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For the game

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Photo of Calvin Johnson courtesy of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution by Marlene Karas

It just came to him one day.

IJ Rosenberg, the president of the sports marketing firm Score Atlanta and former beat writer for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution among other sport-related titles, was the man behind the idea for a Georgia High School Football Hall of Fame. 

“One of the things I noticed was there wasn’t a hall of fame in Georgia that was specifically for high school football,” Rosenberg said. “You had a state hall of fame that had football players in it, but there was not one just for football. 

“And if you really look at Georgia, it’s right there with Florida, California and Texas as the biggest football states.”

What’s to come

The most important thing, I suppose, was that Joe didn’t think it was crazy.

Though, to be fair, we didn’t really have a whole lot going on.

In the summer of 2020, we hadn’t yet formed Trestle Collective, and though we both had work, it was rather inconsistent in its nature. As such, we had some down time, and that down time led to me thinking up things I’d like to write. I’d sketch out an outline, think of places to pitch the idea and then just start cold-calling editors to see if they’d like whatever particular piece was swirling around in my head.

The thing is … there aren’t many publications, traditional or online, that are really seeking a 2,500-word oral history of a high school basketball game in Augusta, Ga. in 1995. It didn’t matter how strongly I conveyed the unique storylines in this piece or how it featured four future professional basketball players or how elements of this game were seemingly lost because it occurred in a time before social media. 

But I wanted to tell that story. And if I couldn’t find a place to publish it, I figured I’d just create one. 

So I pitched Joe the idea of creating Beyond The Trestle.

A Ghost Comes Around: The End of Asphalt Racing in North Georgia

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Brandon Reed is a writer by trade, so you have to take his stories with a reasonable amount of skepticism. Our imaginations can get away from us and then linger around, gently nudging our memories into a narrative often greater, wilder and more outstanding than the sum of reality. 

But Suzanne Reed, Brandon’s wife, is a reasonable person. And she has a ghost story, too. 

Brandon was the public relations manager at Peach State Speedway in Jefferson, Georgia, back in the early 2000s. One day, he heard a race car going around the half-mile speedway at race speed from inside the track office. 

Thinking there was a test session going on that he didn’t know about, he raced outside only to see an empty track, no car haulers, race cars or anyone else in sight.

Days later, Suzanne stopped by the track to see her husband and asked him what drivers were there that day to test. 

In fact, no one was. The track was empty.

The Life, Death and Legend of Butch Canary

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The Alfordsville High School basketball team

By David Hudson with Joe VanHoose

Alfordsville, Indiana is a town of 112 people today, tucked in the southern swath of the state east of Interstate 69, west of U.S. Highway 231, and far away enough from either to enjoy much economic development. 

But this place is not insignificant. It is in the middle of a region that has lived and breathed high school basketball for decades. Thousands of basketball players and coaches have roots and connections to southwestern Indiana. Larry Bird grew up in nearby French Lick.

Bob Knight was slinging chairs just down the road in Bloomington. Steve Alford, an Indiana icon, perfected what would become a championship-winning jump shot in New Castle. Before becoming an All-American, Calbert Cheaney was starring in Evansville.

John Wooden, Jack Butcher, Junior Gee, Damon Bailey and the Zeller brothers have all lived with the passion of basketball in Southern Indiana.

The list is made up of famous players and coaches, national champions and Olympic gold medalists, many of whom played in the NBA. 

Clifford “Butch” Canary isn’t on the list. Playing for Alfordsville High School in the late 1950s, Canary never won any state basketball awards or state championship. There aren’t any old statues with his likeness or any old gyms with his jersey hanging from the rafters. 

More than simple

It’s just sugar, water and fruit with some lemon juice.

Nothing more. Nothing less.

Yet, such simplicity is deceiving. 

At the end of the day, the only one it’s simple for is my paternal grandmother, who has been making jars and jars of pear preserves since the 1940s. For years, various members of my family have attempted — and failed — to replicate what, on the surface, would seem to be the most basic of recipes. We’d look up methods in cookbooks, pick her brain and give it a go only to wind up with the same result.

It’s good, but it’s not quite there and I don’t know why.

The silence of Augusta

It’s the sound that truly defines Augusta.

An ambient hum that is constantly radiating in the background, magnifying the energy and intensity of the place and the moment. A cacophony of chatter, laughs and cheers that ripple from one corner of course to another. 

For those four days in April each year, there’s a buzz that permeates Augusta National Golf Club. It’s a sound — a “something” — that is hard to describe unless you’ve set foot on the historic course. It ebbs and flows, rising up to deliver celebratory roars that shake the earth before settling back down into that steady, dependable hum.

In 2020, however, the grounds fell quiet. 

No laughter among patrons shuffling through the concession stands. No greeters welcoming you to The Masters upon entry. No groans over missed putts that just slide by the hole. No roars reverberating throughout the course to signal a player making a charge.

Instead, there was just silence.

Thanks for being a friend Superstore

So, let’s talk a little about Superstore.

Tonight, this sweet, hilarious and incredibly reflective show ends a six-year run with a little bit of fanfare but none of the awards it so richly deserves. 

There are countless, thoughtful takes on this show that promise to be exceedingly more well-written than this, and I encourage you to go find them. For instance, this piece by Scott Tobias for the New York Times is great, while this essay in Vulture by Kovie Biakolo is a brilliant take on the importance of representation in Superstore. They’re both wonderful reads.

More than that, if you haven’t watched Superstore, I strongly encourage you to add it to your viewing list and catch up on one of the most clever and charming sitcoms to be released in quite a while.

Given that my storytelling skills likely are not as artful and nuanced as others who can tackle the social importance of the show, I’d instead like to tackle why Superstore has made a lasting impression on my family this past year. That’s because, if I’m being honest, it wasn’t a show we were naturally drawn to. Sure, we had seen promos for it since its debut in 2015, but the promise of The Office set in a big-box store just didn’t do much for us.

That, of course, was our error. 

Leaving our Mark

This is a guest essay from “Sarah G.” We are keeping her identity, as well as the identity of the family involved confidential per her request. It’s a powerful, personal read, and we’re grateful for her allowing us to share it.

I first met Mark in 2016. The first thing I noticed about him was that he was strikingly tall, quiet, and gentlemanly. According to Mark, I was a little bit too extroverted for him but weirdly happy to discuss gap schemes in an air raid offense on date night, so he was in. Almost immediately, our relationship was sweet, easy, and natural. And soon, it was hard to hide that we fell in love quickly. Except for perhaps the number of dirty socks I’d find on the bathroom floor, I truly could not have been happier.

As I said, Mark was always a bit socially anxious, but I was the one who could small talk to a wall when we were out, so it worked fine. I naturally became his gatekeeper in a crowd of people. However, Mark did tell me that he had sometimes struggled with more generalized anxiety over the recent years but thought it was probably just his nature. He grew up in a fractured family and was the youngest kid who was shuffled around the most. So, it was probably him just not feeling comfortable around people he guessed.

Because it was undisputed that Mark felt most comfortable, not talking, but on a football field. He was the epitome of a gentle giant. He was 6-foot-5, over 260 pounds, and could block as well as anyone. He loved football. He played all his life. As a kid, whose home life was a tad chaotic, football was steady. And Mark immediately excelled at it. When I asked him why he loved the sport so much, I expected something about playing or the game. But no, for Mark, it was that he loved being a part of a team. He always just wanted to be apart of a team.

Balancing busy with passion

Insomnia is a funny thing.

You see, I haven’t slept terribly well since the beginning of the pandemic. Unending anxiety and existential dread can do that to you. And, while the restless nights often left me dragging in the morning, those middle-of-the-night hours where I’m awake do wonders for helping you think creatively and get organized for the day ahead.

It was one of those sleepless nights last June that I got the idea for this website.

Having returned to my writing roots as a freelancer, I was busy thinking of all the stories I wanted to tell but hadn’t been able to for so long. At the top of the list was compiling an oral history of a 1995 boys high school basketball game between Thomson and Westside. For 25 years, I have relished in being able to share that story with folks, talking about how I was one of 5,000-plus people to watch four future professional players duel in a double overtime game with a berth in the state tournament on the line between two nationally ranked teams.

One wins and makes it in. One loses and the season is over.

Food for the Soul and Spirit

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Photo of Shirley Combs courtesy of Joe VanHoose

By all accounts, Shirley’s Soul Food shouldn’t work.

No customers showed up to the grand opening. The restaurant is run by Shirley Combs, whose main career is driving a Stephens County school bus every day. It’s all she can do after her morning shift to come in and cook everything in time to open by 11:30, only to be back on the bus at 2. 

The 66-year-old Toccoa native says she hasn’t been anywhere — save for regular trips to the Chick-Fil-A down the road in Lavonia to get ice cream. 

But the Lord works in mysterious ways, and Combs’ story has reached across the country. After an opening in 2000 where her only customers were homeless, Shirley’s Soul Food has become a Northeast Georgia institution over the last two decades.

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