Moss Alumni Profiles
Phil Keathley - 1960 Graduate
This Profile was written using Phil's answers to my questions - Jerry Summy


Attending Moss High School was never my intent nor even in my thoughts.  Until one day in the      spring of 1957 when as a high school freshman at Fairview High School, I became informed that, in the coming year, Fairview would cease to exist as an educational institution.  This produced a quandary within my mind for where would I now go to complete my high school education?  I had been happy to attend Fairview for nearly nine years and had found interest in the classes and in the sports programs of baseball and basketball.  I considered that I had received a good education with such highly qualified teachers as Mrs. Burkes who was my full time teacher for sixth, seventh, and eighth grades where I had advanced each year from the left side of the rather large classroom in sixth grade, to the middle of the room in seventh, and ultimately to the right side of the room in eighth grade.  I liked my algebra teacher, Guy Webber, who had deftly taught the class members the fundamentals of this subject.  I had been amused at Superintendent Raymond Willingham who could never remember my name but could remember that I was a few hours younger than fellow classmate and good friend, Phil Wood.  Our birthdays were on March 22 and Mr. Willingham would refer to us as “elder” when he wanted my friend to answer a question or as “younger” when he wanted me to answer one. 

   As the summer of 1957 melted away and the coming school year was rapidly approaching, my family still had no clear direction about where I would be transferred.  Then came that day at evening milking time and we were all out in the cowlot doing what we always did at that time of day.  When suddenly a car drove into the driveway of our farmhouse and a tall, husky man strode toward the cowlot directly toward my dad.  They talked for a few minutes and then with a hearty handshake, Kenneth Hull, quickly walked away not even glancing in my direction as I looked on with curiosity.  Apparently it was decided that I would attend Moss High School.  In those days, the school was populated with farm kids who were necessary ingredients in the life of the farm and the school held a six-week summer session and all students would be turned out to help with the fall harvests before resuming in October.  On my first day of school, I was dressed and ready as I peered out the window for the yellow school bus with the black lettering emblazoned on the side which announced MOSS HIGH SCHOOL.  When the bus did arrive, I hurried out the door and ran excitedly to board the waiting bus on the other side of the highway.  Looking both ways, I hurried across US 75 and stepped up onto the bus.  The driver greeted me with a grin and I immediately recognized the man who would be my bus driver for the next three years.  It was Coach Kenneth Hull. 

   The next three years passed quickly but these were momentous years that had life-changing significance for me.  The teachers, the classes, and the activities would forever steer my life in a new and daunting direction that I was too immature and naïve at the time to grasp.  It was like a giant jizsaw puzzle and I was a pawn on the chessboard of life being jostled this way and that until the final push sent me reeling in a direction I never expected and would only later come to fully appreciate.  Not only was my moral compass calibrated but the substance of my life’s work would be realized before I set foot off that campus in the spring of 1960.  My teachers thoroughly taught me the basics of reading, writing, English, history, algebra, and vocational agriculture and I was privileged to be awarded my diploma on that graduation day.  Even then, I could not grasp the extent and uplifting gravity of the life experiences that would soon envelop me.  My road ahead would be paved with events, challenges, upheavals and successes such that I could never have imagined in my wildest dreams.

   I can say without equivocation that I had some of the very best classmates and colleagues at Moss High School who not always offered me the rah rah hand of encouragement but who were always there when I needed them to support me and to help me weather whatever storm that came my way.  My two very best friends reaching all the way back to first grade at Fairview were Phil Wood and Franklin Seiber.  We were inseparable for those nearly 12 years and we would forge a lasting friendship that, I thought, would be unshakable.  We were alike in so many ways and we liked to do the same things in class and out.  Through the years, we all had our yoyos, our tops with sharp points to try to spike the other’s top in the ring, our marbles with our steelie taws, our fun on the merry-go-round, and leap-frog.  No one could outjump me which is surprising in that I had short but beefy legs and I was almost always “Pat”.  I attributed my deftness in jumping and speed at running to a bout with polio I experienced in my legs at the age of nine.  My parents were horrified because just 15 years earlier they had lost a son to polio in 1936.  They prayed long and hard for me in addition to my nine living brothers and sisters.  The next day, I walked out of that hospital with no detectable symptoms of polio—a miracle of the first order.  Then there was my friend Larry Richmond who had also come over from Fairview and we were sometimes contentious but always amiable friends.  Larry was one of the strongest and toughest persons I ever met and you needed to be on his good side.  Bobby Turner, also from my Fairview classes, was also a good friend and we had some good times together.  Leamon Berry was a great athlete in basketball and baseball.  I used to pick him up as he lived only a mile or so from me and we would go to practice together.    Barbara Kay, also from Fairview, was a fun person to be around.  At Moss, I met Gary Shields who became a great friend.  He was fearless catching behind the plate those blazing fastballs coming from P. D. Brown and Larry Webber and standing fast at those screaming liners down the third base line as he deftly snared each one and fired in a straight line to first base.  Roy Welch and Larry Durbin were great friends and, I would later discover, were my shirt-tail cousins.  I don’t think any of us realized that we were near relatives during those years.  Billy Kibby and Carolyn Kibby were good friends.  I liked Glenda Montgomery, Marilynn Summy and Eulene Noblett but I was very shy around most girls and found it difficult to communicate. 

   I can say without reservation that two of my teachers at moss absolutely changed my life.  I squeezed four years of Vocational Agriculture in the three years under the able and excellent tutelage of Joe Raunikar.  I had been active in 4-H Club at Fairview and had become quite knowledgeable at Land Judging and even scored some good marks at area contests.  Mr. Raunikar, however, was a leader in the FFA to which I quickly joined and he immediately started selecting students to be on his four-person judging teams.  Early in the new semester, however, he first had us as a class make an insect collection.  Each of us went out on our farms and roadsides and collected, according to the teaching, pinned and displayed our catch.  Most of my classmates excelled at this endeavor. I, however, did very poorly and scored only a C equivalent grade.  However, an amazing phenomenon had taken place that I was too dumb to realize.  During this brief exercise of locating, detecting, and chasing down our retinue of insects, I had become hooked on the practice.  I could not help myself but continued collecting, pinning and displaying my catch.  Mr. Raunikar seemed to sense my enthusiasm because he placed me on his Entomology team and soon I would rise to leader of the group.  He gave me the only Entomology book he had to study and I devoured that book.  Whereas, early on Mr. Raunikar was my instructor in the insect field, it was not long before I would be the instructor.  And I would be teaching my teammates.  The second teacher I want to recognize as having had an enormous affect of my life is Coach Kenneth Hull.  Not only did he give me a chance in baseball and basketball but he encouraged me to improve myself and become a better team player.  Our first day on the baseball field, he had all the boys line up and sprint from home plate to deep right field and back.  Lloyd Morrow and I were two of the fastest and Mr. Hull would for the next three years call on me to steal a base, chase down a flyball, or dribble the basketball quickly down court for a layin.  He was a remarkable teacher because he was an extraordinary man.  I cannot begin to innumerate all the life’s lessons and common sense ideas taught by these two men—Joe Raunikar and Kenneth Hull.  I must also mention Mrs. Leach who came to our school to teach in the fall of 1958.  She immediately knew me because she had taught my older brothers at Lamar in 1937 and 1938.  She must have thought that the apple does not fall far from the tree because, as she remembered these students, she seemed not to find a great deal of acting talent in her memories.  When it came time for class members to read parts from the up-coming junior play that she was going to stage, I raised my hand to read from the part of Clem, the Asbestos Collar salesman (I pronounced it Besastus Collar in the part).  She let each of the other contenders read first.  I got the idea that her memories of my brothers’ performances may have caused her to hesitate when it came to my own reading.  However, when I read the part, injecting my own country brogue and trying to say it as the person described in the book, she could not stop from giggling.  With each line I read, she giggled and giggled.  It was a no-brainer.  I was the perfect person to play the part of Clem.  Mrs. Leach also taught other classes with alacrity.  She was a very good teacher.  And who could forget Joy Gentry.  She could take a rough-hewn country bumpkin with nine thumbs and turn him into a respectable typist.  I attribute my typing skills as I will later describe in detail in this synopsis to the excellent typing expertise displayed by this wonderful teacher.  Then there is Mr. Lindley, never a finer Principal than I could possibly have met.  Not only was he a great teacher but he also filled in very well for Mr. Hull when he couldn’t coach a game.  I will never forget that day in Norman at the baseball tournament in 1959 when Coach Hull could not be present and Mr. Lindley came to the rescue.  I was playing centerfield and it was getting late in the game and we were up only by a run.  Oney had a runner at second base and their big hitter stepped to the plate.  With a mighty swing of the bat, that ball came sailing high and deep to fenceless center field.  I whirled and ran at breakneck speed to deeper center field.  This ball might reach the far grove of trees in the distance.  Meanwhile, the runner at second, seeing the monumental clout immediately took off for home and was at home plate a few seconds later.  Meanwhile, I was still putting in my best Olympics tryout to deep center to a fly that almost seemed hopelessly long.  As I ran, the ball began to tail just a bit and I got new encouragement.  Finally, it was coming down and I was still too far away to come close.  But I kept huffing as fast as I could.  Suddenly, the ball was there and my glove was in my left hand.  Quickly, I whirled my body around to the right with my left arm extended as far as I could.  Plop!  I was stunned to feel the presence of a baseball neatly and securely in the pocket of my glove.  I skidded to a stop and whirled to see my friend Phil Wood flying into mid-center field from his shortstop position.  I fired the ball to him which he relayed to second base to double off the befuddled runner at home plate who suddenly realized he had been had.  We won that game and went on to the semi-finals only to lose to Cassidy, our first loss out of three straight state championships in two years.  We won state championships in the fall of 1957 and 1958 and I was privileged to be on the team and to be a part of this life-changing series of events.

   My sojourn at Moss was three action-packed years in which I had more experiences than I can even begin to describe.  From being a part of the baseball boys to being selected for the County All-Star team in basketball, from becoming High Individual in the OSU State Entomology contest twice in two years and the most knowledgeable FFA student in Entomology in the entire state of Oklahoma, from outstanding insect collections to magnificent displays, from tasting chicken fried steak twice at Oklahoma City following our baseball championships and my first experiences in a restaurant, from great shop classes and learning skills in welding, fence building, and many other things, the list goes on and on.  Most of all, I had these experiences with the fellowship and encouragement of fabulous friends and classmates who showed me the greatest respect than I could ever have deserved.  My three years at Moss laid the foundation for the fantastic future that now has been uninterrupted for 50 years.  My deepest heartfelt gratitude goes out to the people, the teachers and the friends of Moss who have contributed enormously to my life.

  I really thought little of what was going on as I daily arose from slumber, ate my breakfast, caught the school bus and spent each day doing school.  I could not see the future and what was being prepared for me.  Basically, I did what I was asked to do.  I attended class, participated in the activities, and did my lessons.  At the time, I thought little of it.  I can’t say that I was ever bored.  It was something that my nine brothers and sisters had done before me.  My dad had always told me, because he himself did not finish high school and only went to ninth grade, that he was determined that all of his children would, at the very least, finish high school.  So, I had no choice.  All my siblings had excelled in high school.  How could I not only let myself down but let each of them down as well?  I had to do my best with the talents that God had given me.  Although by this time I had fallen away from going to church with my parents.  I considered myself a good person and was still determined to do my best with what I had.  But I did pray to God not to let me throw my life away.

   Our 80-acre farm was five miles north of Horntown on US 75 highway and seven miles from Moss.  My parents were devout Christians who attended Texas Banner Church on most Sundays.  We raised cash crops every year such as peanuts, cotton or wheat but we also raised chickens and truck crops.  My mother was the financial brains of the family and always had a sign out front advertising strawberries, cucumbers, watermelons, cantaloupes, tomatoes, okra, onions, peas, pears, peaches, apples, chickens, eggs and many more.  Buyers stopped in at all times and seasons of the year.  When I needed money, I didn’t go to my dad.  I went to mom who always had a few dollars for me.  We had milking cows every morning and evening and we did not have a cream separator but mom would chill the milk and the cream would rise to the top.  She would skim that off and we would sell it at Townsend’s Produce in Holdenville.  I always had a dog and during my Moss days, Blackie was my constant companion.  When I walked down into the woods or down on the creek with my twenty-two, Blackie was always along to scare up a rabbit or chase a squirrel.  In the summer, I would swim in our dirty farm pond which was pretty shallow or go way back of our woods to the neighbors pond and see if I could go down a touch bottom in the middle of the pond.  I did plenty of hoeing of peanuts and all the other crops, picking strawberries and melons, planting and harvesting garden crops of all kinds.  Only one time did I wring the neck of a chicken my mom wanted to fix for dinner.  All the other times, she did it.  Only once did I shoot the yearling calf in the forehead so we could butcher it for meat in the winter.  Only once did I wield the knife to remove the testicles from a piglet.  Only once did I lasso and pull down a large calf and doctor it for screwworms.  Many times, I trudged through the cotton field with bent back picking cotton or pulling bolls.  Many times, I pitchforked peanut vines into piles, turned the piles to dry and picked up the piles to load on a wagon and take them to the threshing machine before they had modern combines.


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