Stadiums’ soil is more than just a patch of dirt

Published 6:00 am Thursday, November 1, 2018

In my younger days I had what was called “The Dirt Jar.”

It was an old salsa jar that I filled with a scoop of soil from every state I visited. The idea was to gather America in a jar, where sand from New Mexico’s desert mingled with sand from beaches in Florida and New Jersey. It was a reminder of where I’d been and where I wanted to go.

Contributions to the Dirt Jar declined as life settled and my travels waned. I still have it, though, that connection to the places it represents strong as ever.

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That was on my mind last week while overhearing Vicksburg High football coach Tim Hughes give his halftime speech. He mentioned that the game the Gators were halfway through would probably be the last on their actual home soil. The dirt and grass field will be ripped out and replaced in January with artificial turf.

This Friday night, Warren Central coach Josh Morgan might give a similar speech. Viking Stadium is due for the same upgrade this winter.

Both stadiums will get an overdue renovation that will make them more appealing to players and fans. One thing that will be left behind, however, is a long-lasting connection between generations.

Brothers and fathers, grandfathers and uncles — and even sisters, mothers, aunts and grandmothers, when you throw in the county’s soccer teams — have all played on those same patches of grass and dirt at Memorial and Viking stadiums for decades. They’ve defended it, fought for it, danced on it in victory and watered it with the tears of defeat. They’ve taken bits of it home on their clothes, and eaten some when they’ve fallen.

The dirt binds us. It’s home. It’s family.

“I told the kids that we’re going to be blessed with a turf field next year, but my brothers, my dad coached me on this field when I was in YMCA and we got to play in the Red Carpet Bowl. I’ve been a part of a lot of it, where my brothers graduated in ’89 and ’92 and I was part of watching games on this field,” Hughes said after his Gators beat Callaway 35-28 last Friday.

I don’t know that the school district will condone players and fans taking chunks of the field as souvenirs when it’s finally time to replace it in a couple of months. Memories will likely have to suffice.

So for the Gators, savor last week’s win. For the Vikings, go out and close out this version of your stadium in style this Friday night. And, for the fans, take one last look around and reminisce. You might not recognize the place the next time you see it.

Ernest Bowker is the sports editor of The Vicksburg Post. He can be reached at

About Ernest Bowker

Ernest Bowker is The Vicksburg Post's sports editor. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post's sports staff since 1998, making him one of the longest-tenured reporters in the paper's 140-year history. The New Jersey native is a graduate of LSU. In his career, he has won more than 50 awards from the Mississippi Press Association and Associated Press for his coverage of local sports in Vicksburg.

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