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Welcome new Vaqueros writer, Paul Buckley!

Welcome to the Vaqueros Story Project, where we will celebrate the club’s 10th anniversary season by sharing stories from Vaqueros lore. My name is Paul, and I am a writer and educator living here, in Cowtown aka Funkytown aka Fort Worth–my adopted home. The history of Vaqueros Football Club IS the history of Fort Worth, and so our celebration of the team will also be a celebration of the city and the remarkable people who call it home. Which means we want this blog to feature your voices, your memories–what is your Vaqueros story?

My Vaqueros story involves a thunderstorm, a ruined ticket voucher, and flares.

Summer 2019–I’ve lived in Fort Worth for less than a year, and I haven’t quite got a handle on the city yet. What is this place really about? Do I actually belong here? A friend of mine, a part-time ref plugged into the local soccer scene, tells me about the Vaqueros. There’s a semi-pro team that you need to check out, he said, handing me a ticket voucher. Here in Fort Worth. They’re called the Vaqueros. I didn’t know that Fort Worth had any sports teams, I told him. What’s their deal? Trust me, he said. Go see for yourself.

So that was how I ended up, one Saturday evening in July, walking from my apartment over to Farrington Field. Halfway there, the skies opened up, without warning, and the rain came down in that way it only can here, on the southern end of the plains. Within two minutes I was soaked, and when I reached Farrington Field the ticket voucher had turned to pulp in my pocket. The jovial ticket attendant laughed when I sheepishly scooped it out and promised that it really was a ticket voucher, fully expecting her to turn me away. Oh, come on in, she said. Bless you for walking here in the rain.

What was going on, I wondered. The Vaqueros wanted me in that stadium, so much so that they weren’t worried about my ticket? Isn’t the implicit goal of professional, heck even semi-professional teams to… make money? Were they really going to let me be a part of this, just because I showed up in the rain with something that I claimed was a ticket voucher? Did the team really believe that this was about something other than profiting off of me and my love of the beautiful game?

Into the stadium. As I walked through the concourse out into the bowl of the stands, someone else in Vaqueros apparel handed me a free poster. Drawn in the style of a Lotería card, it said El Corazon, with a drawing of a heart and a map of Fort Worth inside the heart. I still have that poster, framed and hanging in my kitchen.

The game itself was a rain-soaked celebration. I thought I had heard drums and singing, walking up to the stadium, but no, that can’t be right, I told myself. This isn’t a European football game after all. And yet, when I reached the stands–drums. Flares. Songs. A riot of smoke and noise in the stands closest to the pitch, where Panther City Hellfire had set up shop. Behind them, families, kids–all smiling, all enjoying themselves. I couldn’t believe it. Wasn’t this semi-pro? Wasn’t this DFW, home of the world’s most famous American football team without room for much else? What about the pouring rain?

I would be lying if I told you that I could remember who the Vaqueros were playing that day, or what the final score was. I wandered the stadium in a blissful daze, soaking it all in. There were more posters, beautifully designed, given to me for free, for games I didn’t attend. A discount on the Vaqueros t-shirt I bought, just for being a new fan. More drums. More flares. More and more a sense of belonging, of pride. That this is Fort Worth’s team, our team, my team, mi familia. That I belong here.

Isn’t that what sports are supposed to be, at their best? A representation of us, of our communities, of a commitment to unity despite our differences and our imperfections. It’s about getting a ticket voucher from a friend, only to have it ruined in the rain, and be welcomed anyway, because the rain just makes it that much more fun. It’s about being out to dinner with my parents in Berkeley, California, wearing my Vaqueros shirt, and an elderly woman leaning over from the next table to say that she’s from Fort Worth, too. I had walked over to the game by myself. At the final whistle, I was no longer alone.

So now it’s your turn. What are your memories from the first 10 years of Vaqueros football? What do the Vaqueros mean to Fort Worth? What do they mean to you? We want to hear your stories, and feature them here, as a part of this blog. Drop me a line at , and help us tell the story of the Vaqueros, together.

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