IRVING, Texas – On the front page of this past Sunday's Dallas Morning News is this illustration of a huge eyeball.
With a tear drop dangling just off the bottom edge.
By Thursday I didn't think I had any more tears left. Just watching, reading and listening since that night of July 7, 2016, downtown Dallas, if you had even the slightest of heartbeats, you welled up at times uncontrollably. I mean, these other despicable tragedies happened in other people's cities. Not ours. Columbine. Charleston. Blacksburg. Sandy Hook. San Bernardino. Orlando.
This one, though, no more than 30 miles from where you live, struck your very soul, rattling your comfort zone. Oh, you may have qualified those other totally unnecessary mass shootings by those murderers as, well, things happen, many of us becoming sadly desensitized to such mass shootings. And it's like, those things happen to other people, not us.
Well, when shots ring out in your downtown, your city, killing five Dallas police officers, wounding eight others and a couple of civilians, this you internalize: This could have happened to me, making the whole ordeal more real.
Initial rage over a guy able to not only buy a semiautomatic weapon but carry it wherever he may please because that is his right is overcome by sadness, grief for the dead and those families and friends directly affected by their deaths. I didn't know any of the five officers who were murdered, and really just one person who knew any of them. But after reading, listening, watching funeral processions, seeing how one child draped himself over the dad's flag-draped coffin, shedding more tears while just looking at the picture, I feel like I know them now. Know I wish I knew them.
Then comes the ESPY's. The story of Zaevion Dobson's killing just outside Knoxville, Tenn., as he laid his 15-year-old body atop two friends to shield them from a gang-related shootings they had nothing to do with. He bravely did shield them, but perished heroically. His mom, Zenobia Dobson, fought through heavy emotion to talk about her son on the show.
Then Craig Sager, given the Jimmy V Award a bit later. Heck me, I still cry every time I still watch Jimmy Valvano's speech about never giving up while he knew he was dying from cancer. Now Sager gets up there, speaking courageously of his battle with leukemia. I mean, how much more? How much more can we take?
Well, just when I thought my tear ducts had run dry, this happens out at The Ranch on Thursday afternoon: The Cowboys play host to an open house at Valley Ranch, employees of the club able to bring family members or friends to the facility for one last look as the organization continues preparations for its move to The Star in Frisco. They gave tours. Provided lunch. Nice touch. Got to see some old friends of the organization return. Heard stories. Some hugs to go around.
I've been asked for the past few weeks about my feelings leaving The Ranch after working in so many capacities here since the doors opened Aug. 27, 1985. My response has been rather nonchalant, like, well, it's a place I worked at, no big deal. Move on. Wrote my memories of the place here a couple of weeks ago. Great ones, but not necessarily emotional ones.
Yeah, then this: Someone told me there was a really good video showing in the team meeting room documenting the history of The Ranch.
Had no idea what it was. So I go in, and airing on a loop was my Cowboys Legends Show: Remembering Valley Ranch. Don't think I had seen the 30-minute TV special since completed and aired this past January.
But suddenly what had been work turned into history, then turned into personal reminiscing. Several people in the organization, those who have been here over the four decades, discussing their memories, from those in the front office all the way to the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders.
More tears . . . again. Had seen it all. Lived it all.
There were only a few visitors in the room at the time. Hopefully I was able to casually wipe away those tears without making a scene. When the video finished, I walked to the back of the room, sorta hoping no one would notice. Just took some time to compose, reminisce about the people who had worked here and those I had worked with
So many had passed away since Valley Ranch opened 31 years ago. In memoriam: Tex Schramm. Tom Landry. Coach Joe. Jim Myers. Ernie Stautner. Jerry Tubbs. Dick Nolan. Joe Brodsky. Bill Hitt. Robert Newhouse. Pepe Zamorano. Mark Tuinei. Ron Springs. Godfrey Myles. Jerry Brown. Frank Cornish. George Hays. John Chang.
Some you know. Some you probably have no idea who they are. But all were integral parts of the history of this place, those who made Valley Ranch what it's been.
Watching over the place these past two days has seemed sort of like a wake. The organization is readying to move out to training camp in less than two weeks while at the same time preparing for the move into The Star in Frisco.
But before you can move in, you have to pack and move out. At times this week The Ranch has looked as if a hurricane came through. Stuff everywhere. Boxes. Crates. Huge trash receptacles on wheels moving discards out to the dumpsters in the back. As I walked back there today, Big Al, (A.K.A. Al Walker), was back there transferring stuff being thrown away into the dumpster.
He turned to me to say, "Throwing away history."
That struck a chord.
And this might be the hardest part of moving. You can't take it all with you. So you start editing, what you want, what you don't, wondering at times why you had kept it all in the first place. A pretty darn time-consuming process.
Had walked past Charlotte Jones Anderson's office last night. She had stuff everywhere. Could barely walk through her office. Said it was taking forever, since she started reliving the past 27 years before disposing of what she absolutely didn't need. Same for Jerry's longtime executive assistant Marylyn Love, who was standing by.
It's just hard.
As I went through my current desk, and I've had them in four locations out here over the years, it was real hard. Found a letter a guy wrote to me from a prison in Texas. Said he used to get his hair cut where I still do. Just wanted to say hi. Found a thank you letter from a mother whose grown son, a huge Cowboy fan, had passed away. She just wanted me to know how big a fan her son was. I wrote her back.
Found pictures from the very first Cowboys Cheerleaders calendar shoot. That was 2004 in Cabo. Pictures of Joe Avezzano and I taking part in a charity dinner. Man, the stuff. Luckily there were no lost food items buried deep in there.
As I walked through the media library out here, where tons of folders storing the daily history of the Cowboys had been, there on the table was an old The Sporting News, tabloid-like magazine. Emmitt Smith was on the cover, dated Feb. 7, 1994, the issue following the Cowboys Super Bowl XXVIII victory. Must have gotten lost in the shuffle. I used to be the TSN Cowboys correspondent, writing weekly notes for them.
So I browsed through the pages. Started to read. And how about this, written by Paul Attner:
The numbers should keep adding up, relentlessly, methodically: XXVII, XXVIII, XXIX, XXX. Who knows how many Super Bowls in a row? That should be the legacy of the Dallas Cowboys: a run of NFL championships unprecedented in league history. But it could be prematurely ruined, and not by predictable culprits such as free agency, injuries or age. The relationship between Jimmy Johnson and Jerry Jones just isn't going to last. And when it crumbles, the Cowboys may just as well go down with them.
Seriously. Written just less than two months before the relationship absolutely did crumble on March 29. Not going to let Big Al get his hands on this. Keeping this one for posterity sake. Never know what you'll need to jog your memory later in life.
So that's just about it from out here at The Ranch. Wrote my first story from here the day the doors first swung open, about what a fine place it was, especially compared to the old practice facility on Forest and Abrams. Now writing as the doors move toward closing for good.
Took a short tour of my own today to visit where my previous three desks were located. They still exist, and that's somewhat amazing since so many walls have come up and so many walls have come down here over the years.
So many people have come and so many have gone over the 31 years. So many have grown up here and a few of us have grown old. Far too many have passed away. But then, that's life, right?
Well, time to close my emotional doors to the place that holds more memories than one has a right to have. Not sure all that is born out of luck or persistence. Maybe a little of both. But it's time.
And here we go . . . .
One last tear.