A Prince among men
By Michael Brooks
Lawrence Prince has seen many Edna Cowboys homecoming games from the sidelines. 50 of them to be exact. So Prince is used to watching the ceremonies play out when the homecoming winners are announced, but he never thought he would be part of the celebration.
“They got me good,” Prince said, referring to how his family and the school administration surprised him when they awarded him with a plaque for his five decades of service, running the chains for the Cowboys football games.
And it all started off with a simple request.
“Back in the late 1970’s, I was working for the school and one day they wanted me to run the chains,” Prince said. “I didn’t know anything about any chain back then. The football field was right there behind the junior high at that time.”
Prince, who was an Edna football player a few years earlier, knew what the chains and down boxes were, but had no idea about working them.
“I started running the chains with two little sticks and the down box. From there I moved up to the new field and just kept going with it. I went to my job and worked, and when Friday came, I went and worked the chains.”
Prince came on as a volunteer as the guys who were running the chains were getting older.
“I was still young and I fit right in there,” he continued. “Shoot, I just enjoyed it. I was right up front, with the guys. I liked the coaches. I went through a lot of coaches” he added with a chuckle.
After working for the school, Prince moved on to working for Jackson Electric, where he stayed and eventually retired from. And all the time, he continued going to games and running the chain gang. He was so committed in doing the job, he couldn’t remember missing a single game in 50 years.
“I remember one time my wife an I were in Dallas, and Edna was in a playoff game,” he explained. “We left Dallas early that morning because I knew I had to be here to run those chains and they were playing in Victoria. So I made it all the way in time to run that chain. Other than that, I hadn’t really missed.”
Over the years, running the chains has remained the same, but the equipment has been updated, and more convenient.
“A year or two ago we got this new down box and I had to learn how to work it,” Prince said. “It’s digital, and oh man, that thing is awesome. I’m just crazy about it. You just push the button and keep on going.
“Sometimes those kids (the football players), them little boogers can run. At my age now, I try to keep up and I’ll tell the referee I,I’ll be there in just a minute,” he added with a laugh. In order to simplify things, Prince spoke with the Edna Administration about getting a helper.
“The little tags you put down at every five yard line, I was on the box,” Prince said. “I learned how to put the tags down. This year was the first time I got my brother Curtis to help put the tag down. I would let one of the guys hold the box, I would put the tag down, and then go back and get the box and travel with the ball. I asked the young lady at the administration building if it would be possible for me to get somebody to help with that tag. She said she would check into it and, man, I was glad when she called me back and said that would be fine. I was tickled to death. That really helped me out.”
Edna football game announcer Cippi Palacios asked Prince how long he had been running the chains.
“I was in HEB one evening and asked how long I had been running the chains. I knew coach (Henry “Buzzy”) Whitley had been there 27 years and I ran it through his tenure, but I had run the chain before him. I knew I had some years running the chain but I never had any idea it would add up to this. Cippi said ‘you’ve been here for a long time, you need to get recognized.’ I told him we all need to get recognized. My brothers and I and Jerry Anderson. As far as recognized, I just meant something like saying ‘we recognize the chain gang over there’ but he said you know what, I’ll do that. But I didn’t know he was going to go and do all this. That booger really got me.”
In order to pull off the surprise award presentation, Prince’s family had to be sneaky.
“I asked my wife last week if she was going to the game on Friday,” Prince explained. “She said she would think about it because my nephew’s daughter is being run up for homecoming queen over in El Campo. So my sisters-in-laws were all going to get together and go over there. Late Thursday night my wife called and said she was in El Campo, at her sisters and she was over there picking up a package.
“So after the Thursday night games were over, I got home and my wife came in about midnight and my son was with her and his wife and I wondered so what is going on here? I realized everyone was here because they were going to El Campo on Friday.”
With his family headed to El Campo, Prince attended the Edna game, like he always does.
“So when Friday came at Edna, we got everything together and all the homecoming queens and kings and beaus and belle were coming in,” Prince continued. “My brothers and I and Jerry Anderson were just sitting there on the bench, observing everything, and after a while Cippy said we need to recognize the chain guys, and I thought well that is just fine. Then he asked us to step out on the field, so I walked on out there just big and bold, and man, when I got on that field, I saw the Superintendent (Robert O’Connor) coming with a plaque in his hand and I saw my son, my daughter-in-law and my wife. I said what in the world? I thought you guys were in El Campo. They fooled me. They really did.”
Prince was extremely greatful for the award and wanted to think Palacios for getting the ball rolling and the school board and administrations for the plaque.
Even with Prince getting older, he plans to keep on running the chains as long as he is able.
“We run that chain through cold, rain, as long as it’s not lightning, we work through it,” he said. “I never thought this would’ve come. I look back on it now, at my age, and I never thought it was that long. It’s exercise for me so as long as my health keeps me going, I’m going to keep running it.”