June 9, 2012
C. F. Kuykendall played in the Oil Bowl eight years before I was born.
And that’s a long, long time ago. I am now one of those oldies but goodies. They let me hit from the senior tees.
Kuykendall has been doing that for more than a quarter of a century.
Now 91 years young, this old-timer can tell you exactly where he was when Nocona’s Jack Crain returned a punt 55 yards for the winning touchdown in the final two minutes of the very first Oil Bowl game.
“I was trying to tackle him,” he told me. “He was pretty shifty. Jackrabbit was a pretty good nickname for him.”
“Cullen Rogers was our punter, and he was trying to keep the ball away from Crain. He punted over his head, and everybody thought he was going to let it die. But the Jackrabbit picked it up and ran it back for a touchdown. He was a hard guy to tackle.”
Class B all-stars from East and West Texas played in that 1938 game, won 15-13 by the West.
Kuykendall, a 17-year-old tackle from Tatum, played for the East.
“The first three days of practice it was 109 degrees. We had a dust storm blow in, and the crickets came to town,” he recalled.
“I remember we stayed at the Holt Hotel. The East was on the fourth floor, and the West was on the third floor. I roomed with Cullen Rogers of Mart and Wallace Johnson and I played beside A. B. Buchanan.”
Both Rogers and Buchanan played on Texas A&M’s 11-0 national championship team in 1939.
Kuykendall showed up here in tip-top shape, the result of growing up working on his dad’s two-mule farm.
“I grew up following a mule,” he laughed. “Maybe that was why I was so healthy.”
Kuykendall started playing football in 1934, the first year the sport was played at Tatum High. He was all-district when he was just 15.
He was 6-foot-2 and 210 pounds–a giant in high school football back then.
“I could run. If we had a track program then like they have today, I could have been a sprinter. I ran 100 yards in 10 flat,” he said. “But I had astigmatism so bad, I had to play tackle.”
Kuykendall was offered a scholarship to Sam Houston State but said he was “so poor I couldn’t travel very far.”
So he went to the College of Marshall, just 42 miles north of Tatum, because “I could hitchhike there.”
The school dropped football after just one year, and Kuykendall transferred to Sam Houston. When war broke out in 1941, he joined the Navy. He said he was stationed in Hawaii at the same time Jack Crain was.
The College of Marshall later became East Texas Baptist University and inducted Kuykendall into its athletic hall of fame in 1993.
He later was hired and later fired as the head football coach at his old alma mater, Tatum High.
He spent the last 24 years of his career as principal and superintendent at Longview Pine Tree.
Poor health made him turn down an invitation to come and celebrate the 75th Oil Bowl game tonight.
But the game is still a nice memory of his football days.
“It was quite an honor. Wichita Falls was really nice to all of us. I am glad to see the game is still going,” he said.