June 25th is the birthday of Kylee Martin, a brave little soul who read deeply into the bulky version of "The Leather Man" before I told her to wait until I edited the book down to manageable size. She's also the daughter of Jason Martin and my daughter Heather, whose name graces the back cover of the book as the photographer for the great picture of Shoshone Falls. It is situated in Idaho's Magic Valley downstream from the double cataract which gave Twin Falls its distinctive name.
The name of the valley where Canyon State College is located does not escape the attention of Gram, who raised Edison Green to become the confident, but undersized, quarterback recruited to lead the Wranglers to respectability. As he packs to catch a bus, she chides him for leaving Phoenix to move to a "strange place" like Idaho, where she fears a black player will be unappreciated in an era rife with racial tension. "You call it the Magic Valley?" she says. "Magic from mushrooms, if you ask me."
The purpose of Chapter 1 is not only to introduce Gram and Edison, however, but to explain how a small school like Canyon State could assemble enough talent to make a remarkable turnaround from its three-win record of the previous season. Edison's decision to drop to a lower-level program stems from his quarterback-or-nothing determination in an era when few colleges outside the South had black signalcallers. That's why I consider this the most pertinent paragraph of the segment:
He knew any major program in California or the Southwest was out. They had their pick of homegrown players and sports carpetbaggers, could set up a four-deep depth chart with capable performers at every position and every level, backups in triplicate, more than a hundred players on grants-in-aid, and all of them given good-paying sinecures that didn't take much time away from the books or the weight room. Professional coaches were jealous of the colleges in the days before Title IX; the NFL rosters were limited, while schools like Southern Cal, Texas and Alabama had enough capable spare parts to cushion the blow of almost any injury. Green's coach had even tried New Mexico State and gotten a reply: We could use a defensive back. Well, no thanks. Canyon City, here I come.Chapter 1 also is important because it drops a hint about Jake Wombat, a shadow figure throughout much of the book whose character assumes great relevance at the end.