Jimmy turned out to be a lucky charm as we won the game fairly easily.

Jimmy was also able to visit the new field house and P.E. complex, walk on the artificial turf and see the wonderful new weight room.

While winning is fun and important, this current Bobcat football program showed true sportsmanship and greeted Jimmy as if he were an old friend.

Jimmy's friendly smile and great personality made him perfect for the job he did so well for so many years. Hundreds of players and dozens of coaches have came and gone during his decades of service to the team.

In fact, many of the parents, and even a few grandparents of some of the young men out on the gridiron that night, had also played ball and know what a blessing Jimmy Slatton has been.

We were neighbors growing up, and I'm quite fond and proud of my friend. Our WRHS Class of 1978 gave him one of the letterman's jackets from our undefeated season.

Next year will mark 35 years that have passed since Jimmy was a part of our 1978 team, and he is hoping to return next season to visit new and old friends and to keep on supporting his beloved Bobcats.

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