Stacie Turbush sat by the pool, baking in the sun which hovered over Lone Wolf, Oklahoma. During the summer, Turbush works at the Quartz Mountain Water Slide.
With a whistle around her neck, she watches children climb to the top of the winding wooden steps and zip down the two-story slide into the pool below — smiling all the way. As a teacher and coach by trade, Turbush is familiar with youth's natural levity.
“I like being around kids,” Turbush said. “You know, in an office job you're going to see basically the same people every day. You don't get the interaction you do here with the younger generation.”
During the school year, Turbush spends her time teaching gym and coaching basketball and track at Altus Junior High School. Many of her students like to visit the water slide in the summer. The kids know not to step out of line when Coach Turbush is on duty.
“It makes it kind of easier because they know what I expect from them,” she said. “They don't try to do anything that they shouldn't do; they just mind their p's and q's and have a good time.”
Turbush lives with her husband Lonnie in Warren, OK, the same town she grew up in located outside of Blair. She graduated from Navajo School, which serves students from kindergarten to the 12th grade and is located a few miles east of Altus. Her parents both graduated from Navajo and her father was also part of the school's first graduating class in 1964.
During her time at Navajo, Turbush excelled at basketball and earned a scholarship to play at Western Oklahoma State College. Turbush, however, was forced to give up the sport she loved after tearing her ACL in the second game of her last high school season.
“At first I thought I could still play, so I tried to come back in,” she said. “When I went back in is when I tore it completely in two. We went back and watched videotape of the game and you could actually hear my ACL pop.”
At the time, Turbush says she was very sad about the end of her playing career. Looking back, however, she credits her injury for launching her coaching career. Watching from the bench during her senior season, she was able to see things about the game she couldn't while she was playing.
Upon graduating from college, Turbush began working at Altus Middle School and later Altus Junior High. For over a decade she worked with kids as a teacher and a coach.
Four years ago, Turbush's summer plans were altered when lifelong friend Trisha Brice's daughter died in a car accident. Brice worked at the Quartz Mountain Water Slide, which her family also owns.
“Trisha was having a hard time going back to work,” she said, “so she asked me if I could go back and work with her to see if she could make it through the summer.”
Turbush has returned to the water slide as an employee every summer since then. She says seeing the kids outside of their structured school environment is one of the things that keep her coming back.
“It's a different kind of atmosphere,” she said. “It's pretty laid back.”
Turbush's passion for children may be an extension of the love she has for her son, Jade, who is 22. Jade moved out of his parents' home three years ago and is currently an officer for the Guthrie Police Department.
Though she no longer has a child at home to care for, Turbush has extended her care into the community.
“He was our only child,” she said, “so I just kind of have to adopt new kids I guess.”