Whitesburg KY

Former teacher, Jenkins mayor pays tribute to four

To the Editor:

In the past few months I have lost three track boys and a track official. The three boys (men today) are Danny Ratliff, Roger Johnson and Roger “Hunky” Hall, and track official Bill Cantrell. Each of these individuals was unique and made the Jenkins Track Team Program a success.

The last track person to pass was “Hunky” Hall. I didn’t know Hunky’s real name for years. When I first started coaching, the track was laid out around the goal post. There was not a track, just run-on dirt and grass. This was in the early years of my coaching career in the 1960s.

Hunky said he was a mile runner. The mile took eight laps on a 220 track. About halfway through the race Hunky wandered off the track and ran into the metal fence that was once around the football field. When I ran to him and asked if he was alright he said, “I’ve got the blind staggers.” From that time on the blind staggers was a word used often by future runners.

When I was Mayor of the City of Jenkins, Hunky was a tremendous help to me. He was a substitute policeman. He would work his regular job shift at Red Onion Prison and then do the night shift for the city.

Hunky’s son, Derick, also ran track for me. He was a good athlete who played football, baseball, and track for the Cavaliers. How great to have a father and son combination playing sports for Jenkins School System.

Both Danny Ratliff and Roger Johnson also ran track cross country for Jenkins. Both were excellent runners who did not want to lose a race. In fact Danny liked cross country the best because he loved the outdoors. Danny and others had worked hard in recent years on the Raven Rock Project to bring employment to Jenkins and the surrounding area. He loved exploring nature and all of the beauty this region has to offer. It was also known that Danny handled poisonous snakes. The story goes that there were people breaking into Danny’s home. Danny took care of the situation by placing a rattlesnake (as a greeter) for any unwanted visitors. When this word was passed around no one broke into his house again.

Roger Johnson was a very competitive cross country runner. He ran the 880 and relays. In the region he qualified for the State Tournament by winning this race. Roger’s son, Brian, also ran track for me. Brian and my son, Shane (the ‘old ball coach’ married and had Shane a little later in life), played on some good basketball teams at Jenkins High School under Harvey Tackett. Brian later was an excellent basketball player for the University of Pikeville.

The last person I would like to remember is Bill Cantrell. Bill was an excellent official at the home track meets. He studied and became a licensed official for track, as well as a football official. He always remained calm in times of anxiety and confusion. Bill and Margaret’s daughter, Beth, was my track manager, and did an outstanding job. My nickname for her was “Bethley.” The Cantrells’ son, Steven, was also a member of the Jenkins Track Team.

All of these very special people contributed to the Track and Sports Programs at Jenkins High School. They will certainly be missed by their family, friends and community. I became a better coach and person for knowing these men.


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