Lee Dollarhide is a 1988 Grove High School graduate who uses the lessons he learned from the Ridgerunner gridiron in his work today as the Chief of the Grove Fire Department.
Dollarhide, the son of Darrel and Sharon Dollarhide of Grove, has been with the Grove Fire Department for over 16 years and has served as Chief for the past ten.
From 1984 to 1987 Dollarhide was a running back for the Ridgerunner football team. The time he spent in the backfield for GHS, and the things he learned, still pay dividends today as Fire Chief.
“There are a lot of similarities between what we did in football and what we do here,” Dollarhide explained. “Football is a team sport and being part of the crew here is a team sport. It takes more than one on the football field and it takes more than one to fight a fire.”
“Both things, being on the football team and being with the fire department, take lots of preparation,” he continued. “Back then we had to train each week for the big game and we have to do the same thing here.”
“You have to know your partners here just like you have to know them on the playing field,” said Dollarhide. “When you are going into a burning building everybody has to be on the same page.”
The training involved for duty with the Fire Department is done under the sanction of the Oklahoma State University Fire Service Training program and is an ongoing effort for Dollarhide and the rest of the GFD team. The continuing education work is difficult but according to Dollarhide not quite as tough as the two-a-day practices that he and his teammates endured during football.
“Two-a-days was harder than the fire training,” Dollarhide said. “Two-a-days was tough with all the heat- even though this job can get pretty hot sometimes, too!”
Going out on the football field and going out on a live fire call are activities that can have certain levels of apprehension. Dollarhide recalled the first time he took to the field in the Ridgerunner red and white with the varsity team as a freshman.
“It was scary,” he said laughing. “It was a little scary. I was young for my class, I think I had just turned fourteen, and I weighed about 120 pounds, maybe, so it was scary.”
Still, going out on that first live fire call took those emotions to a new level.
“I think the first live fire call was a little scarier situation than my first varsity game,” said Dollarhide.
Dollarhide puts the fire calls into some perspective.
“There was a cabinet shop that burned a few years ago, I was still pretty young then, and it was a big building, full of dust, just a really big fire,” said Dollarhide.
“I don’t really get scared,” he said, “but I respect it (fire). Of course I might get scared on the next one! It just depends on the situation. We’ve had some really close calls with some firemen over the years but we’ve been prepared and a little lucky, too.”
“We train for it and try to be prepared and react,” Dollarhide added.
The core part of the GFD’s job is fire and rescue, as Dollarhide put it, “When we get a call, people are normally having the worst day of their life.” But there are a host of other social services that the department provides to the community.
“We do a lot of community service things,” Dollarhide said. “We have a Fire Safety House that we take to the schools here in the local area. We take it to the daycares, too. We have a clown program that’s part of a fire safety and education class for children.”
“We also go out every year and do the watermelon feed for the fireworks display on the 4th,” he said. “We have a Thanksgiving Day meal delivery program that we coordinate with the Senior Center and we deliver meals to those who need it.”
Ridgerunner roots run deep at the Dollarhide home. The Chief’s wife, Lisa, is a former All State athlete for GHS, and the couple’s two daughters, GHS junior Shelby and sixth grader Kayla, are both involved in Ridgerunner athletics.
Reflecting on his days as a GHS running back Dollarhide was asked if he could remember the first time he scored a touchdown.
“No, not really!” he answered. “Not that there were so many but because it was so long ago!”
But Dollarhide remembers his football coach from his senior year with admiration.
“Coach Joe McCully, when he came he changed the program and turned it around and got it headed in the right direction to help get it to where it is today,” Dollarhide said. “My junior year we were 0-10 and then Coach McCully came and we went 5-5 so that’s where it started. A few years after that is when they started going back to the playoffs.”
“Before Coach McCully we ran a veer offense and it was pretty much three yards and a cloud of dust,” he added. “Coach McCully ran more of an open offense and threw the ball a lot more.”
There was a point in that 5-5 senior year where Dollarhide and his teammates had an opportunity to go over the .500 mark.
“It was our last home game and Vinita beat us 17-14, I think,” said Dollarhide. “It was a close, hard-fought game.”
And then there was the rivalry with the Jay Bulldogs.
“Jay was a pretty good team back then so it was pretty rough every time we played them,” he said.
Despite some of the hard times on the field Dollarhide was able to take a philosophical approach.
“Lots of times the parents and fans forget that it’s the kids down there playing and they get a lot more shook up than the kids do,” he said. “The kids are just there to have fun and enjoy it. Even after a tough loss, in a couple of days, we had shook it off and we were fine with it.”
When asked if he had a preference between the logos used by the current GHS varsity teams, Ridgy and the oval ‘G’, Dollarhide smiled broadly.
“I like ‘ol Ridgy,” he answered. “You know, Ridgy, he’s kind of old school. The ‘G’ is all right but I like ‘ol Ridgy.”
Taking it all in consideration today Dollarhide offered this thought.
“Football was great, I enjoyed it and loved it but I get more satisfaction today from my work with the Fire Department.”