Tadpole's Outdoor Blog

April 29, 2012

“A GRAVE SITUATION”

“A  GRAVE  SITUATION”

 

BY: NEAL MURPHY

(sugarbear@netdot.com)

 

 

The summer of 1956 was an interesting one for me.  Charlie Lawrence hired me to work at Wyman Roberts Funeral Home as a general flunky.  I did whatever needed to be done at the time.  It was a great summer job between semesters at college.  It was here that I met an unusual and talented man.

Bobby Selden was the band director at Hemphill High School from 1954 through 1958.  He was an in-law of Charlie and occasionally helped out at the funeral home in the summer.

One summer morning Bobby and I were dispatched to the cemetery at Liberty Hill Baptist church to erect a grave tent for a funeral that afternoon.  This was not a regular task for us, so we must have been very busy.

The grave had already been dug, so we began working on the erection of the tent which was a two-man job.  One of the first things to be done was to drive into the ground large metal corner stakes on which to anchor the canvas tent.

Bobby retrieved a large sledge hammer and four stakes and began hammering away at a strategically placed stake.  I was busy unloading the panel truck.  The sound of metal striking metal reminded me of the old song, I’ve Been Working On the Railroad”.  I was interrupted by a loud “OUCH” from Bobby.  I turned to see him throw down the hammer and grab his left forearm.  I rushed over to him asking “What happened, Bobby?”  He was obviously in pain and I noted blood running down his hand.

“I’m not sure, but it feels like I’ve been shot”, he grimaced an answer.  I noted blood seeping from a wound about half-way up his left forearm.  “You better drive me to the emergency room”, he instructed as he wrapped a handkerchief  around the wound.

On the way to the hospital in the panel truck we discussed what might have caused his injury and concluded that a sliver of metal from either the stake or the hammer flew off and punctured his arm.  Our diagnosis was later confirmed by x-ray.  The doctor said that a sliver of metal was resting on the bone in his arm but removing it was not necessary.  He said that the wound should heal without any problems.  So his wound was dressed and he was given a tetanus shot.

I figured Bobby would take the rest of the day off, however such was not the case.  We drove back to the cemetery and completed our job.  Bobby was dedicated to the task at hand and a puncture wound did not hinder him.  Such was the case with his professional life.

Bobby Selden was born in Palestine, Texas.  He was interested in music and became a drummer. He married Claudine Sparks in 1949 after he graduated from Stephen F. Austin University in 1948.  Bobby was hired as the band director at Kennedy, Texas high school the same year.

Over the next years Bobby worked at several other Texas schools as band director, including Joaquin, DeSoto, and West Sabine.  All these school bands were transformed into “award winners” under his tutelage. He was hired as the band director at Hemphill in 1954.  My future wife, Clara, was a member of his band during these years.  I was impressed with his turning the Hemphill band into the Tri-State champion marching band of 1957 in Enid, Oklahoma.

During Bobby’s musical career he played drums for several “big time” bands.  He was in the Marine Corps Band, which was only a “warm up”. He played drums in the Clyde McCoy Orchestra.  Clyde was a jazz trumpeter who made famous his rendition of  the song “Sugar Blues”.

Later he played with the Gene Krupa Band which entertained America from 1920 to 1960.  Krupa was a famous drummer himself, but as he aged he needed relief on the drums, so Bobby filled in for him on many occasions.  Bobby wrote most of his drum routines himself.

In September of 1956 I returned to college.  Bobby continued his music teaching in Hemphill.  I lost contact with him for many years.  It was my pleasure to have known him for even a short time.  I assume the metal remained in his arm for the rest of his life, and did not hinder his drum playing – a wound sustained under a grave situation.

++++++

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