Cars funnel through the neighborhood, until two blocks down, four houses and a pecan tree from the corner, a spot is found, and homes become temporary parking identifiers for Friday night football.
The fading October sun stretches a purple band of sky over Fulton Street like a banner for the Denton High School Broncos, their purple and crimson gold uniforms an armor of royalty, bringing on the battle.
The weekend is here, ushered in by the trumpet sound and booming drums of the Bronco marching band, reverberating the tuning fork of the neighborhood, carrying the cadence like an invitation to the town.
The stands rumble with feet ascending and descending, an auxiliary instrument of the home-team.
Underneath, middle-schoolers toss the football back and forth in pre-game ritual, as is the concession stand. The smells of popcorn and nacho cheese spew over into the street.
Everyone is young again during Friday night football (tomorrow).
It is Thursday night, and the junior-varsity team is playing, to a sparse crowd of devoted parents, ready to celebrate a 7-1 winning streak. Varsity plays on Friday.
Annie Hawkins, graduating class of ‘75, works the ticket booth.
“Do we get in for free?” asks one parent. Hawkins catches the joke, her sunglasses looking straight ahead.
“Depends on who you are! That will be $6,” she says, her third night on the job.
She recalled her days at what was then called Bronco Stadium, the weekly gathering since Denton High School moved in 1957 to Fulton Street from what is now Calhoun Middle School. The stadium’s formal title is Denton Independent School District Stadium.
“I love the kids,” Hawkins said. “I never was able to have any of my own.”
Today, stated on the press-box with plain black letters is “Mary Jane Lane,” a 2002 tribute to Mrs. Lane, who was secretary of the athletic and counseling departments from 1973 until she retired in 1993. She died May 8, 2001.
Assistant Principal Greg Hart carries a box of Double Dave’s Pizza through the entry gate. He and police officer Patrick Black balance the box on each side of the fence, digging in.
A woman carrying red velvet and chocolate cake passes by on her way to the press-box, offering a slice of each. Officer Black, graduating class of ’83, gives his to a friend.
“Can’t do sweets,” he said, holding his stomach, stout and stretching the shirt. “Sugar just makes you more hungry.”
Custodian William Dowdy is happy to receive the cakes.
A foe-diamond studded ring stands out from his hand, cradling the last slice of bacon-pepperoni pizza.
Dowdy celebrated a district championship in 2000 as a Bronco, and has snuck away from his cleaning duties next-door to watch the game.
He smiles wide in his blue striped uniform. “I’m blessed,” he says.
Dowdy shared how he started working for Denton High School, after spending three years in a Kansas City jail, on account of “two bad choices.”
“I smoked marijuana. It’s hard for African Americans, you know?”
He didn’t say the other choice, but mentioned the one that got him back on his feet and at Denton High, after a greyhound dropped him and a group of former inmates off in Dallas two years ago.
“I’ll never forget the day my girlfriend, at the time, told me, ‘You ain’t got a job. You ain’t got a cell-phone. And you live with your momma,’ and…in the next two days, I was hired.”
Now, Dowdy is a source of motivation to the kids, and the football team. Coach Kevin Atkinson lets him come in the locker room for pep talks every now and then.
“I just want to be a role model. I tell the kids not to make bad choices, so they can grow up and become what they want to be, not what they need to be.”
Behind the ticket booth is parked a truck painted with cartoon tropical birds. Randy Britain, graduating class of ’79, leans out of the window to hand Blake Thomas, 11, his cup of shaved-ice, which is immediately transmitted to a cubby and ten flavors are allowed equal pour, a “suicide.”
“Everyone loves Tiger’s Blood,” said Britain about the strawberry-watermelon-coconut mixture, turning the ice bright red. “They don’t even know what it is, but they love the name.”
The food-truck is a booster for the football team, with 20 percent of profits going back to the Broncos.
For Britain, it’s a chance to stay young at heart, remaining closer to childlike through the window of a food-truck, supporting his Broncos.
“Adults get to be kids again,” he says about the self-serve cones. “That’s why they like it.”
Tomorrow will be a bigger night for business. The stands will fill with past and present students, and graduates-turned-parents, mentors and friends.
And everyone will be young again, on Friday night.