The Ball Field

There was one summer (about 1964-65) back in Amarillo, Texas that was our summer of discontent. Here’s what happened:

There were, as I recall, six or seven empty fields of various sizes within walking distance of my house on Hall Street in southwest Amarillo. They all had different purposes. The two largest ones were used to play “army,”  chase rabbits, and torment various reptiles. There was another one that we usually had clod fights in (it had several horseradish trees around it – great weapon in a clod fight) and one that we avoided because it was a known alien landing sight. The fifth one we used to hide in whenever we managed to get hold of some cigarettes. The sixth one was a small field full of junk that we used to go scrounge stuff from. It was next to the haunted house. On the other side of that house was a decent sized empty field. Up until this one summer, it was unused by any of the neighborhood boys.

We were out in that field one day going through some candy that we had swiped from Mr. Russell’s store when we got the idea to build a baseball field. We decided that we would need to build our own field primarily to keep the adults out of our hair. We knew we would need a backstop and bases. We figured we could add the “stands” the second year. Well….all of our grandiose plans would, of course, necessitate a trip to the junk field which lay just on the other side of the haunted house. (Those trips require another story of their own).

It took us several trips to the junk field to gather enough stuff to build a backstop. We had corrugated roof material, chicken wire, plywood, all kinds of assorted sizes of wood and rebar that we “borrowed” from a house under construction. How a bunch of ten year old kids managed to get a backstop built without tools is beyond my memory. We did, though, and it was a glorious sight to behold.  It would be a surprise if it lasted the first game though. It lasted for several games, however, but did not outlast parents. Oh, and, by the way, we used rocks for bases. Sliding into base took on a new risk for us.

There was no team. It was just whoever showed up played. It would not be uncommon to have five people playing a position. I recall one game that there were at least twenty people playing in the field but not a soul at first base. I was one of four shortstops when I caught a grounder and looked to throw to first. There was nobody there! What do I do?! The pitcher was yelling at me to throw it to him so I threw it to nobody at first base. I didn’t know why then and I still don’t.

Well, we had a pretty good summer in that field until Rusty’s dad saw what we had set up. He was a carpenter by trade and decided that he would take our old rickety backstop down and build us a proper one. Once he did that, he decided that he needed to be there as our “coach.” That ruined everything and within two or three weeks, the baseball field lay abandoned.  That oh so nice backstop was only used I think three or four times.

You know, parents can really …oh, never mind.


Well, sort of. I am moving this website to a new host within the next few days. With my luck , something will most assuredly go wrong and this website will crash. So, if this thing goes away suddenly, well, you know what happened.

Now, I am working on something that I think is pretty cool. I was asked to give a one-hour presentation on The Great Depression. It will be in September. I’ve done a fair amount of reading on the subject and it has been, oh gosh, what’s the word I’m looking for? Wisdom? Yes, that works. There is a lot of material written by the people that lived through that time. I was amazed by two things. 1) They were tough! Much tougher than we are today. They found a way to survive without resorting to crime (for the most part) and 2) They really understood the need for, and strength of, families. In account after account, they relied on thier families to survive, regardless of distance.

Thus far, I have come away from my reading thinking I’ve got it pretty good. This economy isn’t all that hot and, for some, it probably feels very much like a depression. Perhaps for some, it is. For me, I have managed to stay employed throughout my entire life and have never known what it is to look for a job when there isn’t one to be found. The more I read about the people of the Depression the more impressed I am with them.

Think on this: the generation that was born about 1900 is the generation that fought World War I. They came back from that “war to end all wars,” and rebuilt America. They married  and raised families that suffered terribly through The Great Depression. They then watched as their children left to fight World War II. They called the WWII generation the greatest generation and, yes, it was.  I submit to you that the WWI generation was the toughest.

So, if during the next couple of weeks, I tend to drift towards the Depression, that’s why.

One of those frustrations

                 I have two printers. Neither of them  work. I have reloaded the drivers multiple times. I’ve plugged and unplugged. I’ve moved them, shaken them, and even TALKED to them. I finally showed them my hand grenade. I DO have a hand grenade. It’s fake but, they don’t know that. I’ve begged and pleaded to absolutely no avail.

                What makes this so bad is I have an hour presentation to do soon and need to print it. I can’t do that because THESE TWO IDIOT printers are not cooperating!!! I just got through having my geek go through my desktop and it is running smoothly. It knows about the grenade but, more importantly, it saw what I did to its predecessor. It would not dare to fail in its duty.

                Printers, though, are an entirely different matter. They are kind of like dealing with the federal government. They make a lot of noises and even more promises but, in the end, can’t accomplish squat. So, what to do? Beats me.

                I sent a text message to one of my kids. He never responded. He must have uncooperative printers too. I just turned the currently plugged in printer on. It’s making a lot of noises and sending several messages about what it is doing or going to do. Oh! It is actually going to print something this time! It’s probably a threat that, if I don’t leave it alone, it will do something terrible. Let’s see what it says….it’s copying multiple pages. They are all blank. Well, wait a minute. Now it decides to print a page. This one appears to be one of those alignment pages but this one is not quite complete. I am going to go bald over this. Oh, too late.

                This is one of those frustrations in life that can, and often do, rob one of any sense of decency and bring out in the best of us the evilest impulses. It is indeed a fortunate thing that these two “things” are inanimate objects otherwise I might possibly wind up in jail as a result of what I am contemplating doing to them.

                Oh, wait. I think one of them heard me. It’s making noises. Well, what do you know? The dang this is printing my report. What a wonderful machine! I knew it could do it. You just have to be nice to them. Somehow, I think it has been playing me. Well, it worked.

The leak

In my never ending efforts to be a good husband, I have always attempted, insofar as my budget will allow, to give my bride the very best of whatever she wants. In that motivation, I bought a very nice (and very expensive) faucet for the kitchen not long ago. You know the kind. It has a real long and tall curved faucet with a spray nozzle right next to it. For faucets, it’s pretty much as slick as one can get. We’ve had it a year or so and the wife still comments on its fine quality.

Then it started to leak.

She brought the leak to my attention after work one day just as I was perusing the abnormally high water bill that had just come in that day’s mail. “No problem,” I said. A quick trip to the local hardware store and that’ll be that. Sometimes, though, even the simplest jobs can turn into a nightmare. I went to one, two, three, four, five, SIX hardware stores. I bought two complete aerators, none of which worked and thus required a seventh and eighth trip to get my money back. On my sixth trip, I went to a store that had originally opened in 1928. This store was reputed to have anything and everything you could possibly want or need. “If I don’t have it, you don’t need it” was the response I got from the proprietor of the store as he reached back into some dark corner and produced the washer that I had travelled the length and breadth of the county to find. As a side note, I was tempted to ask if he had been with the store since its opening but decided not to as he was considerably larger than me, and, he knew how to sharpen saws and knives.

 Well, I took this one washer that the fellow at the sixth store gave me and, with great fanfare, installed it to absolutely no avail. It was now an even worse leak.  I went to the manufacturer’s website to complain. It referred me to its local dealer who happened to be the fourth store that I visited. I went back there yet again (this was the third trip to this store after returning the original aerator for a refund) only to find this otherwise fine store does NOT carry repair parts for the brand of faucet that I own. That fact proved true at every hardware store that I visited.

As I write, the washer that I bought at the depression-era hardware store is in its place in the aerator. Sometimes it leaks and sometimes it does not. It sure does look nice though. Irritating thing.

The Creature

            If you have spent any time on this website, you may have read a previous article titled “An old friend.” It is a kindly review of a mini-van that has been with the family since late 1997. All three kids learned to drive in it and it has the marks to show for it. We have traveled all through the Midwest in it and beyond. Until now, the kids have affectionately called it “The Millenium Falcon.” Now in its senior years, I have renamed it “the creature.”

            The creature currently has just under 148,000 miles on it. The air conditioning no longer works. The electric windows do not work either which makes for toasty days in the saddle. It has something new go wrong about everyday. I just got through dropping a new radiator in it only to find the fan does not work. It needs new tires which will probably reveal that it also requires suspension work. It is, in short, falling apart at the seams. It has been relegated to my sixteen mile daily commute to work and an occasional stop at the community garden. It is the very definition of  a clunker. Oddly enough, it did not qualify for the much vaunted Government Cash for Clunkers program.

            I have even banned the wife from being seen in the van either as driver or passenger. You see, the creature, in addition to its internal dilapidation, is the undisputed holder of the title “ugliest vehicle on the planet.” Well, the free world at least. I’ve seen the old East German Trabant and, IT IS uglier.

            The paint is faded so badly that the top has the appearance of burnt bacon. The interior is stained and the fabric on the roof has come loose and sags down like an old man with a beer belly. It has bruise marks and scrapes on every corner. It is known to scare small children and frighten cats. Dogs refuse to do their business anywhere near it. Our homeowner’s association has even asked us to keep it inside of our garage in fear of its affect on resale values. The police refuse to stop us for any reason (probably out of pity). Indeed, its only redeeming value is it has long since been paid off and costs only my dignity to drive. I never did have much use for my dignity anyway and I NEVER have had to worry about the kids wanting to borrow the creature for a date.

            Today, I was getting gas and saw (horrors!) its twin. I did and, let me tell you, it was deeply weird. Hopefully, that one resides in a different county than ours. Lord knows, one per county is enough.

            So, what’s the point in all this about a beat up old van? Well, I really don’t know. I saw its twin today and it just came to me that I ought to say something. And I did.

The fly

Readers will recall a recent article regarding the purpose of mosquitoes. We found his twofold purpose to be the spread of disease and as a food source, mostly for bullfrogs.  There is another creature that is even more loathsome than that disease spreading insect. I write, of course, about the common housefly. Like the mosquito, this creature has the job of spreading various maladies among the human race. They have another, much more odious task assigned to them by the Creator Himself.

It is the singular assignment to every fly on the earth to torment all of creation (cats are exempt). They were, no doubt, the insect referred to in the plagues of Egypt and they are very good at what they do. So good, in fact, that it now takes only one to rob an individual of all reason and sense. They can cause women of sound moral principle to swear like a sailor. They can bring about madness in grown men and tears in small children. Dogs have been known to bite at the air in an attempt to rid themselves of this king of pests. Only cats are exempt from their evil ways. No one knows why.

They have no known predators save the occasional cat. So  far as I can tell, the only reason a fly exists is to bother people and animals and eat the stuff that nobody else will eat. They are the nastiest creatures on the planet.

So, why is this even a discussion? I will tell you. It seems my lovely and tranquil home has been invaded by one, and only one, fly. He has been appointed to torment the matron of the house. When on normal days  I come home from work, she is the sight of joy and repose, now it is a frayed and violently angered woman that greets me. I came home one evening to find her poised in a fighting position with a fly swatter held high over her head. Her eyes had the crazed look of the tortured. I thought for a minute that she would come for me but I quickly reminded her that I am not the fly in question. That seemed to satisfy her until the vile creature himself made a taunting dive in front of her. She swung fiercely in his direction and popped me right on the head. I retreated to the den and out of harm’s way. The hunt continued with her swinging wildly and the tormentor buzzing about her head. I could’ve sworn I heard him laugh. She did too and that only increased her anger. Sensing his victim to be at the edge of her sanity, he retreated for the night. That is their talent. Push their assigned human right to the edge, then run.

Now you know why grown men go bald at an early age.

We are not happy (again)

This is the second time in the past six months that we have been rendered unhappy. The first time was this past winter when we officially joined the ranks of curmudgeons when we turned 55. Now, we find ourselves to be even more unhappy but for an entirely different reason. In a few short days, we will pack our last born child off to college. For the first time in twenty-seven years, their will be no children in residence in our house. (The wife might contest that one still remains).

First, we do not like the fact that there are two rooms in this house for which there is no official use. Well, there is actually. They are officially known as storage rooms for the “stuff” the two adult kids have never taken with them and now stuff the college bound one has decided he has no room for in his dorm room. So, we are the depot where the kids can dump the stuff they don’t have room for plus mooch a free meal and now as the place where the college one can get his laundry done for nothing.

Second, we don’t have anybody to do our yard work, sweep out our garage, wash our car, and generally act as free labor. Now we have to do all this stuff ourselves. Oh, and (even worse) we have to clean out the cat box  AND clean the kitchen! We don’t like this one bit.

Finally, and the worst of all, we have nobody to blame things on. When the dishwasher does not get loaded or unloaded, there will be nobody to point to and yell, “Why didn’t you do that after I told you to?” Nope, we will be the only one in the house. The wife will now yell at us and there will be nobody to shift blame onto. When we come home for lunch, we will be compelled by the wife (“she who must be obeyed” as we told the kids for years) to clean out the cat box before we can have our lunch. That exercise plays havoc on our digestion, by the way.

I see it all now. Twenty seven years of raising kids and they abandon us. We will have to do all this alone and without anybody to shift blame onto. There’s no justice in the world.

Just like the last time we were unhappy, we don’t know why we are writing in the third person plural.