The Sly Ol’ Fox – SISC Goes One-on-One with Curt Reed

“Coach Haile didn’t cut me any slack at all, but it wasn’t just me. It didn’t matter if it was Jerry Sloan or David Lee you were expected to be at practice on time.” — Curt Reed

By Jim Muir

Dressed in a green wind suit – McLeansboro’s favorite color Kelly green of course – Curt Reed is a man in perpetual non-stop motion.

Only minutes before a scheduled SISC interview Reed entered the Hamilton County High School gymnasium in full stride carrying a handful of papers that he said (as he hurried past) he had to take to another part of the school. With the quick and sure gait of a man half his age the 66-year-old Reed vanishes out of sight but quickly returns, slapping a couple of students on the back and making small talk as he glides past.

“OK boys,” he says as he approaches the photographer, videographer and reporter never slowing his stride. “Let’s get going.”

SISC Cover from November 2008.
Photo by Ceasar Maragni

Through the storied annals of McLeansboro basketball lore you have to believe that many young men have heard that same exact sentence, perhaps not quite as mild-mannered as it was delivered on this day.

Unique, one-of-a-kind, a one-owner, contrary, tough, disciplinarian, hard-nosed, hard-headed, a cut-up, cantankerous and sly are all words that have been used to describe Reed who is set to begin his 44th season of coaching.

While Reed might be different things to different people the one constant that nobody can argue with is that he’s a winner and a coach that has the distinctive ability to demand and then extract the utmost talent from his players. The fact that he’s notched more than 700 wins in his career is testament to his coaching skill, but the fact that he’s done it oftentimes with less talent than the opposition is a testament to Curt Reed the man.

Like him or don’t like him, Curt Reed is his own man, period.

Part Macedonia grit, part homespun humorist and 100 percent McLeansboro toughness Reed is, as he phrases it, “chomping at the bit” for the 2008 round ball season to begin, his 21st as head coach at his alma mater, Hamilton County High School.

Never at a loss for a quip, a quote or a seasoned anecdote, ask Reed how he’s doing and this might be the answer you get.

“I’m doing just about like a Missouri sharecropper with a broken hoe leading a blind mule … but that’s better than a John Deere tractor in a half-acre field trying to plow a farrow lined with steel. You can’t plow steel but I can take that old, blind mule by the nose and get him from one end of that field to the other. So that old mule ain’t so bad after all.”

Translated, that means Reed is doing just fine, thank you.

Many Southern Illinois basketball purists know Reed only as the demanding, intense, sometimes glowering and oftentimes intimidating coach that prowls the sidelines of Foxes’ games. But understanding Reed’s less-than-humble beginning, the poverty, hardships and daily difficulties that he had to overcome just to get to school each day certainly provides a glimpse about why he is not at all bashful about making demands of his players and those around him.

Reed grew up dirt poor in Macedonia, a small farming community located on Route 14 between Benton and McLeansboro – 12 miles west of McLeansboro and 12 miles east of Benton. His boyhood home had no indoor plumbing and no electricity for a good portion of his high school days and his parents never owned an automobile.

Reed is quick to point out that the location of the small frame home where he grew up also played directly into his future.

“If I’d lived on the other side of the road,” Reed notes pointing to the Macedonia Road, the dividing line between Hamilton and Franklin counties “I would have been in the Benton school district and I might be wearing maroon (Benton school colors) right now.”

But, Reed lived on the Hamilton County side of that old blacktop, a stretch of road that he says he walked “a million times” and his wardrobe is predominately Kelly Green.

The house where Reed grew up as the youngest of six children is locate approximately 1-1/2 mile south of Route 14 and from that point it’s another 12 miles east to the old McLeansboro High School. In a family that had no means of transportation other than walking, that 13-1/2 mile distance must have looked like 1,000 miles many mornings for Reed as he tried to get to school during basketball season for a 7 a.m. practice.

“I’d walk that mile-and-a-half stretch on the Macedonia Road and it didn’t matter what the weather was – raining, sleeting, snowing – just to get to the highway. There was mornings when my hair was frozen,” said Reed. “And then when I’d get to the highway I’d stick my thumb out, we called it ‘thumbin’ back then, and I’d try to hitch a ride to McLeansboro and make it to practice on time. I’d be down at the highway between 5:30 and 6 o’clock in the morning and some days I’d end up walking half way there before I’d get a ride.”

Reed said there were instances when he didn’t make it to practice on time, something that drew the attention but not the sympathy of then McLeansboro Coach Gene Haile, described by Reed as “a tough disciplinarian.”

“Coach Haile didn’t cut me any slack at all, but it wasn’t just me. It didn’t matter if it was Jerry Sloan or David Lee, you were expected to be at practice on time,” said Reed. “I mean he didn’t threaten to kick me off the team or anything, but he told me there were players that were putting the time and the effort in and they were the ones that were going to play. He let me know that regardless of the situation he expected me at practice on time, period.”

Reed said that warning from his coach registered and prompted him to have his thumb out a little earlier the following morning and also provided somewhat of a Godsend.

“The very next morning I hitched a ride from a lady and I was telling her about what my coach had told me,” recalled Reed. “She told me she worked at a dress factory and came down that road every morning. She told me that if I’d be there at the highway she’d give me a ride. And from that day on she gave me a ride to practice a lot of mornings. All I know about her is that her name was Mrs. Miller … but I say God bless Mrs. Miller.”

Reed said coming up with lunch money each day was a struggle during his high school days but laughed as he explained how his competitive nature and a little innovation helped him secure a mid-day meal in the school’s cafeteria.

“Back in those days it cost 35-cents to eat lunch at school and there were many, many days that I didn’t have the 35-cents,” Reed said. “But, if I had a nickel or two I would go back behind the church with a group of boys and we’d draw a line in the dirt and pitch nickels to the line. The closest to the line got to keep all the nickels. That’s probably not very good to tell that story but it’s the truth and that’s how I ate lunch most days.”

Reed said he never felt sorry for himself but instead used the poverty he grew up in as a motivator.

“I’d have to draw water from a well and then boil it to take a bath before school, we didn’t have a television and we had an old battery operated radio we used until we got electricity,” Reed recalled. “But you know, walking that old Macedonia Road, getting your thumb out and going through those hard times made me a better man and made me appreciate what I have. I know what it’s like not to have the things you want and sometimes the things you need. I remember when I was a player and we’d finish practice and I’d see my teammates get in a car and drive off I’d think, ‘boy if I ever get a car to drive that would be the sweetest thing in the world.”

Reed was asked if he sometimes recalls the effort he had to make to get to practice when today’s players, most with their own vehicle, fail to be on time.

“I still recall Coach Haile’s comments to me that day quite frequently,” Reed said. “I’ll be honest with you, it irritates me when somebody’s late and I know they have a vehicle and live right here in town. Yeah, it gets under my skin and I do think about what I had to go through to get to practice.”

Reed makes no apologies for his tough and disciplined coaching style but quickly points out that without a support system his coaching philosophies wouldn’t be successful.

“I’ve had great support here at McLeansboro from the administration, the parents, and the fans. They’ve backed us 100 percent,” Reed said.

The longtime Foxes’ coach was asked how Curt Reed the player, the kid that hitchhiked from Macedonia to practice, would have liked to play for Curt Reed the coach, the disciplinarian and taskmaster.

“It would have been tough on Curt Reed the player,” he said. “In fact, it would have been tough on me and David Lee and Jerry Sloan when we were in high school to play for Curt Reed the coach. But, I’ll guarantee you one thing, we’d have gotten it done and we’d have gotten it done pretty good.”

Reed said players today are required to know and absorb much more than during the era when he played in the late 1950s.

“We might prepare for 20 different things that the other team is going to use and we might only use one of them. We go over every in-bounds play, every press, every offensive set that the other team will run,” said Reed. “When I played we ran three offensive plays – one, two and five. Number one was screen down, number two was screen across and number five was to clear for either David Lee or Jerry Sloan. That was it and we won using those three plays.”

A 1960 graduate of McLeansboro High School, Reed was a four-sport athlete playing basketball, baseball, football and track. Despite the fact that he lists basketball as his “first love” and has notched more than 700 wins as a coach he says football probably would have been his best opportunity in college. Reed related a humorous story about his football career that also gave more insight into the world where he grew up.

“Until I got to high school I had never even seen a football,” said Reed. “Now somebody might say, well where in the world did you grow up, but you have to remember that as a kid my world was Macedonia, we had no television, no transportation, shoot, I didn’t know where Benton was.”

Obviously, once Reed got to high school and did see a football he figured out very quickly how to run and carry the pigskin at the same time. A bruising runner at 6-feet-3 and 205 pounds, Reed scored 122 points (20 touchdowns) during his nine-game senior season.

“I could have gone further in football and I really liked track but my love was basketball, I just love basketball,” Reed said. “I remember back in the fifth grade I wrote an essay for a teacher that my ambition was to be a basketball coach. Back then I never dreamed that I would be able to do that and the only reason I did get an education and get to become a coach is because of athletics. Do you think my parents could have sent me to college? There was no way, absolutely no way. If I hadn’t gotten an athletic scholarship I’d have never been able to go to college. It’s much more than just a ball bouncing, basketball has provided me with a livelihood and with everything I have.”

Reed said despite his hardships growing up he never considered himself to be poor.

“As far as monetarily, we didn’t have a pot to pee in or a window to throw it out of and there’s many a time I’ve gone from the house to the outhouse and got flogged by a rooster,” Reed said. “But, I had the most precious thing a person can have, my mother’s love …so no … I was not poor.”

Reed received a basketball/football scholarship to Southern Illinois University where he played one year before transferring to McKendree College, in Lebanon, where he had a stellar career and is a member of the school’s hall of fame.

After short coaching stints at Wyanet (50 miles north of Peoria) and Tremont (near Morris) Reed returned to his roots coaching at the McLeansboro Junior High in 1975. He later became an assistant at the high school before taking over the head coaching position in 1986.

Reed listed being an assistant on the undefeated 1984 McLeansboro team, a 28-3 team in 1992 and his 1991 Foxes’ team that went 0-5 in the Benton Invitational Tournament and then finished third in state as some of his most memorable coaching experiences.

“It was just an unbelievable experience to be associated with that 35-0 team in 1984, and then as head coach, the 1991 and 1992 teams were very special to me,” Reed said.

Reed often talks about “coaching to give his team a chance to win.” He was asked to define that particular phrase and also to list the single greatest reason for his success.

“First, it’s called preparation,” said Reed. “When we go into a game we’re going to know everything that team is going to do, on in-bounds plays, press, defenses, offenses, everything they do. It’s like if you have a ‘C’ student and that student has the right preparation and goes over and over and over the material, there’s a much greater chance they’ll do better on the test. In basketball the preparation is practice and the test is the game. Focus, detail and preparation, that’s how we give ourselves a chance to win.”

Reed was asked what he enjoys most about coaching and what he enjoys least.

“I enjoy the games, there’s no question about it, but I love practice, it’s where you prepare for the test,” said Reed. “As far as what I enjoy the least, that’s easy … riding the bus. I’ve been riding buses for more than 50 years.”

While Macedonia might have been the extent of Reed’s world as a kid growing up once he bought his first car – a 1953 Ford without a heater – he quickly showed a flair for exploration.

“I worked all summer after I graduated high school for $2 an hour and finally got enough to buy that old car,” said Reed. “There was four or five of us from Southern Illinois that were going to McKendree and when I’d come home I would never go the same way back to Lebanon twice. Sometimes I’d take blacktop roads, sometimes highways and sometimes gravel roads. There are more ways to get from Macedonia to Lebanon than you can imagine. That old car didn’t have a heater and I carried a bunch of blankets in the trunk and in the winter time when you got cold you just wrapped up in a blanket.”

His coaching skills also allowed Reed to expand his boundaries even more. In 1997 Reed was hire by Tourney Sport USA to coach basketball in Hawaii and was later hired by Brigham Young University to coach a college team during the summer in China.

“I’ve been to Hawaii 10 times and to China three times,” said Reed. “If my mom and dad were alive they wouldn’t believe that.”

Entering his 44th coaching campaign in a few weeks Reed said he has not lost any of his drive or desire and said he has no plans to retire.

“If you’re coaching young men and you don’t still get excited and fired up you’re not worth your salt,” Reed said. “As far as how long I’ll coach, I’ll coach until they either fire me, I don’t enjoy it or I’m not able to do it. Right now I still get excited just talking about it, I love coaching, I love basketball and I love kids.”

Hope Over Heroin event slated to begin Friday, August 16 in Benton

By Jim Muir

The word ‘hope’ is defined by Dictionary.com as follows: to believe, to desire and to trust that what is wanted can be achieved.

All three of those elements – believing, desiring and trusting – will be on display in Benton this weekend, Friday, August 16 and Saturday, August 17 when “Hope Over Heroin,” a two-day, outdoor event takes center stage on the grounds of the Benton Civic Center. And the hope of what “can be achieved” by the multitude of volunteers involved in the important event is to make a huge impact to slow down the growing drug addiction problem in the region.

Franklin County Sheriff David Bartoni said while the event is billed as “Hope Over Heroin” he feels it might be better labeled as ‘hope over addiction.’

“Certainly, the need is great in our region,” said Bartoni. “This event is so important because of the way that drugs and alcohol have impacted our area. Addictions affect the quality of life of families and children so providing resources to help people provides a huge asset to law enforcement.”

The first-ever Hope Over Heroin event was held in 2014 after 14 heroin overdose deaths were reported in one weekend in Hamilton County, Ohio. According to the HOH website: “Hope Over Heroin is a collaborative faith-based ministry believing in and witnessing the power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to change lives. While we are a faith-based organization we recognize the important of every resource that makes up a community’s fight against addiction. There is no singular solution.”

Ted Anderson, a retired pastor from West Frankfort, is heading up the local event. Details of the event began to fall into place, Anderson said, when he and another minister, Don Robinson, from Tennessee, spoke with Benton Mayor Fred Kondritz.

“We simply asked Mayor Kondritz for permission to pray a prayer of protection and blessing over Benton,” Anderson said. “He enthusiastically gave his permission and blessing! Before leaving his office we asked him what the greatest need in his town is and he quickly said ‘the drug problem’! We prayed and Jesus sent us “Hope Over Heroin”!

Anderson said the totally-free two-day rally will feature entertainment, food, speakers, and more importantly, there will be more than 30 agencies on-site to help any person with an addiction that is seeking help. He said there will even be transportation available to take those seeking help to Gateway Foundation Drug & Alcohol Treatment Center.

“We have transportation in place to take these people for treatment immediately,” said Anderson. “A lot of the time people battling addictions want help but don’t know for sure where to turn. We have that aspect covered, if a person shows up wanting help we will get them help.”

Anderson emphasized that a two-fold approach – physical and spiritual – has the best results when fighting an addiction. Anderson said statistics show that only two percent of people seeking help for an addiction succeed when there is not a faith-based component in the rehab. However, when faith and a spiritual component is added to the equation the success rate increases dramatically to more than 80 percent success rate.

“If a man or woman’s heart is changed for the good, then their life will be changed for the good,” said Anderson. “Through Hope Over Heroin, which provides the preaching of the good news of Jesus Christ, a coalition of faith-based and non-faith-based drug rehab agencies and churches, we believe that this can and will happen.”

The rally has been in the planning stages for several months with more than a dozen churches and scores of volunteers involved in every aspect.

“It has truly been a community effort,” said Anderson. “A lot of volunteers have combined their talents to impact the addiction problem plaguing Southern Illinois. It has been our prayer and it’s our belief that this two-day event will save lives and also change lives for the better forever.”

Anybody needing more information can visit a Facebook page that has been established (Hope Over Heroin/Benton) or call the local HOH phone number at 618-200-0035.

West Frankfort man charge with two counts of first-degree murder in death of Kendra Ardery

A 48-year-old West Frankfort man has been charged with two counts of first-degree murder in the death of 29-year-old Kendra Ardery, also of West Frankfort.

Thomas McCoy was taken into custody on August 12, 2019 and is being held at the Franklin County Jail in lieu of $5 million bond. McCoy is additionally charged with one count of concealment of a homicide and one count of abuse of a corpse involving the death of Ardery.

According to Franklin County Assistant State’s Attorney Phillip Butler, the charges allege that McCoy killed Ardery by inflicting physical trauma to her head and neck between August 8, 2019 and August 10, 2019. The charges also allege that McCoy concealed her death and abused the victim’s body by sexual conduct.

McCoy will appear in Franklin County Circuit Court for a first advisement hearing and bond review on Wednesday, August 14, 2019 at 3 p.m.

The death of Ardery is being investigated by West Frankfort Police Department, the Illinois State Police and the Franklin County Sheriff’s Department.

Three old soldiers …

By Jim Muir

During a span of four months the city of Sesser, IL has lost three icons – three old soldiers and three good men who took on near-legendary status in the small farming community.

The death on August 2 of Amos Mitchell, 100, and on August 6 of Leroy Spotanski, 93, coupled with the March 18, 2019 death of 94-year-old Delmar Jones continues to close the chapter and usher out important members of the greatest generation. For those in the younger generation or those unaware, this is the generation that defeated Hitler and saved the free world. It’s because of old soldiers like these that we are not speaking German today! Let that sink in a moment!

Amos Mitchell

When I wrapped my mind around these three deaths, my first thought was how uniquely different each of these men were in their ideologies, personalities and professions. But, while all three men were contrasting in those areas, they were actually one and the same in their beliefs. These three are men that look you in the eye when they speak to you and say what they mean and mean what they say. These were men whose word was their bond and who put as much importance on a handshake as signing their name to a legal document.

Leroy Spotanski [/caption]

We hear a lot these days about the word “legacy” – what we leave behind when we’re gone. Often, legacy is talked about by stuffed-shirt politicians and ego-maniac athletes who would have us believe that accomplishments paid for by taxpayers and how many championship rings collected are how we should measure the greatness of people. Other people measure legacy by bank accounts and material possessions, and others by status in the community and by titles behind their name.

Delmar Jones [/caption]

But, when the final words are said about each of us there are three things, only three things that truly matter concerning our legacy. Those three things and they must be in this order, are faith, family and friends. When it comes to the legacy of faith, family and friends, Amos, Delmar and Leroy got it right, they understood the importance and lived it daily! And in the case of these three old soldiers you can quickly add these words to their legacy: respect, loyalty, integrity, honesty and an unapologetic, unwavering belief in the Stars and Stripes and that we are blessed to live in the greatest country on earth.

Several years ago country crooner George Jones sang a song entitled, “Who’s Gonna Fill their Shoes?” The song laments the fact that when many of the old classic country stars are gone, there will be nobody to take their place. With three prominent deaths in a small community, this song and that question crossed my mind. Who will fill these three old soldiers’ shoes? Who will walk in parades, who will put flags on the graves of veterans, who will support their community and their country, who will salute the flag, who will understand and practice daily those three F’s of faith, family and friends?

For anybody willing to step up … those are three mighty big pairs of shoes to fill!

In 1951 Gen. Douglas MacArthur gave a farewell speech to a joint session of Congress. During that famous address MacArthur coined the phrase: “Old soldiers never die … they just fade away.”

In regard to the three old soldiers I write about today, let me paraphrase General MacArthur’s famous quote – Old soldiers never die, they leave an indelible mark on the collective hearts of their family, friends and the community they live in … and then … they just fade away.

Mr. Mitchell, Mr. Spotanski and Mr. Jones … I join countless others in saying thank you for your service to God and country and thank you for making Sesser a better place to live. Godspeed Gentlemen and rest easy.

2 mass shootings in less than 24 hours shock the U.S., leave 29 people dead

It took just 30 seconds in Ohio and zero bullets in Texas for officers to stop two mass shooters this weekend, but not before 29 people were killed and about 50 injured in less than 24 hours.

Here’s a link to the story at the Chicago Tribune.

Meet the people working to kick Chicago out of Illinois

It is midday and hot as a firecracker in the historic town of Mount Vernon, Ill.
The sun is nearly unbearable on the asphalt parking lot of the Fairfield Inn out by

Here’s a link to the story in the Chicago Tribune.

48 people shot, five killed in weekend of violence in Chicago

About two hours after seven people were shot in Douglas Park in the Lawndale neighborhood, eight more people were wounded, one fatally, in a nearby shooting, according to police.

Here’s a link to the story at the Chicago Tribune.

A sportswriter, a donkey and a March Madness tale for the ages

By Jim Muir

Merle Jones and Bill Darnell met only once in their lifetimes, but my-oh-my what a memorable meeting it was. In fact, it was a meeting that thousands of Southern Illinois basketball fans can still recall with exact detail.

Jones was the legendary sports editor of the Southern Illinoisan newspaper and Darnell was a civil defense worker who lived in West Frankfort. A series of events and a touch of March Madness brought the unlikely duo together on a cold, blustery and snowy day 48 years ago.

Jones, who served as sports editor at the Carbondale-based newspaper for nearly 30 years, was looked on as an icon and an institution in the region. It was often said that once an individual’s name appeared in one of Jones’ column it was a clear indication that person had arrived and was a fixture on the area sports’ scene.

(Merle Jones is pictured riding a donkey and leading a victory parade down West Frankfort main street in March 1960. Billy Darnell, who passed away this week, is pictured on the left in the dark coat.)

In his easy and folksy style of writing Jones often made predictions about certain games. One of those predictions came in March 1960 prior to a super sectional match between West Frankfort and Granite City.

The Redbirds entered post season play on somewhat of a down note, going just 2-6 during their last eight regular season games. In the regional finals the Redbirds had to come from behind to beat Johnston City by a score of 40-34.

West Frankfort then defeated Mounds 71-69 in double overtime in the first game of the sectional and then squared off with Metropolis in the sectional final played at Herrin. On the other side of the bracket Pinckneyville and Granite City played in the other sectional final in East St. Louis. The two winners would then meet, also in East St. Louis, in the super sectional and the right to advance to Champaign, where the state tournament was played.

Jones wrote that Pinckneyville or Granite City, regardless of which team won, would be the heavy favorite to advance to state tournament play. In what might have been an omen that Jones didn’t recognize at the time, West Frankfort defeated Metropolis 71-69 in double overtime – its second straight double overtime victory by the exact same score. Granite City knocked off Pinckneyville 73-66 to set up the East St. Louis super sectional match up.

Convinced that Granite City was the better team, Jones wrote the following sentence that started the now legendary chain of events.

“The Redbirds go to Champaign, win or lose, but they need not worry about taking their uniforms,” Jones wrote in a Sunday column on March 14, 1960 predicting Granite City was a cinch in the super.

The day after the column ran in the newspaper Jones received a note from Darnell, a young civil defense worker and avid West Frankfort Redbird fan.

“I would like to thank you for your preview of the West Frankfort-Granite City game,” Darnell wrote. “I’m inclined to go along with you on your prediction but I’m not quite as sure as you are.”

Then Darnell penned the paragraph that will forever be etched in the annals of Southern Illinois March Madness history.

“If West Frankfort beats Granite City and gets to take their suits to Champaign, you should ride a jackass down the main street of West Frankfort in front of the parade. Since you know the outcome it is no gamble on your part.”

The letter was signed by Darnell and also contained a post script.

“PS – I will furnish the jackass.”

Showing that he was up for the challenge and also displaying his flair as a writer Jones fired back a quick reply to Darnell via another column the following day.

“Brother Darnell, you’ve got yourself a deal. Nothing would please me more than to lead the victory parade.”

Proving the unpredictability of high school basketball West Frankfort pulled off a stunning upset defeating Granite City 66-64 in double overtime – their third successive double overtime win in succession. Years later Jones wrote about the night of the game, the parade and his ride down West Frankfort Main Street on Zephyr, the mule.

Jones wrote:

“That night produced one of the biggest snows of the winter – so much that the Redbird team stayed overnight in East St. Louis. I was not so fortunate. I had to come home that night to write my story for the next day’s paper. The next day was something else. The West Frankfort radio station kept blaring away about parade plans. I kept getting telephone invitations to appear.”

Jones continued:

“I arrived in West Frankfort before noon. Friend Darnell had two donkeys ready. I guess the spare was in case one donkey froze to death before the team arrived about 2 p.m. I know I almost froze waiting for the team. We had a fine parade with hundreds of fans and curious travelers lining both sides of the street. Redbird fans were good sports and hardly anybody threw snowballs at the man on the donkey. Those fabulous Redbirds of 1960 put me on a donkey for the first and last time. Imagine three straight double overtime victories and two by the same score!”

Jones retired from the newspaper in 1978 after nearly three decades of covering Southern Illinois sports. Jones died on Dec. 8, 1993 following a three year bout with cancer.

Darnell, now 74, lives in Florida but also maintains a residence in West Frankfort. Only 26 years old when he made the challenge, Darnell still has vivid and fond memories of that March Madness moment nearly five decades ago.

“I was really a little put out with Merle for writing that,” said Darnell. “High school basketball is so unpredictable, especially in the post season. I really thought he went a little out of bounds writing that, he didn’t give us any chance at all to win.”

Instead of getting mad about the column Darnell decided to extend a good-natured challenge to Jones and spent two hours composing a letter.

“I wrote the letter and challenged him and then he wrote about it in the paper,” said Darnell. “I was surprised because he accepted the challenge and was a good sport about it.”

Darnell laughed as he recalled Jones’ first meeting with Zephyr.

“He (Jones) took one look at the mule and said, ‘do you expect me to get on that thing’ and I said, ‘get on there, you said you’d do it if West Frankfort won … and we won,’” Darnell said. “In the end he was good natured about it and we laughed about it. There were a lot of people that wanted to see him on that jackass, so there was a big crowd at the parade.”

Darnell said the story has been recalled many times throughout the years but he never talked to Jones again after the parade.

“The reason I wrote the letter was because I took a lot of pride in local sports and he made it sound like we shouldn’t even show up,” said Darnell. “I don’t think either one of us thought that we would end up being a part of March Madness history in Southern Illinois, though.”

Audit shows IDOT didn’t inspect bridges, follow reporting requirements

A state lawmaker who supported doubling the state’s gas tax to pay for infrastructure projects said a new audit could mean some planned projects won’t get funded.

Here’s a link to the story at Illinois News Network.

Illinois won’t accept federal family planning money after abortion ban, governor says

Gov. J.B. Pritzker said Thursday that Illinois won’t accept money from the federal government for family planning centers after a federal rule barring tax dollars for centers that promote abortions.

Here’s a link to the story at Illinois News Network.

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