Susan Elizabeth Shepard

  1. Outlined against a bright blue September sky, the Masked Rider rode again. In Texas Tech lore, her mount was named Double T, and it was to be his last ride. They led the Red Raiders out for their 1994 season opener against New Mexico as 27,234 people peered down from the stands of the 50,000-seat Jones Stadium to the Astroturf below. In Lubbock, Texas, people bleed black and red. Texas Tech paraphernalia hangs from the ceilings and on the walls of every bar, convenience store, and restaurant. Originally a prank by students who’d speed unsanctioned on horseback across the football field before games, the mysterious rider on a black horse became the official mascot at the 1954 Gator Bowl, when Joe Kirk Fulton’s official entrance as the Masked Rider inspired The Atlanta Journal's Ed Danforth to write, “No team in any bowl game ever made a more sensational entrance.”

    For the Masked Rider’s 40th anniversary in 1994, 17 former Riders came back to campus for the pre-game festivities. A brand-new saddle had been commissioned to replace the one that had been in service for every game entrance and victory lap. While over the previous 40 years there’d been a couple of incidents during the Riders’ runs around the field — a trampled SMU cheerleader, a sideswiped official — no one could have imagined that the horse itself was ever in danger. But in the third quarter, during a routine run across the end zone after a Tech score, the Masked Rider fell off Double T and the horse took off for the stadium tunnel, hit the concrete, and died instantly.

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  2. 11:00 am 26 Jun 2014

     
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  4. 12:00 pm 18 Mar 2014

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  6. HITCHCOCK, Tex. — Robert’s Lafitte, a small bar near the shore in Galveston, Texas, is supposed to be the oldest gay bar in the state. Doll-sized, plastic high heels decorate fixtures above the bar and there’s a small, tinseled stage for the legendary weekend drag performances. On this Wednesday night, it’s quiet. Half a dozen patrons drink at the end of the bar, a few more play pool, and classic country music comes from the speakers. The bartender says that, sure, people have been talking about Michael Sam, the football star from nearby Hitchcock who just became the first player to enter the NFL draft as an openly gay man. Maybe it’s just not that big of a deal anymore, he says.

    Clearly, it is a big deal, because Sam is the first person to do it. It won’t be a big deal when the 10th or 20th or 50th gay player enters the league, his sexual orientation needing no announcement. Sam is, of course, not the first gay man to play football, but he is the first to identify himself as such prior to the draft, becoming a symbol of what has and hasn’t changed. One has to wonder what it’s like for a gay kid to grow up here on the Gulf Coast — not the most enlightened part of the state, but one that’s close to the historically most gay-friendly parts of Texas, Houston and Galveston — and what he’ll mean for the next gay kid to grow up here.

    Mike, a tall, athletic man in a Red Sox cap at Robert’s Laffite, told me he’s always been a Boston fan, even though he grew up in the suburbs of Houston. He doesn’t root for the Astros, and he took exception to pitcher Jarred Cosart’s use of a gay slur in a tweet. (“You have the worst team! You can’t say anything!”) Though he is a Patriots fan, Mike said, “I’d support [Sam] completely, only because he’s from Galveston County, not because he’s a gay player.” Mike, now 50-ish, was an athlete in high school himself, playing tennis and swimming, though he didn’t realize he was gay until after college. Asked about Sam’s coming out, he said, “I think that’s so cool. It’s much different now, and thank God it is. It’s nice.” What would it have been like if there’d been an openly gay guy on one of his high school teams? There was, actually. “The one guy was so out, nobody f—-ed with him,” Mike said. “The people that didn’t know, that’s who they f—-ed with, called ‘faggot.’”

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  10. A strip club with no hip-hop, with no making it rain, sounds like a relic frozen in 1995. But just a couple of months ago, when a friend told me her club was banning rap, I thought back to the actual club where I worked in 1995—a place where rap wasn’t allowed, per the owners. (Who also mandated the clean versions of songs with profanity.) Dancers and DJs got creative, playing a lot of “classic” rap and ’70s funk, which they found they could get away with. The rap ban was ostensibly to cater to an older, more sophisticated crowd, a refrain I’ve heard repeatedly from club managers and owners.

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