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Maiden Yamboree Queen Laid To Rest

For the Yamboree Queen

Yamboree Queen Teri Smith 1984

Teri Smith, Yamboree Queen 1984

My mom recently made a trip to California. Before she left I sent her an email. I had something pressing I wanted to tell her:

Dearest Mom, I’m glad you’ve been with me all these years.

October Orange

If I try hard I can see you, Teri, in October orange. A majorette costume, so brilliant, like the fall foliage. And black sequins shining like the night sky. Your legs were as long your smile was broad, and we; we were just 13.

We lined up with the band on a Friday night in autumn. It was 1980, and the stadium lights saturated the gleam of your batons. They were on fire, like you, and the band played Breadman.

Yam Queen Whipped Confection

Nothing could out drum the noise of your smile. It was a whipped confection like a sugary Yamboree pie. It whisked away the judges at the county fair. Everyone adored you.

That same year, I saw you on the town square during the festival. The colored bulbs of the Ferris wheel burned out the night stars. Punctuated our hopes. And our shadows danced in the fields and farms Of Upshur County.

In a corduroy jumper you climbed onto the magic of that carnival. In fall, I waved but you did not see me. During the years that followed I looked for you, If only in my mind. Everytime the band played you were standing in my yard…

I missed you, after I moved away. Once our analog days had passed and we reached the dawn of the digital age, I searched for you. This went on for years. And, then one day I wrote to an acquaintance and she wrote back to say you’d died.  

You were 26. 

I’d been thinking of you for 30 some odd years, and you’d been gone for 16 of them.

Nothing could out drum the noise of your smile. It was a whipped confection like a sugary Yamboree pie. It whisked away the judges at the county fair.

I waited too long to tell you, Teri, I loved the way your glittery pink eyeshadow blanketed your suntanned eyelids. I can still see you staring off into space, plunking on the xylophone while the band director called out your name:

Teri, Teri, Teri, are you with us?

In October

In October, they’ll gather on the town square like they have every year since 1935. But, there are no more sweet potatoes in the fields around Upshur County. Just this maiden Yamboree Queen laid to rest.

Finally, I want Teri’s mom to know I think of her often as she was that day under the Ferris Wheel. The broadway lights of concessions and rides rocketing the town, igniting our adolescent dreams. I remember her as she was during Texas pep rallies in the early 1980s, 100 miles from Southfork. Donning an orange and white check pinafore and bloomers along with the rest of the team.

And, the constellation of twirling medals pinned to her band jacket and running track at the high school in 1980s navy terry cloth shorts. Also, her bright blue bandeau bathing suit. She jumped off the high dive at the city pool and into my indelible memories.

I think she would like her mom to know that she’s glad she was with her all those years. Through cancer and baton lessons and costumes. Fire and fringe, her smile remains.

The last time I saw Teri she was standing under the Dogwoods on Bradford Street and talking about Susan. It was spring, but I miss her most in October. 

Photo Credit: Dillsnufus via Flickr with Creative Commons License

Yamboree Queen and Festival

Click here to learn more about the annual crowning of the Yamboree Queen at the East Texas festival.

Gen X Blog Jennifer Chronicles

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  1. Alise

    Beautiful. Teri was so full of life and greatly missed and leaving a void in Gilmer. I’ll make sure her mom and brother see this as I know they would love it. What a sweet tribute. You are a gifted writer lady!

    • Jennifer

      I loved her. We were down in Texas last spring for a twirling competition — my little Bridgy — and I thought about Teri the whole time. She inspired me to get Bridgy twirling lessons. I’m grateful for you, Teri. Your life made such a difference!!! Thank you, Alise. Miss you. =)

  2. jen

    @McMGRAD89 – Thanks for stopping by and reminding me of you and your blog. Maybe the velocity of loss carried you to this post as a reminder that the people we love and lose are never forgotten. It seems to be a theme I land upon from time to time with rare individuals with whom my path has crossed. Blessings on you!

  3. jen

    @KIM – Thank you so much for posting the link to this post on your Facebook and for connecting with on FB despite our brief junior high acquaintance. You were able to fill in the blanks for me and I appreciate it so much.

    To the dozen or more people who left comments on Kim’s link to this post, I am grateful to join with those who, like me, remember Teri. I had one more memory of her. She was wearing white spiked heels with a burgundy sundress at the First Baptist Church in Gilmer early one summer. I’m sure we’ll see her again, someday! =)

  4. McMGrad89

    Wow, Jen. I just came over here because you had read a post of mine about memories of my father almost a year and a half ago. I was already crying when I came over to rethank you and then I read this.

    The images you painted are so vivid, I felt I was there with you.

    Thanks for sharing your memories of Teri. Of course I didn’t know her, but I can see how she touched your heart.

  5. Anonymous

    You make me wish I knew her, Jen

  6. Oklahoma Girl

    A beautiful tribute to someone taken way too soon. Thanks for sharing such a wonderful and personal memory. I hope her mother reads it. As a mother, I know she would love it. Beautiful, just beautiful. And beautifully written.

    ~~blessed be…

  7. jen

    @SEEKtheQUESTION – That was the year Teri was voted Yam Queen. Do you remember seeing her, the coronation, parade? Life is short and the world is small!

  8. seekthequestion


    1984 was the first Yamboree my family and I attended after moving to Gilmer earlier that year. It’s a quirky little festival, but a good excuse for a school-aged kid to miss a few days.

    I’m sorry you learned of your friend’s death the way you did. Makes me wonder who I’ve lost track of since graduation, and it makes me appreciate the few friends I’ve kept up with from high school.


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