Before I get on to today’s story, a couple of quick sports shorts. We watched the NHL All Star game and the NFL Pro Bowl yesterday. My only speculation on the NHL game was would they outscore the Russian all star game, which was a 15-11 affair (they did not; it ended 12-9). As the game wore on, two themes emerged. Theme #1: NY Ranger Martin Gaborik, playing on the Charra team scored twice against Ranger teammate Henrik Lundquist on the Alfredsson team, and got another later on against the next goalie. After the first goal, he used his stick as a rifle to “shoot” Henrik, a move he often does against other teams I guess. Also on the Alfredsson team was Ranger head coach John Totorella, who told the TV audience at first break that Gaborik was getting fined $1,000 for doing it, nod nod wink wink. The second was the announcers constant speculation about a goaltender winning the MVP of the game. Not that there was any danger of that, when Gaborik had 3 goals and five of six goalies in the game gave up 3 goals (the sixth gave up 6). If that’s all you can talk about in a game where 21 goals were scored, perhaps its time the league invested in an “Announcer training program”. On the NFL game, the offensive and defensive lines of both squads came out prepared to play patty-cake, and were roundly booed for doing so. If you don’t wanna play, go home. You can do a Hawaii vacation on your own dime. Brandon Marshall of the Dolphins caught four tds, after just 6 all season. What was the difference, he was asked. First he danced around the notion that he’d had 4 QBs in 2 years with the Dolphins (and you had 3 in this game! If you want to say that your QBs in Miami suck, just do so). Then he said that “this game is my playoffs” and he was going for MVP. Translate that to, “I only work in front of large audiences. Regular season is for the regular guys.” Geez, my QBs suck and I’m stuck on myself- I could have answered THAT question 3 years ago when he was still in Denver (which is why I didn’t want him in the first place. We already HAD Ted Ginn.)
Okay, enough sports, let’s go back to the story. So we’ve left the corner and we’re now along the north end of the back yard, home to the row of Raspberries and the wired posts that vainly attempted to keep them out of the field. In between the big burr oak and another pin oak down the way (which we’ll get to later) was a hickory tree. Skinny compared to the oaks, and very fruitful, this tree had one problem, which was that tentworms would build a web once every three years or so. Rather than let them devour the tree, and everything else around, Dad would always come to visit their tent with a gas can and his lighter. You can guess the rest. This was always one of the highlights to the summer for me- not so much for Dad (or the tent worms).
The reason I bring the hickory tree up is to kinda show how our back yard was like this big bowl; with pin oak- hickory-burr oak making the bottom edge, burr oak-pin oak the east side, house-garage-maple tree the south end, and sheds-pin oak (and for a while, tether ball pole) on the west. Perfect for the huge game of dodgeball we played one night.
It was Dad’s second annual weenie roast, and Dad had put floodlights up in the burr oak and the maple to light the “bowl”. And once it got dark everybody (and I do mean everybody) got into this huge game of dodgeball. It was me, Mom, and Dad; my brother Tom, his wife and 2 girls; my brother John, his wife and 2 kids; my sister Sue, her hubby and at least my nephew Troy and possibly little sister Linette; and my sister Pete and her husband (and soon to be star of the show) Joe, along with his mother and brother.
Now I need to explain that Joe and Dad were a real close analogue to an apolitical Archie Bunker and Meathead in their relationship. Mostly Dad and his “not good enough for my little girl” attitude, though Joe had a way to blunder into Dad’s sights. And I didn’t help matters much; here at last was a person that I could use all the smart-assery that Pete had taught me for the ten years of my existence without having to worry about being chewed out by Dad, or, really, by Mom). So Joe was in a constant battle to maintain his dignity, and with his mom and bro there, it was extra important.
Now, Joe was no small man; picture a slightly less long-haired David Crosby. And flight was certainly not an attribute you’d normally associate with him -although we do have a picture of him halfway up the pin oak by the house, rescuing my first cat, Jingles P. Jones, from a tree I’m sure he could’ve gotten out of had he been so inclined(I certainly wouldn’t have made the climb- pin oaks are a mass of semi-sharp, interconnected twigs and are zero fun to climb, run into, or clean up after). Still, in the dark of the night, the ball sailed out into the field and disappeared, and Joe, trying to look good in front of Ma and Bro, charged out after it. And yes, he totally forgot about the wire about knee high running through the raspberries. The last we saw him, his head was about three feet off the ground, his feet straight up at the sky; then the darkness absorbed him, and seconds later came a loud crash in the soybean-planted field. I honestly can’t say what happened next; I was among the approximately half of the crowd struggling to breathe while laughing that hard. From the looks of things the next day, I guesstimated that he did a complete flip, landed first on his heels and then on his back.
And that wasn’t the only time I saw Joe airborne, and this is where the tether ball set comes in. The pole was about midway between the pin oak on the north line and the maple behind the garage. In other words, on the west end of the “bowl”. And one sunny Sunday afternoon, he and brother John were playing. Just in case anyone doesn’t know what I’m talking about, t-ball is a ball about the size of a volleyball attached to a rope attached to the top of a 10-foot (or so) pole. Object being to hit the ball with your fist in order to wind it all the way around the pole before your opponent does. So John finally gets a good hit on the ball. Joe, surprised, returned it with his face. You’ve seen the cartoons where the feet go straight out, and the character lands flat on his back? That, in real life. To put it simply, Joe was just not at his best in the back yard.
Next time, we’ll begin moving into the northwest corner, where one man’s trash was another one’s treasure.