At Play on the Oil Fields in Pittsburgh
by Regis Boff
Every other spring in Pittsburgh Pa in the early sixties the heavy dump trucks would come with fresh dirt and heave it onto the cement floor of our football field. The field was enclosed by sixteen foot high black cyclone fencing. The caravan of heavy loaders would enter up a ramp and through a special gate that was theirs. Spectators would be outside this fence sitting on stands connected directly to our field like giant cement stair-step Legos . People always treated this event like a real game and sat in the stands to witness it because this was something very different for them. We would watch and listen to the truck’s progression from our classrooms and steal peeks from our windows inhaling as much of the dust dirt wind as we could. Mind you, we did not get this new dirt every year as erosion was nearly impossible, it being jailed as it was, within this concrete terrarium. I think the field must have lost some of its volume over time from the unavoidable but everyday adhesiveness of our uniforms, cleats, eyes and ears.
We would start to practice for the football season in the hot and dry late strands of August before the school year got into full swing. The oil trucks would come a week before football practice was to start to spray the dirt to dampen down it’s dust. The first few weeks of practice after it’s application we would come home much stained with this oil and I commonly developed what the coach called “carbuncles” which I remember as sort of elephantine pimples, mostly on my back, I think from the oil. I still remember him telling me to tape a raw slice of potato over these to draw out the puss. I did and it worked.
My teeth were not naturally very straight and my family has an annoying genetic scourge of three sets of teeth in one front tooth making our closed mouths appear like someone had built scaffolding under our lips. As luck would have it my football team was the first in Pittsburgh to be fitted for mouthpieces collapsing my secret ambition of getting my front teeth knocked out requiring free new teeth for me, paid for by the school.
We were rarely given water because it was a sign of weakness. I think our coaches were preparing us for the unlikely scenario of a surprise game in the Sahara Dessert.
I played three sports in high school and continued two into college. My parents never once saw me play. My father missed me being handed my high school diploma because he had to leave to pee.