August 7, 2013

Misty Watson: Tribe Ride, where are you?

We would walk into Murray Field and fight the crowd to find our way to the student section. It was so crowded that our student section was on the visitors’ side, right across from the band and cheerleaders so we could yell cheers and chants across the football field at each other. There was rarely even any standing room open along the fence, so many people attended Murray County High School football games.

The band would be playing our fight song. The cheerleaders would be in place, ready to hoist up the giant run-through sign that I had helped paint earlier that day. The national anthem was sung. The moment of silence observed.

Then you’d hear it, the transfer truck horn and a siren. The crowd, already pumped and ready for some Friday night football, couldn’t contain themselves any longer.

We yelled as loud as we could, cheered, clapped, screamed, blew air horns, shook cow bells and noise makers. Here it came, the Murray County green 1971 Chevy Impala that had been decked out with Indian- and Murray-themed decals, including our two logos, the Indian head and the “M” with a spear through it.

The Tribe Ride entered the stadium, with six cheering guys hanging out the windows, chests painted to spell out M-U-R-R-A-Y and backs painted in honor of a senior football player. They parked just on the other side of the goal post.

It was the original Tribe at Murray County High School. The Tribe and the Tribe Ride helped define the senior class of 2000. They helped set us apart from the classes before us and the classes coming behind us. We jumped on board and took cues from these six guys, and a group of girls emerged as the Tribettes.

It was part of our legacy, part of the lasting impact our class was able to leave on the school. We were proud of our school, proud of our football team which went 10-2 and won region 7-AAA that year. (And I can’t let a football column pass without mentioning our last-minute defeat of Dalton High School at Harmon Field my senior year, the fall of 1999. Look it up on YouTube. It was so glorious, we still brag about it 14 years later!)

Kevin Booth, who owned the Impala and was a member of the Tribe, had hoped the car would be passed down from class to class, from Tribe to Tribe, as a symbol of pride and school spirit. Somewhere along the way, it was lost.

“It’s frustrating that it disappeared,” said Booth, now a teacher at Ringgold Primary and a basketball coach at Heritage Middle School.

Booth is hoping to track it down again.

“After school I kept it for like a year, and I said, ‘This needs to stay with the school,’” he said. “My aunt and uncle gave it to me. I used to call it four shades of rust. Me and some of the basketball players sanded and sanded on that thing for a long time getting it ready to paint. (Original Tribe member) Stephen Bingham’s dad painted it Kelly green for us. Then we saved up some money for the stickers we put on it, bought a transfer truck horn and a police siren ... like an air siren.”

Booth was not an original member of the Tribe because he wasn’t initially comfortable taking his shirt off and painting his body for games and pep rallies. The Tribe had been started the fall of 1998 by several basketball players as a way to show support to the football team. Members of the football team returned the favor during basketball season.

“I said, ‘I got this old car. We should fix it up and paint it green and call it the Tribe Ride,’” he recalled. “They welcomed me in and I became the ‘Y.’ We could squeeze eight people in that one car.”

The original Tribe didn’t yell profanities or harass people on the opposing team. It was a good group of guys who were proud of their school and their classmates’ accomplishments.

“We always tried to keep it classy,” Booth said. “It was back when football meant something in Murray County. ... It didn’t matter what the temperature was, we were going to be out there. It was about the experience and pride in our school.”

And the Tribe Ride was the symbol of that experience and pride for many of us.

Whatever has happened to it, Booth never saw it again.

 “I am wondering if it’s even still out there, if it’s sitting out in a barn somewhere,” Booth said. “I have good memories in that car. I’m not a big car guy, don’t know a lot about them. But we spent a lot of hours fixing that thing up and getting it ready for football. I hate to see it disappear totally.”

If you know where the Tribe Ride is, have any stories about it or photos of it, please contact Booth at buyfromkevin@yahoo.com.

Murray County native Misty Watson is a photographer and staff writer for The Daily Citizen. You can contact her at mistywatson@daltoncitizen.com, facebook.com/MistyWatsonDCN or on Twitter, @mistydwatson.

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