They call him Bear for no other reason than that is what everyone else calls him. Other than that, they don’t know much about him. They couldn’t tell you his “real” name or where he lives. They have no idea who his family is or if he even has a family, and they certainly couldn’t tell you where he works or if he’s ever worked a day in his life….anywhere.
What they do know, however, is much, much more important. They know that he loves them and that if they are playing, he’s going to be in the bleachers cheering…period. And as far as the Comanche Maidens are concerned, that’s enough.
The rest of the story is really fairly simple. James William Ellington was born in Comanche, Texas in 1938 to Jim and Mabel Ellington. Mabel worked at the Mims Hospital, and Jim worked wherever he could as most people did during those years of depression, just trying to make a living.
“My grandmother was the first to call me Bear because I’d twist just like a bear. Then, when I was in about the 7th grade, Dale Fisher called me Bear at a basketball game. The kids heard him and from then on, I was Bear.”
From the time James was in the first grade until he was in the fifth grade, he attended school in Hasse and then during his fifth grade year, the family moved to Comanche.
“When I was in high school, I worked at the peanut plant in the summers and even washed dishes at Charlie Marshall’s Café one summer. It was right there on 377 by J.L Newhouse’s Filling Station.”
Bear graduated from Comanche High School in 1957 and went to work at the cookie shop for the next five years until it sold. He went to work at the peanut plant at that time. Then, in 1969, he moved to Stephenville where he sold insurance until ’71.
“I nearly starved to death during those years,” he laughed.
By 1971, the non-compete clause had been fulfilled by his old employer, the cookie shop, and Bear moved to Abilene to work for his old friends in their new location, back doing the work he understood. He remained in Abilene until once again the business sold in 1988; however, this time he moved with the family when they relocated to Oklahoma to open yet another cookie plant. He remained there until he retired in 2000.
In all of those years, Bear remained a Comanche fan, but he was seldom able to watch games because he was always working.
“I got the Chief…always late, but I got it. When I was in Abilene, I went to every game that I could, but I worked so much that I couldn’t go a lot. I retired at the end of April of 2000 and on July 1, I came back to Comanche, and I’ve been right there on East Grand ever since I moved back.”
He doesn’t know how many games he’s seen since he’s been back, but he’s seen “all I could.”
“I don’t know why I started watching mostly the girls because I like the boys too. I guess because when I first came back I knew a lot of the girls’ grandparents, and I started following them. They’ve been so much fun to watch.”
Nearly every year the team gives him a shirt to wear. He’s been honored at games and honored at banquets for being the girls’ number one fan.
“Every team has been special. This group this year has really been special, but then I say that every year. They get to where they expect me to come; they don’t know it but the enjoyment is mine,” he smiled. “I’ll have to start over with next year’s bunch, but I’ll get to know them too.”
Then he reminded me that we will be graduating six this year….and I joined him in a sigh as I do every single year when I think about those who will leave us.
“It’s just been a joy. I’ve never seen a girl since I’ve been here do one thing to embarrass us. They’ve never thrown a temper tantrum, never thrown a bat, never acted up in any way.
“I expect too much out of ‘em, and they’re just kids. I know that. I’m a bad sport, but you’ll never hear me boo a kid on either side. I live for it. Course when this is over, I’ll be ready for football. Then I’ll be ready for basketball…” he trailed off, looking a bit wistful.
And for a moment I knew that the man who never had a child of his own was remembering the untold numbers he has adopted through the years as he sat in the bleachers and cheered for the girls he likes to call “my babies,” the girls he believes can do little wrong…the girls he believes should be able to catch every ball, steal every base, and win every game…
The Comanche Maidens.