The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 95, July 1991 - April, 1992

Southwestern Hzstorical Quarterly

the Civil War, and became tribal chief. It was he who wrote into the tribe's post-
war treaties with the federal government the singular provision that the ex-
slaves of Creek Indians, unlike practically all of the other four million southern
freedmen, would have all rights to political and economic equality with their
former masters. That is the story that Greenberg follows through Cow Tom's
great-grandson Jake Simmons, Jr., and his own three sons: one a commissioner
of the Interstate Commerce Commission, one a professor at the University of
California, and one a successful businessman.
The reader finds here a story as compelling as Alex Haley's Roots. He or she
finds, too, a gnawing question. If, as Greenberg maintains, this one family's
story grows from its special roots as Cow Tom's literal and symbolic heirs, how
might the lives of millions of black families have worked out differently had
their own emancipation been so complete?
University of Oklahoma at Norman DANNEY GOBLE
Friday Nzght Lghts: A Town, a Team, and a Dream. By H. G. Bissinger. (Reading,
Mass.: Addison-Wesley Publishing Co., 1990o. Pp. xiv+357. Preface, pro-
logue, photos, epilogue. $19.95.)
Dan Jenkins, Texas product and Texas sports humorist, understood as well
as anyone the importance of high school football to the psyches of small Texas
towns: "You can take your wars and starvation and your fires and your floods,
but there's no heartbreak in life like losing the big game in high school." H. G.
Bissinger's Friday Night Lzghts is about that heartbreak and the extent to which a
team, a school, and a community will go to avoid it. Friday Nzght Lights centers
on Odessa's Permian High School Panthers' 1988 football season. But, as
Bissinger makes clear, Odessa and Permian could be any town and school "in
this vast land where, on a Friday night, a set of spindly stadium lights rises to
the heavens to so powerfully, and so briefly, ignite the darkness" (p. xiv).
Bissinger seeks the national spirit in the isolated West Texas community, for he
believes Odessa is a slice of America-no better no worse. He writes, "Across
the country there were thousands of places just like it, places that were not only
isolated but insulated, places that had gone through the growing pains of
America without anyone paying attention, places that existed as islands unto
themselves with no link to the great cities except that they all sung the same
national anthem to the same flag at sporting events" (p. 35).
In Odessa one sporting event-Friday night high school football games-
filled what was otherwise a social and cultural void. A transient town plagued
by sand storms, a scarcity of water, and a boom-and-bust oil economy, Odessa
has been judged by Psychology Today, Money magazine, Places Rated Almanac, and
the Dallas Tzmes Herald as one of the worst places in America to live. In 1982 it
had the highest per capita murder rate in the country, and in 1988 it was rated
as the seventh most stressful city in America to live. Civic pride revolves around
the Permian football team. That team provides the glue that holds Odessa
together.
To say that Friday Nzght Lights is just about high school football, however, is to
say that Moby Dick is just about whales. Bissinger uses football to explore the

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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 95, July 1991 - April, 1992. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth117153/. Accessed October 24, 2014.