Rusty Haggard Blog

Archive for March, 2011

Allen Rickman: My Friend

Allen Mathew Rickman

August 15, 1956 – March 12, 2011

Fighting the disease of Alzheimer’s just like he fought as a Texas Longhorn defensive tackle, the man we knew and loved has finally walked off the field of life. A roar from the crowd can almost be heard for this valiant warrior. We wish he could be here one more day, for one more standing ovation for his efforts. Now gone from this life is Allen Rickman.

Allen Mathew Rickman was born in Brady, Texas, on August 15, 1956, the second son of Dorothy and Bobby Rickman. To Allen, Brady was the perfect playground for him, his brother Robert, and their cousins – a place to run and play, get in and stay out of trouble (including falling through the ceiling into the kitchen floor) and truly enjoy the wonders of nature. Later in life, his parents returned to live in Brady. Allen came to visit often, bringing friends and family to hunt, to fish, and to enjoy the wide open spaces.

Moving to San Antonio at the age of three, Allen grew up in the Alamo City. Many said his calling was baseball. At age 11, he was almost six feet tall. From the pitcher’s mound, he had a sidearm delivery that made his pitches seem to come in from somewhere around third base. Football was to be his sport, however, and he did not disappoint. Graduating from Churchill High in 1974, the 6’4”, 240 pounder was known to everyone as “Big Al.” He earned first team All State honors in football—the first Churchill Charger to earn All State in any sport. Heavily recruited by every major college in the U.S. and selected as one of the “Top 30” high school players in Texas and Arkansas by wire services, he chose to play for the University of Texas, breaking the heart of the Notre Dame recruiter who relentlessly pursued him right up to National Signing Day. True to his nature, Allen immediately went hunting after signing on the dotted line with Texas.

As a Longhorn, he not only joined his brother, who was already on the team. He also followed in his father’s footsteps. Bobby played for Texas in the late 1940s. Allen started as a sophomore, an incredible feat. Slowed by an injury early in the 1975 season, Allen overcame that and later played in the Gator Bowl, the Bluebonnet Bowl, and finally, after the Longhorns’ undefeated 1977 season, the Cotton Bowl. He rejoined his teammates at a reunion at Texas Royal-Memorial Stadium in the fall of 2007.

At UT, Allen lived in Jester, the athletic dormitory, and was said to be connected with one of the wildest things to ever take place there. It seems that a few of the players managed to get a gigantic rattlesnake into Jester (having removed the snake’s fangs beforehand), tied the varmint to a door handle and knocked. Some opened their doors, getting the scare of their lives not knowing that the rattler was without fangs. Others were on top of furniture. The following day, UT Coach Bill Ellington personally directed Allen off the practice field to “go take care of that rattlesnake problem at Jester and don’t come back until it’s taken care of.”

In 1978, Allen married his high school sweetheart, Lee Chetter. He devoted himself to her and would for the rest of their wonderful 33 years together. They were blessed with three children: Kelly, a beautiful red-head with a winning smile; Chris, a natural athlete with a laid-back nature; and Cole, who would grow in stature to match his father’s size. All that Allen did was for Lee and the kids. He was devoted to his family and they looked to him for love and guidance. The children were raised to be hard-working, responsible, and at the same time to put family first, to be fun-loving, to love team sports and, of course, to enjoy the great outdoors.

Family vacations were spent at places Allen loved. Rocky Mountain National Park was a favorite, as was Ruidoso, New Mexico, where the family had a summer home for a time. Durango, Colorado, and the Grand Canyon also were beloved retreats. Allen and Lee were involved in all the children’s school activities: football, basketball (boys and girls), baseball, soccer (again, boys and girls), band, theatre and more. Allen coached Little League baseball, went to countless UIL band competitions, and traveled as a band parent to Ireland, the United Kingdom, and Hawaii, always to support the kids’ activities.

In addition to raising the family with Lee, Allen returned to UT to pursue a degree in geology. He also worked in the stone and tile business. Quickly promoted to sales after his boss noticed his potential, his territory at one time or another covered practically the entire Lone Star State, including the Hill Country, West Texas, Dallas-Ft. Worth and Houston. With his size and a smile as big as Texas, Allen could ramble into any sales office and quickly get the attention of everyone. People realized that he was honest, hard-working, and a family man. He later helped his friends, Steve Hitzfeld and J. D. McDonald, begin Stone Solutions, where he worked until he could no longer participate in the day-to-day activities that he enjoyed so much.

In 2005, with the early onset of Alzheimer’s, Allen was up against an opponent as tough as any he had ever faced. Battling until the end, Allen died at the family home in Kyle, Texas, on Saturday, March 12, 2011.

Left to cherish his memory are his wife, Lee, daughter Kelly, son Chris and his fiancé, Amanda Simon, and son Cole. Also surviving Allen are his father, Bobby Rickman, of Brady; brother, Robert Rickman; sister-in-law, Karen Rickman; nieces Megan and Kaitlin Rickman and nephew Todd Rickman, of San Antonio; father- and mother-in-law Dick and Fran Chetter, of Canyon Lake; brother-in-law Ric Chetter, of Memphis, Tennessee; aunts Melba Hemphill and Patty Rickman, of San Antonio; and cousins Derinda Mundell, of San Antonio, and Dee Rickman, of Austin. His mother, Dorothy (Dot) Rickman, and nephew, Brady Rickman, passed away before him.

The family would like to thank, first and foremost, his mother-in-law, Fran, who spent years as caregiver and companion on a daily basis as he battled the disease. Also, Steve Hitzfeld and J. D. McDonald of Stone Solutions, who contributed so unselfishly as Alzheimer’s eroded opportunities for Allen to contribute to the job he loved. Also, good friends Cherie and Rusty Haggard, for their love, support, and friendship, especially in the final trying months, weeks, and days.  Also, John Diaz, Allen’s caregiver in his final days. Finally, to the wonderful staff of Harbor Hospice for their loving care as his life ebbed away. Those interested are encouraged to make a donation to Harbor Hospice or the charity of their choice.


Vegas Moves to Wall Street, or Maybe…

…Vegas has been on Wall Street all along? Today’s headlines scream of oil prices skyrocketing upwards, like so many mortar shells over Tripoli lately. Uncle Sam, the major consumer of the black gold, reads the headlines and takes another sip of coffee and shakes his head. And then we collectively will soon be opening our wallets to shell out 4 bucks for a gallon of gas.

It’s not us. It’s not Big Oil, as good a villain as Central Casting could ever come up with. It’s not Libya. Or any other OPEC nation. It’s our good buddies making bets down on Wall Street about oil futures.

It’s not us: We’re not consuming like we used to. Better cars, less people on the road (that would be the jobless people that are not driving to work anymore, thanks!).

It’s not Big Oil: everybody hates ’em, but the boys with the drilling rigs punching holes in dirt, seawater and everywhere else there might be oil (fun places like Angola, Russia, and other “off the tourist map” locales) have done their job in getting the stuff to us.

It’s not Libya: this little country in flames (and I think we’re all hoping they can oust Crazy Guy into exile ASAP) is way down on the list of OPEC producers’ tally sheets. It pumps up about 1.2 million barrels a day. And get this. At one facility recently completed in Saudi Arabia—Khurais—the capacity is (you guessed it) 1.2 million barrels a day. One facility. “60 Minutes” was there and saw it. And you can You Tube that episode and see it for yourself. Khurais is a monstrosity, and all Saudi Arabia has to do is open the valves. And heeerrrrreeeee’s your oil! And the Khurais Field doesn’t come close to matching the Ghawar Field there, the world’s largest.

Here’s your culprit: It’s the guys and gals down on Wall Street betting oil futures. They’ve bet so much (to pad their wallets) that Cushing, Oklahoma, has orders right now for six times its capacity. Six times capacity! There’s nowhere to put the oil, even if Saudi Arabia and every other OPEC member turned on the faucets, ran the stuff through pipelines to tankers and pointed them for the USA.

You can’t blame the Wall Street crowd. It’s a gamble and they’ve got the money. I go to Vegas, walk up to a craps game and I’ve got maybe $300 bucks to throw in to lose. Everybody else around the table (wow, there’s Charlie Sheen, Crazy Guy #2) has got around $50,000 and they’re ready to play. They could crap out and then, voila, we’ve got $2 a gallon gas. Sometimes you win, and sometimes…

I think I’ll leave the craps game and go down The Strip to one of the magic shows. I’m not driving there. I’m walking.

Be Kind, Rewind…Your Mind

Turns out that man isn’t that important. We, collectively, are pretty miniscule and insignificant after all.

What? You’re shocked?

Yeah, sure, we’ve got space travel, jumbo jets, solar technology, air conditioning, refrigeration, countless athletic feats and records, art, photography, cinema, great wines. And the iPad 2. You know there’s going to be an iPad 3. Probably next week.

What I mean is that man still stumbles around on earth, being inhumane, being insane, maiming, killing. And there are those souls among us, bless them, who are going about things the right way. Helping others, reaching out. But they’re way outnumbered.

Animals, unlike us, can do things like fly, run faster than we can, stay underwater longer than we can. Live underwater! Give birth to ten at a time, like my golden retriever Rita did one time. And they think nothing of it.

I’ve read that your best friend, if even for a few minutes, is the person next to you in line at the grocery store. Or at the movies. Or at the ballpark. Reach out, say something. Amazing things can be exchanged. We’re not alone in this crazy thing called “life on earth.” Rewind your mind. And be kind. And see what happens. It may surprise you.

And do it with no expectations. None. Just do it. Smile at a stranger. Open the door for someone. Give someone a cut in line. Rewind. Start over. Push “play” if only for today.