Ralph Henry Barbour
"Right Tackle Todd" is an exciting school, sports, and adventure story about football and sportsmanship by American novelist Ralph Henry Barbour. He wrote some famous works of sports fiction for boys in the early 1900s. His stories teach the significance of sports, teamwork, and school spirit.
“Stereotyped,” said Martin Gray. “That’s the word!” He spoke triumphantly, as one will when a moment’s search for the proper term has been rewarded. “Stereotyped, Clem!”
“Oh, I don’t know,” replied his room-mate, only mildly interested in Mart’s subject. “Of course they do look pretty much alike—”
“It isn’t only their looks, though. But, come to think of it, that’s another proof of my—er—contention. Hang it, Clem, if they weren’t all alike as so many—er—beans—”
“Don’t you mean peas?” asked Clement Harland, grinning.
“Beans,” continued Mart emphatically. “They wouldn’t all wear the same things, would they?”
“Don’t see that, Mart. After all, a chap’s simply got to follow the jolly old style, eh?”
“Not if he has any—er—individuality! No, sir! I saw fifty at least of the new class arrive yesterday, and except that sometimes one was shorter or taller or fatter than the others, you could have sworn they were all from the same town. Yes, sir, and the same street! Same clothes, same hats, same shoes, same—”
“Well, after all, why not? Besides, after they’ve been here awhile they develop different—as you’d say—‘er—characteristics.’ What if the kids do look alike when they first come?”
“But you don’t get the—er—the idea at all!” protested Martin. “What I’m trying to get at—”
“Is that Alton Academy attracts a certain type of fellow and doesn’t get enough freaks to suit you.”
“Freaks be blowed! I don’t want freaks, I want new blood, something different now and then. You know as well as I do that new blood is what—”
“You’ve got the ‘melting pot’ idea, eh?”
“Yes, I guess so. Why not? Look at the other schools; some of ’em, anyway: Dexter, Dover—”
“I said some of ’em. Take Dexter now.”
“Look at the—er—variety of fellows that go there. What’s the result?”
“Why, the result is that they manage to beat Dover pretty often at football, but I always thought that coach of theirs had a good deal to do with that!”
“Shucks, I’m not talking about athletics, although that’s a pretty good test, too. What I mean is that it’s the school that draws its enrollment from all over the country and from all—er—classes that does the biggest things; and that’s the most use, too.”
“I don’t believe it,” answered Mart. “It’s the school itself, its policy, its traditions that count. You might have every state in the Union—”
“Oh, that, of course, but I say that a student body composed of a lot of totally different types—”
“All right, but how are you going to get them?”
“Reach out for ’em! How do other schools get ’em?”
“Search me, old son! Maybe they advertise in the papers; Dakotas, New Mexico, Florida, Hawaii—”
“Sure! Why not! This school’s in danger of—er—dry-rot, Clem! Four hundred or so fellows all alike, speaking the same language—”
“I should hope so!”
“Thinking the same thoughts, having the same views on every subject. Gosh, can’t you see that you and I don’t get as much out of it as if we could rub up against something different now and then? Wouldn’t it be refreshing to find a fellow who didn’t think just as we think about everything, who didn’t wear exactly the same kind of clothes, who didn’t think the sun rose and set in New England?”
“But the sun does rise and set in New England,” objected Clem. “I’ve seen it.”
“Oh, shut up! You know what I mean. Wouldn’t it?”
Clem considered a moment. Then he shook his head doubtfully. “You should have gone to Kenly Hall, Mart,” he answered. “They have all kinds there, the whole fifty-seven varieties.”
“Yes, and they’re better off for it. Of course it’s the proper thing for us to make fun of Kenly, but you know mighty well that it’s every bit as good a school as Alton; maybe better in some ways. But Kenly isn’t much different from us. They get about the same lot year after year, just as we do. One year’s freshman class looks just like last year’s. Maybe they do get an occasional outsider. Quite a few middle-west chaps go there. But mostly they draw them from right around this part of the country, as we do. Gee, I’d certainly like to see, just for once, a fellow turn up here who didn’t look as if he’d been cast in the same mold with all the others!”
“You’re getting all worked up about nothing, old son,” said Clem soothingly. “You mustn’t do it. It always upsets you so you can’t eat your meals, and it’s only half an hour to supper.”
“If you weren’t so blamed stubborn—”
“Shut up a minute! Hello! Come in!”
The door of Number 15 opened slowly until the more dimly lighted corridor was revealed through a narrow aperture and a voice said: “Excuse me, please, but is this where the fellow that hires the football players lives?”
From where Martin sat the owner of the voice was hidden, and so he could not account for the radiant grin that enveloped his room-mate’s countenance for an instant.
“I didn’t get it,” said Clem, politely apologetic. “Won’t you come in?” His face was sober again, unnaturally sober in the judgment of Martin Gray.
“Well,” said the unseen speaker doubtfully. Then the door again began its cautious passage across the old brown carpet, and Mart understood Clem’s grin.
The youth who now stood revealed to Mart’s astounded gaze was little short of six feet tall, it seemed. In age he might have been anywhere from sixteen to twenty, with eighteen as a likely compromise. He was attired neatly but, it appeared, uncomfortably in a suit of dark gray which fitted him too loosely across the shoulders and too abruptly at the ankles, its deficiency at the latter point exposing to Mart’s fascinated eyes a pair of wrinkled woolen socks of sky-blue. The low shoes were not extraordinary, but there was something deliciously quaint about the collar, with its widely parted corners, and the pale blue satin tie that failed to hide the brass collar-stud. Even the hat, a black Alpine shape, struck a note of originality, possibly because it was a full size too small and was poised so precariously atop a thickish mass of tumbled hair that seemed not yet to have decided just what shade of brown to assume. Clem coughed delicately and asked: “You were looking for some one?”
“Guess I’ve got the wrong place,” said the stranger, his first embarrassment increasing at the discovery of Mart beyond the door’s edge. “The fellow I’m looking for is the one who hires—well, takes on the football players. Guess he’s the manager, ain’t he?”
“Possibly,” answered Clem, turning to Mart with an inquiring glance. “What do you think?”
Martin took his cue promptly. “Or, maybe the coach,” he suggested. “You don’t know his name?”
The stranger shook his head. He held firmly to the outer knob of the door, resting his shoulders against the edge of it as he frowned in an effort of memory. “I heard it,” he replied, “but I forget what it was. He said I was to see him between five and six about me getting on the football team and I thought he said he lived in Number 15 in Lykes Hall, but—”
“Well, you see, this isn’t—”
But Clem interrupted Mart swiftly. “Sit down, won’t you?” he asked, smiling hospitably. “I dare say we can thresh out the mystery. And you might shove that door too, if you don’t mind. Thanks.”
The stranger closed the door as slowly as he had opened it, removed his hat and advanced gingerly to the chair that Clem’s foot had deftly thrust toward him. He gave them the impression of having attained his growth so suddenly as to be a little uncertain about managing it. He lowered himself almost cautiously into the chair, placing two rather large feet closely together and holding his hat firmly by its creased crown with both hands, hands generously proportioned, darkly tanned and extremely clean. He looked about the room and then back to Clem, while a slow smile radiated the long, somewhat plain face.
“You fellows got it right nice here,” he ventured.
“Like it?” asked Clem in a more friendly tone. The stranger’s smile had transformed him on the instant from a queer, almost uncouth figure to something quite human and likable. “Yes, it isn’t a bad room. Where do you hang out? By the way, you didn’t mention your name, did you?”
“Todd’s my name. My room’s over in Haylow; Number 33. A fellow named Judson and I have it together. It ain’t like this, though. Not so big, for one thing, and then the ceiling comes down, over there like, and I keep hitting my head on it.”
Mart laughed. “They didn’t build you for one of those third floor rooms, Todd.”
The slow smile came again and the gray eyes twinkled, and the visitor relaxed a little in the straight chair. “Gosh, I started to grow last year and it looks like I can’t stop. I didn’t use to be such an ungainly cuss.”
“I wouldn’t let that bother me,” returned Mart. “You’ll fill out pretty soon, I dare say. How tall are you?”
Todd shook his head. “I ain’t measured lately,” he acknowledged a trifle sheepishly. “Been scared to. Pop says if I don’t stop pretty soon it won’t be safe for me to go out in the woods less’n some one might mistake me for a tree and put an ax to me!”
“Where’s your home?” asked Clem, with a side glance at his room-mate.
“Four Lakes, Maine. At least, we don’t live right in the village, but that’s our postoffice address. We live about three miles north, up the Ludic road. You ever been around there?”
It seemed that they hadn’t, but once started Todd was not averse to supplying personal information. Clem fancied that Judson, whoever he might be, had not proved a sympathetic listener and that Todd was heartily glad to find some one to talk to. His father had a store, it seemed, and was also interested in timber lands and numerous other interests. There was a large family of children of which the present representative was the senior member. He had been going to school at Four Lakes until last Spring.
“I was set on going to college, you see, and I thought I’d learned enough, but I went down to Lewiston and talked with a fellow down there and he said I’d better go to a preparatory school for a couple of years first. I asked where and he said this place. So I came down here. Seems like he might have said some place nearer home, but I guess it don’t matter. This looks like a right nice school. I guess you fellows are seniors, aren’t you?”
“Juniors,” corrected Clem. “I suppose you’re one of us, Todd.”
“I guess so. I ain’t heard for sure yet. They started me off as a junior, though.”
“Oh, you’ll make it,” declared Mart. “So you’re going to play football, eh?”
“Oh, I don’t know.” Todd smiled embarrassedly. “I ain’t ever yet, but this fellow I was looking for stopped me this morning and asked if I was going to and I said no, and then he asked didn’t I want to and I said I didn’t know if I did or not, and he said for me to come and see him between five and six o’clock and we’d talk about it. He said what his name was, but I forget. I think he said he managed the players.”
“He didn’t,” inquired Clem very innocently, “mention what position he thought you’d fill best on the team?”
Todd’s gray eyes twinkled again. “No, he didn’t, but I guess maybe one of the posts at the end of the field’s got broken and he’s looking for a new one.”
“I think it must have been Dolf Chapin you saw,” said Mart, smiling at Clem’s slight discomfiture. “He’s—”
“That’s the name,” declared Todd with relief. “Where’s his room, please?”
“He’s in 15 Lykes.”
“Well, isn’t this—” Then Todd’s countenance proclaimed understanding and he chuckled. “Gosh, I went right by it, didn’t I? I was over at that building where they have the library—”
“Memorial,” said Mart.
“And meant to stop at the first building after I came off that path that comes from there. Instead of that I got right back in my own house, didn’t I? I ain’t got this place learned very well yet. Well, I’m much obliged to you. Maybe I’ll see you again. My name, like I told you, is Todd, Jim Todd.” He arose and offered a big hand to Clem and then to Mart.
“Glad to have met you, Todd,” responded Clem, spreading his fingers experimentally after the crushing grip they had sustained. “My name’s Harland, and this is Gray. Drop in again some time, won’t you? I’d like mighty well to hear how you get along with football.”
“Well, I ain’t so sure I’ll play it,” answered Todd from the doorway, frowning a little. “I guess playing games sort of interferes with a fellow’s school work, and what I’ve seen of the courses they’ve got me down for makes me think I’ll have to do some tall studying. I’m glad to have met you, and maybe I might come in and see you again some time.”
“Do that,” said Clem earnestly.
Then the door closed slowly but decidedly and Clem and Mart dropped back into their chairs. After a moment Clem said: “Looks to me like your prayer was answered, Mart.”
“Well, he’s only one, but he’s a hopeful sign.”
Clem chuckled softly. “You and Todd ought to get along pretty well together,” he continued. “You wanted something different, and there you have it. At least, he doesn’t wear clothes like the rest of us; he’s no slave to Fashion, old son. Maybe he won’t mind telling you where he buys his togs, eh?”
“Some way,” answered Mart, “it doesn’t seem quite fair to make fun of him. There was something awfully decent about the chap, in spite of his clothes and his—er—queer appearance.”
“That’s true, and I wasn’t really making fun. Only—” Clem interrupted himself with a laugh. “Say, isn’t it just like Chapin to try to round that fellow up for the football squad? Honest, Mart, if a one-legged fellow showed up here and Dolf saw him he wouldn’t be happy until he had him out on the field!”
“At that,” replied Mart, as he arose to prepare for supper, “Jim Todd might be a blamed sight better player than some of those cripples who lost the game last year for us! I noticed that your delicate sarcasm was trumped very neatly by our recent guest, old timer!”
“Yes,” Clem acknowledged, “that’s so. I fancy our friend James isn’t such a fool as his hat makes him out!”