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‘Hold her Newt, she’s headed for the barn’

I’ve often heard the saying, “The only thing that stays the same is that nothing stays the same.”

 

I don’t know who originally said that, but the past few months have been all about that feeling. So many things are different than they were just a year ago. Between strange weather, the coronavirus and the changes it has brought to our everyday lives it feels like we’re in another dimension at times.

 

Unfortunately, the same time frame has also brought the loss of a group of “old-timers” that were at least partially responsible for bringing success to Pulaski County and our high school.

 

Make no mistake, we’ve lost a lot of the “good ones” before now. Names like Kenneth J. Dobson, Dewey Wilson and a host of others will forever be linked to the history of Pulaski County High School. Some of those men threw the first handfuls of grass seed onto what is now Joel Hicks Field.

 

In the past few months, however, we’ve lost three men, in particular, that stand out in my mind. These three men also had a big part in the early days of building the success that Pulaski County High School enjoyed. Those three men are Jay Vest, Leonard “Pooch” Yost and Dan Callahan.

 

Jay Vest was the Dublin Chief of Police for many years. A quiet man with a strong sense of right and wrong, Jay was a father figure to many young people. He raised his own family, but he also had a hand in keeping many other young people on the right path. Some of those were athletes, others were not. Jay Vest was a fair and honorable man.

 

Leonard “Pooch” Yost was active in a lot of things in Pulaski County, even though he was not originally from here. Pooch came from the Tazewell area, where he was very active in youth sports. When he came to Pulaski County he didn’t slow down. He was always around somewhere with a box of Cracker Jacks and a corny joke, but he was also always ready to help out any way he could.

 

Dan Callahan did a lot of things to help put Pulaski County on the map. When the high school opened, Dan covered that and Cougar sports from day one. When the time came for a coaching change, Dan was the one that brought up the name Joel Hicks. He played for Coach Hicks at Big Creek High School. It was Dan that drove to Morgantown, West Virginia, to give the job offer to Coach Hicks and helped convince him to come. He covered the Cougars in print and on the radio until his final days.

 

These three men had several things in common. For one, at one point or another, all were actively involved in the Pulaski County Touchdown Club.

 

I can remember being on the road with yellow spray paint and a Cougar paw stencil painting the paws that lead to the high school. Jay had his squad car keeping us safe. Pooch usually had the snacks and drinks and Dan was telling us all how we could do it better.

 

I remember the old Touchdown Club meetings out under the pine trees at Kenneth J. Dobson Stadium. While these meetings were supposed to be for organizational purposes, we normally spent more time telling or listening to stories about some incident on the sideline at a game years ago or something someone did on a road trip. As a younger member at the time who had been away from home for 11 years, I loved hearing those old stories, but it was understood that at least a portion of them may have been somewhat embellished over the years.

 

Pooch and Dan were the story and joke tellers. They were usually drawn out, almost always corny, and were usually told at the expense of someone else who was there. Pooch always told his stories about how Raquel Welch, Farrah Faucet and Jennifer Anniston were chasing him. It seems the three starlets just couldn’t get enough of Pooch, even though he tried to send them on their way. Just the other day I told someone the story about “Fred the Head” that Dan told me years and years ago. It was still corny.

 

All three of these men had certain ways of saying things that I’ll remember them for as well.

 

With Jay, there was always a thoughtful quietness as he listened to you explain a problem. After you finished telling your side of things, it always seemed like his response was, “Well son, what do you think the best way to go about it is?” He let it be your solution, even though when you looked back it was clear that he helped guide you there.

 

Pooch was one of a kind. It didn’t matter what his stories started out being about, eventually, they all came back to one of three things: sports, food or the three previously mentioned young ladies. No matter which one he was talking about, he enjoyed telling the tale.

 

Dan may have had the most memorable quotes. He would always tell you it was all due to his “West Virginia education” that put him above his peers. When Pulaski County made a big play we heard “Hold her Newt, she’s headed for the barn.” When the offense had a long way to go it was “fourth and Sylvatus.” A bad cough normally forced him to take a dose of his “West Virginia cough medicine.”

 

Dan passed away Wednesday morning after a short illness. Pooch and Jay Vest were lost over the past several months. These three men spent a good portion of their lives helping or promoting Pulaski County and our athletics programs. Dan and Jay both had sons play in them.

 

I rode a lot of miles over the years with Dan, but not as many as some. I listened to a lot of history, about football and our area, during those rides. I heard the stories about the players from the past like King Harvey and Gary Clark that played before my time. I heard a lot about how things used to be in the early years. I’ve been able to watch how things have changed. Like him, I think some of those changes were good and others weren’t.

 

To be completely honest, there were times throughout the years where things happened that either made these three men mad or made people mad at them. Sometimes when you try to help people out you’ll get resistance if it doesn’t fit into how they want it to go.

 

With Dan being in the media spotlight, he was usually the one that caught most of the flak. People complained at times about something he wrote or said on the radio. Dan didn’t usually sugarcoat things, even if it would have made it easier on himself.

 

All three of these men left a lasting impression on Pulaski County and our school system. They came from a time where you did what you could to help, even if you didn’t have a kid in the system. Between the three of them, it’s hard to tell how many young athletes were assisted through the years.

 

Their passing leaves us with a question: Who’s going to step up now? Dan would likely use a reference to the George Jones song “Who’s gonna fill their shoes?”

 

These gentlemen will be remembered, but as always life will move on. I plan to continue doing my part in covering Pulaski County sports. I hope I can do it justice. With a little luck, we’ll find some new people that will show at least a small amount of the interest in supporting Pulaski County youth athletics that these three have throughout the years.

 

A Facebook post by Cody Hamilton Wednesday sparked an idea that, in my opinion, would be a proper and fitting way to recognize the support and dedication shown by Dan throughout the years. If you agree, let your Pulaski County School Board member know that they need to make the “Dan Callahan Press Box” a reality.

 

A group of former players, coaches and managers have also put together a plan to show up outside of the Highland Memory Gardens to line the road as Dan is laid to rest Monday. There may also be other things that happen, but as of press time this is all we can confirm. Due to the situation with the pandemic, funerals have been kept small, but for those who wish to pay their respects plan on lining the road between the area of Bucko’s and Little Caesars and the entrance to the graveyard Monday starting at around 1:45 p.m. Wear your Cougar colors, burgundy and gold.

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