SPENCER, N.C. (AP) — This story starts back in the late 1970s with a Jersey cow named Tinkerbell. But fast forward first to the high school football field on opening night at North Rowan High School.
During the evening, North Rowan paid tribute to its amazing underdog team from 30 years ago, the 1982 Cavaliers, who surprised all prognosticators by winning the conference championship on its way to an 11-1 record.
Vida Myers sat in the stands on a recent Friday with two cowbells, and she rang them vigorously for the former players when they walked onto the field at halftime, as they were introduced and during the game for all the present-day Cavalier touchdowns.
It was just like old times.
Vida's oldest son, Barrett Powlas, played on that great 1982 team, and her cowbell tradition started back then during Barrett's football and baseball games and continued years later when her youngest son, Shannon Myers, came along.
For Shannon, the cowbell salutes started in Gra-Y football and followed him to North Rowan High, Rowan County American Legion baseball, Lenoir-Rhyne College football and baseball and professional stops in places such as Miami, Oakland and the Canadian Football League.
Vida retired the bells when Shannon's football career was over. The two bells — one for Barrett; the other, for Shannon — dangle from a wrought-iron hanger in her living room.
Vida can't look at those bells without thinking of her sons, or the brown-and-white Jersey cow named Tinkerbell.
Vida Madden Myers grew up a Missouri farm girl, the oldest of six children.
"The oldest and the ugliest," she says. Her father called her "Murph."
She came to these parts when her dad was transferred to the VA Medical Center in Salisbury.
Vida raised her two boys at her home off Long Ferry Road. She worked at the Fiber plant off U.S. 70, and later had a paint and wallpaper business.
But one day she told a brother, Owen Madden, that she wanted a cow for the pasture she had out back.
Owen bought her a cow for $40. Vida laughs, remembering when she first laid eyes on Tinkerbell.
"She was a bag of bones," Vida says.
But Tinkerbell loved Vida's love and nourishment, and when it came time to breed her, Robert Hoffner, a farmer down the road, agreed to supply a bull for free.
Tinkerbell flourished as a mother, birthing two sets of twins and three other calves. She also produced enough milk to nurse other calves.
"God blessed her and us, too," Vida says.
When it came time for football, the extra money Tinkerbell was providing helped to pay for Barrett's equipment. The same would be true years later for Shannon.
Vida always kept a cowbell on Tinkerbell, just in case she would wander out of the pasture. She decided it would be appropriate, in Tinkerbell's honor, to ring a cowbell at Barrett's football games.
"The first time didn't go as I anticipated," Vida recalls.
Barrett was embarrassed. The fans around her in the bleachers were caught off guard by the clanking cowbell, and she developed a blister on her finger that first game, not knowing a good way to hold it.
But she learned to warn her fellow spectators when she was going to ring the cowbell, and Barrett decided to live with it.
"Look, kid," Vida says she told Barrett (and Shannon later). "Tinkerbell deserves it. She put those cleats on your feet and bought you ball gloves and bats."
Vida purchased her first bell for Barrett's playing days at the old O.O. Rufty General Store. She bought a second at Rufty's when Shannon started in sports.
Vida likes to think she gave her boys a good upbringing.
"Me and the Lord put the fear of Mamma, God and the law in them," she says. "I tore them up when they needed it."
Shannon, who belongs to the Lenoir-Rhyne University, South Atlantic Conference and Rowan County sports halls of fame, is part of the pit crew for NASCAR driver Mark Martin and works during the week in the shop of owner Michael Waltrip. He lives in the Lake Norman area.
Barrett lives in Charlotte and is a salesman for Lifetouch.
Vida says Tinkerbell turned out to be better than any stock she could have bought. It was after Shannon became a professional player that she sold Tinkerbell for a tidy profit — well above the $40 for which she was purchased.
Today, Vida works as a receptionist at Abundant Living Adult Day Services. She has a granddaughter, Kristin, and a grandson, Tyler.
She brought the bells out of retirement once for Kristin's soccer game. She also gave Ty a cowbell on his first birthday — he's now 3.
"It's a family tradition that will be carried on," Vida promises.
As a spectator, whenever you hear a cowbell from now on, don't be scared or annoyed. Think of it this way:
Tinkerbell is getting her wings.
Information from: Salisbury Post, http://www.salisburypost.com