Posts Tagged ‘Paul’
I had a great time as always at the 2009 Atwood Jamboree. Michael Terry and too many others to name put on a great tournament. Thank you!
I was sorry to hear that Ol’ Crow had back surgery this year so Worthy and Ol’ Crow weren’t with us. This year we golfed with the Brad and Chad Bowles, as usual, and Brian and Brandon Sabatka. We had a good time.
Paul and I finished in the money again this year – but not because of our effort on the golf course. We were wise investors in the Calcutta.
Brad and Chad Bowles had more bad luck than you can shake a stick at on Saturday. We new that wouldn’t carry over on Sunday. So, we tried to buy them in the Calcutta. Only problem is Paul and I got confused. We won the bid for a wildcard team but in the wrong flight. We went out on a limb and selected Chuck Focke and his partner Mark Frame of Kinsley, Kansas. Later in the auction we succeeded at our original goal and won the right to choose the Bowles team. Feeling optimistic we bought ourselves, too.
I would like to thank Brad, Chad, Chuck and Mark – because of your Sunday efforts we came out ahead. Paul and I finished out of the money but we broke 70 for the second time in our long and storied careers.
The highlight of the weekend tookplace on the shooting range, I mean hole number 2. The tournament organizers added a twist. They launched two clay pigeons at once – hit one, earn a birdie; hit two, earn an eagle and win a hat.
After years of shooting at air, I am now the proud owner of an orange Beaver Creek Hunting hat – thanks Brad Leitner. I may just to take that hunter’s safety course and come back in November to show folks how it’s done.
All-in-all, A good time was had by all.
The Atwood Jamboree golf tournament is one of my favorite weekends of the year.
It is the weekend each year I spend time with old friends. We tell the same jokes and laugh like it’s the first time we heard them. That’s part of what makes the Jamboree and the weekend special. It’s familiar. Old friends, old jokes, old routines. It is a weekend that I truly relax.
My friend Karl Spiecker, formerly of Longmont and now Colorado Springs, is a regular at the tournament, too. A few years back Karl had a magical weekend a la Tom Watson in this year’s British Open. On Saturday, Karl shot the best round of golf he’s ever played. Saturday night, his ticket was drawn for the putting contest. On Sunday, he made the first putt to qualify for the big money shot. He rimmed out the putt for $2,500 to the groan of the crowd. He didn’t make a putt the rest of the day.
The title of this post comes from one of the familiar jokes we tell each year.
On Sundays, on hole number two, teams are given the option of shooting a clay pigeon or playing the hole. Most of the golfers in Atwood are better shots with a gun than a club. As we approach the tee off box, my playing partner of the past 20 years, Paul Hayden, shouts, “Nothing like alcohol and firearms to make a good golf tournament.” We all laugh.
Paul and my sixsome of the past few years – the Bowles brothers, Worthy and Ol’ Crow – laugh a lot over the course of the weekend. Paul reminds everyone about the pecking order, “Bowles… you’re the second best putter here.” Or calls out to groups passing on another hole, “Sandbaggers!”
The Bowles brothers play the best golf in our group usually contending for the Championship Flight title. But, Paul and I are no slouches ourselves. We have all the qualities of the great golfers.
We’re dedicated. We both play 45 holes a year counting the 36 holes we play in the Jamboree. Sometimes we only play 40 if we exit the Friday night shootout on an early hole. I used to play a practice round in Longmont before the Jamboree. But I’ve learned not to over prepare.
We’re competitive. We scratch our way into the fourth flight every year. We finish ahead of at least eight or nine teams of the 50 entered every year. The big drivers they make these days have helped us stay at the top of the bottom flight.
We’re consistent. We shoot between 72 and 75 every round we play – Saturdays and Sundays. Sometimes our effort is a little unorthodox. Last year, for instance, we completed the first nine holes on Saturday in 32 strokes – we don’t quite have the sandbagging thing down. The second nine we had to use two tosses of the ball and two mulligan’s (legal in this tournament) to scratch out a 42. But there we were with our normal 74.
We’re poised under pressure. One year Paul and I won the Friday night shootout – a process of elimination game in which the low score on each hole is forced to retire. It was a nail biter. We tied with our competition on the final hole. We both shot 10 on the par five number three. We we’re the only team to get it on the green in the chip off.
We’re resourceful. We’re more than willing to shell out a few dollars to save a stroke. It costs five dollars for two shots at the clay pigeon on Sunday. If we hit the pigeon, and earn a birdie on the hole, it is guaranteed to save us at least one stroke, maybe two. Last year it took us three tries and 15 dollars but we saved the stroke. I thought Paul was a much better shot.
And, most important of all, we’re a good bet. On Saturday nights, the teams are auctioned off in a Calcutta. The teams in each Calcutta group that improve the most on the second day win money. Paul and I finish in the money about one out of every three years. I don’t want to drive our price up but I’m just saying, better odds than Vegas.
As an aside for those of you who might be curious. I once asked my Dad if the Calcutta is a legal activity. Here’s what he had to say, “When I was county attorney I was at the Calcutta. George Beims (the police chief) was there, too. No one said anything so it must be legal.” Good enough for me.
The Atwood Jamboree, along with my kids’ birthdays, is one of the few things on my calendar that I will not negotiate. The first weekend of August each year (except when the Olympics are held in the United States) I’ll be in Atwood.
I can’t wait.
Don Beamgard stepped up for Atwood Scout Troop 121 when we needed someone and when he didn’t need to. It wasn’t the first time he stepped up for Atwood and it wouldn’t be the last.
I thought a lot about Mr. Beamgard this past week. I went with my son Joe to Ben Delatour Scout Ranch (BDSR) near Red Feather Lakes, Colorado this past weekend. The last time I was at BDSR I was a Boy Scout myself. Silas Horton and I swam in the lake in the background of the picture for about 10 seconds before we decided it was too cold. We agreed our best option was to fail the swim test and be banned from the lake for the rest of the week.
I stayed on top of the water this year canoeing with Joe and his good friend Jackson. We took our swim tests before we left Longmont. Thank goodness. The water felt just as cold as I remember.
Back in 1979, Mr. Beamgard spent three nights with our scout troop at BDSR. He was relieved by Jerry McKee (the high school basketball coach at the time) who also spent three nights as our chaperone.
The previous year, 1978, our scout troop went to the Dane Hansen Scout Reservation in Kansas. We had a hard time finding an adult who could spend an entire week with us at camp. Our dads were working and, in those days, moms didn’t stay with scouts at camp.
It was decided, somehow, that we could go to camp without adult supervision. Hindsight 20-20 (or even 20-60) that decision wasn’t so terribly wise. One of our troop mates was picked on by boys from another troop. He got in a scrap and his nose was seriously broken causing several years of problems.
We had a hard time keeping track of time without an adult to help us out. As young teenagers are prone to do, we got caught up in our own games rather than camp prescribed activities. One afternoon we decided to use our campsite water buckets to hunt and capture ground squirrels. It was a great game – except perhaps for the squirrels.
We forgot to show up for dinner that night where we were supposed to lead the camp in prayer. A counselor came to find us. We threw on our uniforms – sort of – and marched into dinner like Bill Murry’s squad showed up to graduation in the movie Stripes. We tried to get the other campers to join us in the song, “Be Present at Our Table Lord,” but no one did. By the second verse, Paul Hayden put everyone out of their misery when he called out, “That’s all the words we know, sit down and eat.”
The Camp Hansen organizers discouraged Troop 121 from coming back the next year. That was okay with us. The chiggers made us miserable. But we did want to camp the next summer.
Everyone must have agreed we would only be allowed to go to camp again if an adult went with us to supervise. The next summer, camp was up in the air until almost the last moment when, finally, Mr. Beamgard (who was an Eagle Scout) and Mr. McKee agreed to serve for half a week each. Neither man had a son in our troop. They stepped up out of kindness.
I don’t remember a lot about my week at BDSR except for the frigid mountain lake and Mr. Beamgard’s stories. He was a World War II Vet serving in the infantry. He sat at the picnic table of our campsite and kept us at rapt attention telling us how he earned his Purple Hearts. He told us stories about running down hills in Europe and diving into his fox hole thinking he’d escaped harm until his uniform pants began to turn dark red with blood. These are the types of stories young teen agers love not fully comprehending how real the stories are.
As a boy, I heard many stories about Mr. Beamgard. He was not only an influential community leader but he loved to have fun – and poke fun.
My dad arrived in Atwood and learned that Mr. Beamgard was an avid ping pong player. Dad enjoyed ping pong too and challenged Mr. Beamgard to a game. The story goes that Mr. Beamgard said he could win wearing over boots and a rain jacket. Dad said, “I’ll take that bet.”
The match was staged in the basement of the Methodist Church. Apparently, the score was not even close. Dad retired from competitive ping pong after a humiliating defeat. Dad’s only prize was a story that he told every time we ate at a Methodist Church potluck.
Mr. Beamgard was a proud Democrat. He also was a supporter of our hometown politician Mike Hayden. For Mr. Beamgard, hometown would always trump political affiliation. But, he faced a dilemma like other Atwood Democrats when Mike ran for governor in a crowded Republican party. Should he switch parties to help Mike reach the general election?
Mr. Beamgard never considered the option. He was a Democrat and would never put R next to his name. But, he did promise to recruit at least 10 Republicans around the state to vote for Mike in the primary. He challenged other Democrats to do the same.
Mr. Beamgard served as Atwood’s Postmaster for many years. If I was out and about early enough, I would stop and watch Mr. Beamgard raise the flag outside the post office. He did it with all the formality we were taught in scouts.
There used to be a joke that Mr. Beamgard kept up with community news by sneaking peeks at people’s post cards. We received a post card from an Atwood neighbor who was away on a long vacation. At the bottom of the card was a postscript written in small letters: “Don, please give our regards to June.”
Don did more for Atwood than a young boy can even begin to appreciate. He and his wife June were the energy behind the Beamgard Learning Center, a regional school located in Atwood for severely handicapped children. They both sang in the church choir and were leaders in the congregation.
And, like most Beamgard men, Don served a term or two as Atwood mayor. Dad, also a former mayor, rode on a parade float for those who had previously held the office. He was the only non-Beamgard on board. In an effort to fit in, he wrote on his name tag, “Bob Beamgard.”
Don Beamgard was a civic man. He gave countless hours of service to Atwood, to his church, civic clubs as well as to his state and country. He was indeed a member of the greatest generation.
Like many folks who are active in community life he ruffled a few feathers. That’s what happens when you’re passionate and want to get things done. I appreciate now more than ever people who are willing to stay involved in community life year after year after year.
I will remember Mr. Beamgard for the many roles he played in our community. And, I will also remember him as the person who saved our trip to scout camp in the summer of ’79.
There was water flowing in the creek beds then, always a steady stream.
We paused on the banks debating whether to take off our shoes. It was far easier to feel the creek bottom surface with bare feet. The risk of slicing a toe on broken glass was real. The prospect of more bounty typically prevailed.
Shoes and socks safely stored beneath the rickety wooden bridge, we slipped into the waste deep water to begin our search for treasure. Optimism always ran high as mud began to ooze through our toes. Anticipation and excitement took hold the moment we felt a hard curved surface touch on the sole of our foot. We’d reach down, sift through the mud and pull up our prize – would it be worth keeping?
Creek (pronounced crick) balls from the Atwood Golf Course were our treasure. The golfer’s misfortunes were our opportunity for riches. Once washed up and displayed on a tee box we could collect 10 or 25 cents per ball – 50 cents if you found a jewel like a brand new Titlest – from golfers in need of supplies.
Creek ball hunting was one of my primary sources of income in grade school supplementing what I earned mowing lawns. These were completely discretionary dollars. My parents did not make me report what I earned on my trips to the golf course so dollars were not diverted to a savings account. Anything I made on the course turned into baseball cards, comic books or a Chocolate 400 at Currier Drug before I went home.
Lots of kids spent time on the golf course at one time or another to try to find creek balls. My main partner-competitor was Tim Yount. We went together for companionship and we would take turns checking for golfers (so we wouldn’t get hit by an errant drive). But that’s as far as our cooperation went. It was a brutal competition in the creek each of us wanting to find the most and best golf balls. We lived by a simple rule that governed our marketplace: Finders-keepers, losers-weepers.
We typically made our rounds east to west starting at the creek on hole number two, moving to three and finishing up on number seven of the nine hole course. We spent most of our time in the open water of each stream but if creek balls were scarce we’d venture into the weeded areas.
With weeds came the possible of greater reward but also more risk. We’d always spend five or ten minutes picking leaches off our legs and from between our toes after exiting the water. I can still feel the sting and trickle of blood that followed.
We often wore blue jeans if we planned in advance to search the weeds. We’d convinced ourselves long pants deterred leaches, but I don’t know if that’s true. I often found leaches in the shower a few hours later at home. There was a downside to the jeans. Crawdads would dart up our pants. If Tim or I started shrieking and dancing for no apparent reason, the other knew what had happened.
Wednesdays, Ladies’ Day, was the best day to do business. The Ladies were always encouraging, supportive and kind. If we could find Maxine Finley or Hilda Eaton on the course, we knew we were guaranteed at least one dollar in sales, each.
Thursdays, Men’s Day, we tried to remain unseen. On Thursdays, the men weren’t so generous, often chasing us off the course. On other days, they were fine. I suppose the Thursday “competitions” led to shorter nerves.
A few golfers, seeing one of their own lost balls in our collection, would demand to have it back free of charge. They didn’t understand our rule of finders-keepers.
We would return a ball if we were in the creek when the ball went into the water. It seemed like good course etiquette. It also helped to facilitate our sales. But, if we found the ball when golfers were nowhere in sight, we considered it our own.
On those days when few creek balls or customers could be found, our hunt would be suspended for water fights, throwing mud balls or golfing by hand – throwing the golf balls we found from hole to hole.
The Atwood Golf Course was a great workplace. I can’t imagine one better for kids.
The drop in water table, so I’m told, is the main culprit for the dry creek beds today. I’d like to see the water come back except, of course, the first week in August. Paul Hayden and I often play out of the creeks during the Atwood Jamboree. It’s a more pleasant experience when we are able to keep our shoes dry.
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Photograph from the Atwood Country Club website.
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I couldn’t help but think of this SNL skit when writing this post.
How do we make our dreams come true? I contemplated that question recently when I was asked to give a high school commencement address.
One of the first people I thought of was Mr. Bray. He was the custodian at our high school. His son Jeff was in my class, Jerry was a year older and Mark was in Alec’s class. They had several older siblings who I didn’t know well. Mrs. Bray sold Paul and I our number 18 jersey’s, which we promptly converted with paint to number 19 so we could play Johnny U, at Williams Bros. Department Store.
I also thought of a book I’m reading with my daughter Emma, Rain of Gold, by Victor Villasenor. The story is about Juan and Lupe Villasenor who fled revolutionary Mexico to California about a century ago. Juan’s and Lupe’s respective families faced many hardships before finding peace and prosperity in the United States.
I will forever remember one scene in the book. Juan and his family are camped outside of Ciudad Juarez hoping to cross the border into the United States. They have nothing. They must pick corn from manure to stave off starvation. One night, after a terrible sandstorm, Juan’s mother, Dona Margarita, is all but blind. A sister already is. The family wants to give up.
Dona Margarita calls a family meeting. This is a woman who has lost several children to war. She is nearly blind. Her grandchildren are crying with hunger. They have no home. No money.
With all these hardships, Dona Margarita says to her family, “We must open our hearts so that we can see the possibilities in our predicament. If we do not look for the possibilities, we have nothing.” She went on to tell her children that they must pray to God for the strength to make miracles happen.
That is a central theme in this book. God makes miracles happen, if we’re willing to do the work.
Mr. Bray exemplified this idea. He dreamed of a grand home for his large family. That’s hard to come by on the modest income of a high school custodian. Most of us might not move beyond the stage of dreaming thinking to ourselves, “It can’t be done.” I can imagine Mr. Bray thinking, “I will not be deterred.”
From the time I was about five or six, I have memories of Mr. Bray at different places around town – in the evenings, on weekends and all through the summer. We would be out riding our bikes or playing basketball and we’d see Mr. Bray hard at work tearing down abandon homes and buildings.
He carefully took the buildings apart and saved the lumber, doors and window frames. When his work was done, he left clean lots removing eyes sores from the community. His work was a service in and of itself.
I didn’t really understand what Mr. Bray was doing at the time. I thought it odd how carefully he stacked and stored the lumber. Most demolition projects I’d seen were more violent. The materials headed for the dump. From the vantage point of a child, Mr. Bray’s efforts seemed like a big waste of time. But, by the time we were in high school the Bray’s had one of the biggest houses in town.
Now, when I think of what it takes to make dreams come true, I think of Mr. Bray. Dona Margarita, the wise mother in Rain of Gold, had it right. Miracles are possible if we’re willing to do the work.
Mr. Bray is a testament to that.
“Joe, who’s the greatest of all time?”
“Emma, who’s the greatest of all time?”
“Ada Grace, who’s the greatest of all time?”
“I’m not saying. Why do you always ask that question?”
Why indeed. The short answer is Paul Hayden.
Roy Forbisher was born on the banks of Crystal Springs on my grandfather Creighton’s ranch outside Flagler, Colorado more than 30 years ago.
Paul and I spent a week camping on the ranch back in the late 70s. I was 13. Paul was 14.
Our days at Crystal Springs weren’t exactly roughin’ it.
Each morning, we crawled out of our tent, set up our hammocks and had a rest before breakfast.
We walked the mile or two from the campsite to the ranch house to get our day’s supplies. We kept the perishables in the house refrigerator. We loaded up at least enough food for breakfast and lunch.
We’d hike back to camp. Cook some bacon and eggs on our fire.
After breakfast, we’d set up our hammocks and have a rest.
Some days we hiked to Flagler Lake, a mile in the other direction. Other days we walked to the corral to check on the horses. Followed by a lunch of cold cuts on white bread.
Then, we’d set up our hammocks and have a rest.
Late afternoon it was back to the ranch house for supper supplies. Gather firewood. Eat.
Then, we’d set up our hammocks and have a rest.
Some nights we’d take a break from the hammocks to hunt for the bullfrogs who kept us up all night.
Other nights, we’d just rest. Then we’d crawl back into our tent for the night.
The five days on the ranch weren’t as leisurely as they might sound. Setting up the hammocks was tough. For starters, we didn’t really have hammocks.
The process involved tying ropes around trees and towels around ropes. It was hard to get the ropes taut. Sometimes it took two or three tries. Sometimes we’d fall straight to the ground. After an hour or so the ropes would be slack and we’d have to start the process again. It really made a guy want to rest.
It is while lying on the hammocks that Roy Forbisher was born.
Paul told me epic tales of the Greatest Contests held in the spring of each year, after the qualifying rounds in the fall. Paul took me through at least a decade of competitions.
Not everyone had the stamina to compete year after year. But Roy Forbisher and Paul always finished near the top. Not even Mohammad Ali, who always competed, made it to the final rounds as often as Roy and Paul.
The rivalry that grew between Roy and Paul became legendary (at least on the banks of Crystal Springs). Tennis had McEnroe and Borg. Golf had Nicklaus and Palmer (or Nicklaus and Watson depending on your age). Basketball has the Celtics and Lakers. In the Greatest Contest, it usually came down to Forbisher and Hayden.
Some years their battle would rage on for days before the judges could determine who was the greatest that year. Roy Forbisher almost always reigned supreme. He won so many consecutive Greatest Contests that people considered ending the competition altogether. Everyone agreed, Roy Forbisher was the greatest of all time.
Paul and I never talked about Roy again. But, Roy would pop up occasionally in the years since our week on the ranch. Usually, when someone asks, “Who’s really good at…” I’d be reminded of the competitions Paul described and quickly reply, “Roy Forbisher, he’s the Greatest of All Time.”
(I think Heidi Priebe thought Roy was a real person for a few years. But, I’ll let her defend herself.)
My kids ask all sorts of “Who’s the best” questions. My standard reply is always the same, “Roy Forbisher, of course.”
The kids might ask, “Dad, who’s the best at…”
“Roy Forbisher. You should know that.”
“Who’s Roy Forbisher again?”
“He’s the greatest of all time?”
“Greatest at what, Dad?”
“The greatest of all time.”
My girls have become bored with the routine. Sometimes Emma will humor me. She cut and paste a Roy Forbisher Wikipedia page one night and called out, “Dad, look what I found.”
One of the other kids asked, “Is he really a real person Emma?”
“Don’t believe everything you see on the internet,” she replied.
Ada Grace simply refuses to participate.
But, Paul Hayden can hold out hope that Roy Forbisher will live on.
I walked Joe and Ada Grace to school not long ago. As I walked away, I overheard Joe say to a friend, “Who’s the greatest of all time?”
Before ESPN. Before March Madness. Crowds gathered for the annual Atwood first and second-grade one-on-one tournaments in the Creighton’s backyard.
Alec Creighton was the tournament organizer. Using profits from his paper route he purchased trophies for the winners as well as sportsmen and those who improved. The trophies were displayed on a card table – and coveted by the players – during the games.
Dad helped to modify the court. The rim was lowered to eight feet. Free throw lines were outlined with tape – one for second graders and one a little closer in for those in first.
Brackets for the double elimination tournament (using the format familiar in wrestling tournaments of the day) were written out on poster board and tacked to the side of the house nearest the court.
The tournament began with humble beginnings. There weren’t enough first and second graders to fill out a bracket so kindergartners like me were allowed to play.
The first year’s winner was the son of migrant farm workers (I wish I could remember his name) who lived at the top of State Street. Silas and I used to go to his house to eat tortillas for an afternoon snack. He defeated Paul Hayden and was awarded a plate of cookies.
Paul prevailed in the championship as a second grader. The son of migrant farm workers was not there to defend his title.
That was the year the tournament really began to take off. The bracket was full – sixteen players. Boys of all ages – including teenagers – lined two sides of the small slab of concrete (a fence and shed bordered the other sides) to cheer on the competitors.
Perhaps there were fifteen or twenty spectators. For a first or second grader it was if the stands were filled to the rafters – all eyes on you.
The court was engulfed after the final game. The older boys wanted to dunk on the lowered rim.
Ken Stonebraker was the champion in year three. Paul was too old to continue his run. I made it to the semi-finals that year but my tournament ended in tears when I fell in a close game to Rodney Briggs.
Ken and Rod went on to become accomplished athletes and coaches in their own rights – leading the large high school teams they coach to state and league championships. They got their start here.
Jimmy Wilson – who lived on Seventh Street between Paul and Rod – won trophies, too. Jimmy was the undisputed winner of the sportsmanship trophy each year he played.
It was an event unmatched in its day. Sowing the seeds of little boys’ lifelong interest in a ball and a hoop. Anticipated just as the NCAA brackets are today.
My parents made sure I had experiences to build my sense of confidence and independence. As a boy, I was completely unaware of their intentional and thought out schemes. I appreciate it today.
I was eight when both parents agreed to be counselors at the Rock Springs 4-H camp. I was afraid to go without them. I know my dad detested the counselor role. He told me so 34 years later. I can’t imagine my mom liking it much better. There are very few parents who pine to be camp counselors.
The next year, I went to 4-H camp on my own – well, along with 20 or 30 other Rawlins County kids (I’m sitting front and center). My parents gratefully stayed home.
These are the types of building blocks my parents engineered so I would gradually gain the confidence to do things on my own. I always got sick the night before “sleep away” camps. But I made it through several years of scout camp, KU basketball camp and KU baseball camp before the eighth grade.
Traveling to Flagler by bus was another one of the experiences my parents planned for me. I took an annual Greyhound trip (or was it Trailways) from Colby (the nearest stop at the time) to Flagler where my Creighton grandparents lived. Each year, the trip was done with a little less supervision.
The first year, when I was six, I traveled with my brother Alec. My dad followed behind in the car. Alec made a separate trip that year with Thorn Hayden and no parents shadowing their progress.
The next year, I traveled with Alec and Paul Hayden. Our parents or Paul’s dropped us off in Colby. My dad waited until the end of the work day to travel to Flagler.
The trip with Alec and Paul was marked by the infamous “Stuckey’s Experience.” I fought tears for nearly an hour. In the era of low gas mileage and small gas tanks, filling stations populated the Interstate at exchanges between towns.
Stuckey’s and Nickerson Farms – part lunch counter, part filling station and part novelty shop – were the prominent chains along I-70 in western Kansas and eastern Colorado. You could fill up your tank, get a hamburger and buy a felt picture of a jackelope all in one stop. These stops were shrines to American entrepreneurs and consumers alike.
We stopped at a Stuckey’s near Goodland, KS to pick up passengers and a mid-morning snack. At seven, my head barely cleared the top of the lunch counter. The waitress’ eyes never made contact with mine. I tried to get her attention but to no avail. There were 20 other passengers to serve.
When the bus driver yelled for us all to re-board, I had failed to garner a snack. The devastation was almost more than I could bear. Alec and Paul tried to comfort me by sharing their food. But, I could not be consoled.
The next year was the big trip – no parents for two days. Silas Horton joined me on the bus that year. We stayed in my grandparent’s “guest house” – a detached studio apartment in their back yard. We thought we were on a grand adventure.
Joni and I have not been as deliberate as my parents in creating a series of experiences for our kids. Our kids do a lot but camps and unsupervised travel are not among the things they do. I sometimes wonder if that’s been an error.
Perhaps my parents weren’t as deliberate as I imagine. But, knowing my mom, they were. I’m glad I’m remembering the steps they took. There’s still time for Joni and me to do the same favor for our kids.
My brother Alec loved the Jerry Lewis Telethon, the annual event to raise funds for the Muscular Dystrophy Association. He camped out in our basement each Labor Day Weekend doing his best to pull all nighters to watch the parade of stars and fundraising tally board.
I was not the fan Alec was but I logged my share of hours watching Jerry, in his familiar tux and dangling tie, and Ed McMahon host the show. It was a chance to see the era’s superstars (Superstar Mac Davis and Superstar Tony Orlando) family favorites (Shari Lewis and Lamb Chop) and, of course, Jerry’s old friends (Sammy Davis, Jr.). And, of course, there was the exciting drama of updating the tally board and people from all over the country bringing in the giant checks representing how much they raised.
Alec was nine or ten when he took it upon himself to organize an MDA fundraising event in Atwood. He ordered a carnival kit from MDA. The Hayden’s backyard was our venue. This planning led to an exciting day of “rides,” games and refreshments.
Paul and I manned the zip line – a ride that went from the backyard tree to a pile of mattresses stacked against the fence of his Mamo Kelley’s yard. Sally Hayden set up a palm reading tent near the entrance gate to the backyard. There was a pie tin toss and other games scattered about the yard.
I don’t remember how much money we raised but we were all proud of being part of Alec’s efforts. The Telethon took on added excitement that year.
Forty years later, I have been tapped to help raise funds for Jerry’s Kids. The local area MDA chapter is hosting a fundraising “lock up” on Thursday, March 12. I am one of the “most wanted.”
I could use your help to raise funds. You can go to my fundraising home page where you’ll find a button to click to make a credit card contribution. Every $5, $10 and $20 dollars will help. The funds support research, programs and care for Jerry’s kids.
I appreciate your consideration.
I ducked. My left ear smacked into my knee. The “helicopter” whizzed past my right ear. I swear I could feel a wind as it went ssshhhooom, spinning by in a near invisible blur. I heard the explosion a split-second later. Debris from the flying firecracker known as a helicopter fell on the road behind us.
“That was close,” exclaimed Paul in a panicked shout. We were sitting side by side on the small concrete bridge looking over the creek. He had ducked the other direction and almost fell. “What were you thinking,” he half yelled at me, still too startled to really give me a tongue lashing.
“Whoaaaaaaaaa,” I shouted back, eyes wide, laughing with joy and shaking with fear.
Shouts of “cool,” “no way” and “damn,” cascaded around us as the half-dozen or so other boys took in our near disaster. But, in an instant, the excitement of a firecracker flying directly at our faces subsided. The gaggle of boys crowded around the bridge went back to the business of lighting Black Cats, Peacocks and bottle rockets with their red hot punks.
I didn’t move except to look at my hands. They were shaking. But, wow, what a rush.
It was just a few days until the 4th of July – one of my favorite weeks of the summer. I went through a lot of lawn mowing money during this week each year. It was a great change of pace from our daily visits to the swimming pool. We put our swim suits away and focused on blowing up as much stuff as we could.
We spent most afternoons racing back and forth between fireworks stands – the Boy Scouts and Swim Team ran competing operations on opposite corners of Highway 25 and Cemetery Hill – and a bridge just fifty yards up the hill.
I would jump on my bike as soon as I heard the one o’clock whistle, a signal that the stands would be open, dashing down State Street as fast as I could go. I could count on eight to ten boys arriving at the same time to join in games of varying degree of danger.
One of our favorite games was to see who could explode a firecracker just above the water of the creek. Timing was everything. You lit the fuse and then held the firecracker until just the right moment. If you guessed right, the firecracker would explode just as it hit the water. If you waited too long, you risked a handful of throbbing blisters from the inevitable powder burns.
I’m not sure what led me to use the helicopter – illegal these days. Clearly good judgment was in scarce supply on these blistering hot afternoons. The thrill of explosives overtook any good sense we had.
We were fortunate, my friends and I, to avoid any serious injury. I experienced one bad burn when a batch of Black Cats went off in my hand. I raced home and soaked my hand in a bucket of ice water hoping to ease the pain to the point that I wouldn’t have to make a report to my parents.
One friend had a bottle rocket stick in his face. That was harder to cover up since it happened at a neighborhood picnic.
Our parents weren’t too concerned about kids getting injured. I’m not sure why, perhaps because no one ever was seriously hurt. The danger that led to adult intervention came in the dry summers. No one wanted to see a field of wheat catch on fire. Strict limits were set on setting off fireworks near crops.
I don’t think I’d be comfortable allowing my kids to take the risks we did when I was young. We were often foolish. But, wow, what a rush.