I grew up on a ranch my granddad settled in the 1890s, southwest of Claude, TX, overlooking Palo Duro Canyon. It was everything a kid like me could ever want. It was cattle drives, horseback rides, hiking trails, deer hunts, secret hideouts and swimming tanks.
Walter Ransom, my granddad, had a famous neighbor: Charles Goodnight. He owned the adjacent JA Ranch and shared everything he knew about ranching and the canyons with our family. They were good friends, and my dad, one of the last people to talk to Mr. Goodnight before he died, was asked to record an oral history for the Southwest Collections at Texas Tech University.
My dad, Don, and his brother, Roy, eventually took over my grandfather’s land and accumulated even more acreage for the Ransom Ranch.
My daddy was a hard worker. He lived to work and worked to live. I was his little sidekick. He called me “Feller.” Never mind that he later got a Rat Terrier he also named “Feller.” I didn’t take offense. He’d call out, “Hey, Feller,” and we would come a runnin’. We both loved my father.
My mother, Ima Thomas Ransom, was a saint. She was the perfect ranch wife and served us three hot meals every day. She was a devout Christian, a true believer. She studied the Bible, lived her faith and was a praiseworthy example of grace, faith and belief.
She also lived to “balance” her husband’s little “Feller.” (Me, not the dog.) She believed that I should be exposed to things other than just horses, cattle, pick-up trucks, blue jeans and boots and signed me up for piano lessons when I was 5. I continued those lessons throughout my school years and played piano, and sometimes organ, at the First Baptist Church in Claude.
Third grade was a life-changing time for me. I can still remember standing in that gym for the first time. That’s when I fell in love with basketball.
My mother, the “saint,” had accidently slammed my finger in the car door prior to that visit to the gym. It was my right hand, my dominant hand. It was one of those blessings in disguise. I learned to dribble with my left hand.
F.G. Crawford was my junior high and high school coach. It was a six-man game then, and I was a 5’11” post player. He taught me the fundamentals of the game and the hook shot, my signature move. Inside or outside the lane, I would turn my back to the defender and arc my shot toward and through the basket. It was unique for that day and time.
Claude High School hadn’t won a girls’ basketball state title since the early 50s. We renewed the tradition and won state my sophomore, junior and senior years.
Those state titles and my signature hook shot attracted the attention of the Hutcherson Flying Queens and Coach Harley Redin.
As a high school senior, I was invited to play on the Queen Bee team at the 1962 AAU National Tournament. Every day for six weeks, my mother would drive me 200 miles round trip to work out with the team. I guess she thought I needed a chaperone, because I could drive. I had been driving a wheat truck since I was 5 and graduated to a tractor-pulling combine shortly thereafter. I was driving every moving vehicle on the ranch by the 6th grade.
I can’t remember how we finished in that 1962 tournament, but I do remember Nera White. She was one of those “old ladies” on the Nashville Business College (NBC) team. I played against her every year of my college career. That woman could drive the length of the floor in three dribbles and lay it up.
We only beat NBC once. It was Wayland Baptist’s 1965 Homecoming, and I was Homecoming Queen. My mother bought me a very expensive suit for the ceremony and parade. She wanted me to look the part. But we had a game to play later that day, so I wore my uniform under the outfit. Ima Ransom was mortified, but all was forgiven when I scored the winning basket.
As a senior in 1966, we lost to NBC in the national championship game for the fourth consecutive year. I was named the third best women’s basketball player in the nation by AAU sportswriters. Bet you can guess who was first – my friend and nemesis, Nera White.
We went 78-17 my four years as a Flying Queen. One of the most memorable wins was a victory over powerhouse Russia.
I also played for the Harley Redin-coached USA team. We toured the states and participated in the World Games in Lima, Peru.
I am so grateful to Wayland, Claude and Wilda Hutcherson, Harley Redin, my teammates and the entire Flying Queens community. They changed my life.
My basketball playing days over, I accepted a position as head coach at Bridgeport High School, married and had a son, Todd. I spent eight years in Bridgeport; however, divorced and a single mom of a toddler, I decided to move closer to home.
I spent 33 years at Abernathy, TX, raising a son, working as a professional photographer, and coaching and teaching photography, health, medical terminology and driver’s ed at various times throughout my career there.
After retirement, I combined my love for basketball and photography by documenting the Texas Tech Lady Raiders’ journey to a 1993 national championship on film.
Mother passed in 1998, and Daddy died 10 years later at the age of 96. I adopted his American Eskimo dog, Mandy. She had the sweetest spirit, and it became “my life’s calling” to put that sweet spirit to good use. We went to Therapy Training and started visiting cancer units, assisted living, skilled nursing and rehab facilities several times a week.
I had the dog … and I still had my music. I played piano by ear and would orchestrate sing-alongs while my “audience” snuggled with Mandy. I played a lot of hymns – that’s my thing – and everybody knows hymns, everybody.
Molly, also an American Eskimo, accompanies me on our visits now.
In between those treasured visits, I love to travel, especially to Presidential Libraries. I’ve been to 15 so far. I also love reading and gospel music, especially the Collingsworth Family, and cherish my time in church and Bible study. My granddaughter, Elise, now 19, is one of the remarkable blessings of my life.