An acquaintance passed away recently. His passing brought to mind the high school I graduated from in 1975. Mike Gallagher graduated from John Marshal High School a couple of years before I did. He was a football player, and an officer in the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. In other words, he was at the top or near the top of our high school social order.  He would have started attending Marshall about the same time as the University of Texas won the national championship in 1969 with the last all-white team. 

In talking about his passing, a few alumni offered stories about Mike. One story caught my attention.  Another student was Mormon. We did have a few Mormon students at our school, not that I ever noticed at the time. The Mormon student, we can call him Ray told this story about Mike: not many people harassed Ray about being Mormon. But, in this one class, there was one boy who harassed Ray everyday. One day, when the teacher was out of the room, the boy got particularly loud and obnoxious. Ray did not know what to say. But, Mike did. He got up in front of the room and told the boy to shut-up. He was tired of hearing him. Mike was a big guy, physically and otherwise. The boy shut up.

We had Hispanic students and a few black students. But, the culture at John Marshall High School in the 1970’s was definitely cowboy. It had always been a cowboy school. And, even in the 70’s. with dozens of new suburbs in the district, the cowboys still ruled the roost. I did not notice it at the time, but there must have some major social change in San Antonio’s rural northside in the 1970’s with all these suburban kids and minorities, including Mormons, showing up. In my class of 1975, we had a black cheerleader. Looking back, she must have been the first ever at our school. But, no one ever suggested there was anything unusual about having a black cheerleader. Everyone loved Rita Crockett. What was there to question?

One would think there might have been some prejudice against the growing Mexican-Amrican population and the incoming black students. But, there was very little. I recently asked a fellow alumnus, who is Mexican-American, and he could not recall any overt bias against Hispanics. The best reason we could arrive at was the cowboy culture. 

A true cowboy takes everyone on their own merits, for good or ill. An old saying in the West goes something like this, "I do not care if he has polka dot hair and green skin, if he’s there when I need him, he’s ok." Like most high schools, football was king at our school. And, that was certainly true in football: If you are there when I need you, then you are ok. And, sure, a great many of the cowboys played football. I think the working world would be much better off with a few true cowboys.