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How Gilmer came to be known as the Buckeyes

By JOE BLOUNT
Long before the birth of Christ the buckeye was known to have medicinal value.
The nutlike seed, found abundantly on shrubs here in East Texas, first got its notoriety as a curative agent from the Greco-Roman culture. Their god of medicine was Aesculapian. Even today botanical scientists place the buckeye within the genus Aesculus, recognize it as a member of the horse-chestnut family and are still highly puzzled by its many and varied phytochemicals.
“Phyto,” as you may recall from biology, simply means “from plants.”
There are a great number of antioxidants and maintenance chemicals found in the buckeye’s pulp. There are also many toxic compounds and several of the substances are downright poisonous.
Early Greek docs would skin the buckeye and boil the endosperm, producing a brew that was taken internally. Most often, just as the case may still be today, the cure inevitably turned out to be worse than the disease.
So now, we see that the buckeye is poisonous. We also begin to get the drift that the buckeye has a little something to do with good luck. The patient was lucky to leave the sawbone’s office alive.
As the Greek and Roman medics got smarter they began to use the buckeyes as a psychosomatic tool. They were centuries ahead of Freud in their psychological wizardry. They’d just simply tell the martyr to disease not to be caught without a buckeye.
The infirm would place the buckeye somewhere in their clothing. Men usually put it in their pockets. They’d fondle it, rub it, squeeze it and an occasional smart-aleck, every now and then, would go it doggy-style ... pitch it up and catch it in his mouth.
It’s possible, but not probable, that Columbus had several buckeyes stowed away in his knickerbockers when he boarded ship in 1492.
H.P. McGaughy, John Barnwell and Danily Warren definitely had buckeyes in their pockets as they stood along the sidelines in Henderson and hollered for the celebrated Gilmer football team in the early 1920s. McGaughy and Barnwell were local bankers and Warren, self-admittedly, was a man of many “functionalabilities.”
Henderson fans were aggravated and indignant as they stormed toward the Gilmer rooters following the game’s end. Why shouldn’t they be bitter? Their local team had blown a 0-0 tie at kickoff time and allowed the visitors to score the next 103 points. Day labor was 10 cents an hour in that day and time and a lot of the ole boys had seen a 6-day work week vanish quicker than a hiccup.
What would be your first response when encountered by a highly inflamed rival, especially when nothing was being said about the game, bets, etc.?
Addressing McGaughy, the hottest of the hottest bellowed, “Why all you guys from Gilmer got your hands in your pockets and seem to be juggling something? Heh, heh, heh.
With a grin as wide as the wooden goalposts left standing on the field, the Gilmer financier withdrew a mightily-used buckeye from his pocket and said ...
“It’s a buckeye, friend. Everybody in Gilmer, as far as I know, carries a buckeye in his britches. Ole John here (Mr. Barnwell) has one in each pocket. He’s got a heap of arthritis and it keeps him down. Better’n aspirin. Show ’em, John.”
Mr. Barnwell displayed both of his buckeyes to the man who seemed to be simmering down a little by now. One of the buckeyes was light brown and the other had a slight jade color.
“Why’s one turning green?” His chin rose and mouth turned down as he awaited an answer.
John was thinking he was back in Gilmer behind his desk and in his swivel chair when he shot back, “When they start turning green, Bob, that means they’ve absorbed about all the arthritis they can hold.”
“Can I have one of those things? You say, it’s called a buckeye?”
Barnwell gave the man both of his buckeyes and explained he had some more growing in a back patch.
McGaughy and Warren said their buckeyes brought them luck. You gotta be lucky to give 75 points and win on a football game.
The Henderson fella that got the two buckeyes waved goodbye as carloads of fans headed back to Upshur County. Fighting the dust, he yelled, “See you next year, GILMER BUCKEYES.”
The name stuck! The orange and black clad Buckeyes ruled the roost all over East Texas for over a decade under the tutelage of Henry McClelland.

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With only 16 teams left in the Class 3A Division I playoffs, the Gilmer Buckeyes are just one of many teams with impressive résumés.

“They’re all good this time of the year,” stated Gilmer head coach Jeff Traylor, who has led his alma mater to a 108-17 record and one state championship in his 10 years at the helm of the Buckeyes.

Take La Vega, the Buckeyes’ opponent Saturday at Memorial Stadium in Mesquite. The Pirates have gone at least three rounds deep in the playoffs every year since 2006, sporting an impressive 10-3 playoff record in that span.

“We do have some experience and tradition,” admitted La Vega head coach Willie Williams, who has a 135-84-2 record in his 20th season as Pirates’ head coach.

Like Traylor, Williams is coaching in his hometown. “This is the only place I’ve known. I graduated from here and I’ve coached here for 27 years. I’ve never coache…

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