THE FAITHFUL SAT ON LITTLE STOOLS OF ORANGE AND BLUE under the merciless lights of the high school cafeteria, but the Spartan setting didn't bother them a bit. Had the Watermelon Feed been held inside the county jail, or on a sinking ship, or on the side of a craggy mountain, they would still have flocked to attend.
Outside, the August night was sweetly cool and serene with just a wisp of West Texas wind. Inside there was a teeming sense of excitement, and also relief, for the waiting was basically over; there would be no more sighs of longing, no more awkward groping to fill up the empty spaces of time with golf games and thoroughly unsatisfying talk about baseball. Tonight, as in a beauty contest, the boys of Permian would come before the crowd one by one so they could be checked out and introduced. And after that, in less than two weeks, would come the glorious start of the season on the first Friday night in September.
Each of those little stools in each of those rows, about four hundred seats in all, was taken well before the scheduled starting time of seven-thirty. It didn't take long before the open area at the back of the room had filled up with several hundred other people who hardly minded standing as long as they were inside. Finally it got so crowded that those who came didn't even bother to try to get in, but stayed in the hallway and watched with their faces pressed up against a long window, like