The Story of Me

I hit it out of the park.

No, I mean I really did.

I. Hit. It. Out. Of. The. Park.

Said I couldn’t play.

Said it couldn’t be done even if I did.

Well, you can tell me “no.”  You can tell me “later.”  You can even tell me you “maybe, sometime in the future, I’ll let you know, how about we have some lemonade.”  Can’t say I’d be satisfied with any of those, but they don’t ruffle my feathers like telling me I “can’t.”

Even now, that just gives me the angry shivers.

Now, all these boys (and how they grow every summer I come back to Kansas), they know to a man I can run faster, throw farther, think quicker, jump higher, holler louder than any one of them.  I’ve become a game to them, who can run, throw, think, jump, holler, whatever, better than Amelia.

Well, not one.  Not yet.  I’ve too much of Grandfather in me.  And Grandmother.  And Daddy and Mama, and even my sister, too.  Set back?  Give in?  I think not.  These fellows, they see the iron in my eyes.  They tell me I get a sideways grin on my freckly face when I get a challenge.  I must grin a whole lot, as they do challenge me regularly.

The one thing, the only thing, the singulary thing I’m not allowed to do, rules of the Great State of Kansas set down to paper state it clear, is this:  “The Ordinances of the Great State of Kansas do hereby and forthwith encourage the fair and honest play of the game of Baseball between organized teams of boys aged 8 to14 representing their communities and towns to be played by the rules and regulations set forth hence.”  And on and on it goes.  But I’m always stopped right there.

Boys?  BOYS?  Well, what about me?

What about you, they toss over their shoulders, heading down to the city diamond at the bottom of the bluff by the river.  In this one case, they don’t bother, even once, to argue the point.  It, they say, is the law.

Well, hang the law.  (That’s what I later told Grandfather, retired judge for the County, just before he bade me exit his presence and rethink my comments in the quiet and loneliness of my room.)

Well, I’ll say it again.  Hang the law.  Just like fences were made to be leapt, laws were meant to be circumvented.  (I was wise enough not to confess those thoughts to Grandfather.  I might have been banished for a month!)

One day, middle of the hottest, muggiest of July days, flys buzzing around my frizzled curls, I’d run completely out of gas.  Nobody around anywhere.  I searched for occupation, but the heavy wet air weighed me down.  I thought about replacing the fallen birds’ nest I’d seen at the bottom of the big oak down by road, but that ended quickly when Mama bird, a blue black Great Tailed Grackle dive-bombed me, pecking my ears and sending me running for the covered porch.  All my ideas for retaliation were shot to heck as I watched her return to her hungry chicks in the fallen nest.  Thought they never did that.  Glad she did.  So I forgave her.

But I was itchy.  Something was calling to me.

I knew what.

And you know what.

I snuck out to the clothesline where Grandfather’s top man, Otis, had  his dungarees out drying.  Grandmother’s ladies, they were nice enough to wash his workclothes every now and again, if he asked real nice.  I hoped he’d not miss them.  They weren’t quite dry yet, anyhow.

And a mite uncomfortable, too.  But rolled up from the bottom, and rolled down from the top, and held up with a leather strap hung just inside the shed, I grabbed an old greasy hat from the garage and marched myself down to the river.

And to the baseball diamond at the bottom of the bluff.

Now I could see from a far off the game had been stalled.  Just a bunch of boys, all doozed up in their baseball finery milling about here and there, not a ball being tossed, not a bat being swung.  I eased myself up into the splintering bleachers behind third base and gave myself a listen.

“You’ll have to forfeit,” said a stringy boy in blue striped socks.  Must be one of them from down to Leavenworth.  They were a tough crew.  Had to be.  Federal prison in their midst either toughened them or scared them away.  That’s what Grandfather said about the population at large, anyhow.

“Won’t do any such thing,”  retorted Jimmy Fair, one of my pals.  “Butch or Isaac or Martin, one of them’s likely to show up any minute.”

Well, you and I know they did not, discovering later they were all sitting side by side on a courthouse bench, caught throwing unripened apples at old man Holyoke’s deaf and dumb donkey.

Then, what you and I know would happen did.

“How ’bout that feller over there on the bleachers?”

Huh?  Jimmy Fair twisted his head around my direction.  I nodded.  His face turned red as an ember and he started to blustering,  denying my very existence.  That’s when all the other Leavenworth boys started in.

“Yeah, let him play!”

“Yeah, he looks like he could play.”

“C’mon, we want a game!”

Jimmy Fair struggled, “Ain’t got an extra glove.”

But those Leavenworth boys, they came prepared.  “Why, feller can use one o’ ours!  Hey, you, kid!  You wanna play?”  They hollered my direction.

You and I know I did.  And with only one sideways grin at Jimmy Fair, and none at the others who watched in silent flabbergasted amazement as I slid off the bench with nary a splinter in my backside, accepted the offered glove and headed yonder to the outfield.

Can’t say I was spectacular in the field that first inning.  Of course, I chased everything that came my way.  Made no errant tosses.  Stayed at the ready.

But it was when I came up to bat, well, you and I know what happened.

I. Hit. It. Out. Of. The. Park.

That, rounding third my cap blew completely off, loosening all those frizzled curls, well, that was what ended my participation, for that day, at least.  That a couple of those Leavenworth boys hollered “Foul!” and chased me half up the bluff, well, that was sport in itself.

Dang.  I hit it out of the park!




The Story of Me

Summers, those long hazy hot days between Memorial Day and Labor Day, have surely been my favorite, freedom-ridden, frollicking-filled prime times of my life.

There simply isn’t nothing for it, but I obligate myself to jam-cramming every minute with every possible adventure my brain could possibly concoct.

My grandfather, retired judge and man of substance and means, he gave my my head, saying, “Boys will be boys…and Amelia will be, too.”  Grandmother cared not a whit for that little saying, puffing and harrumphing each time Grandfather gave me a free pass.  She’d likely put her thumb to her mouth, then smooth my renegade brows.

I did despise that so.

But when, with a chuck and a grin, she’d send me off to do whatever I was wont, to whomever I wanted, well, it seemed a small price to pay.  I did so revel in my summers out on their farm.

But I always swore I’d not subject any offspring I sprung to that particular indignity, no sir–ee–bob!.

Having one of those minds, I can recollect nearly every day, every cockamamey plan, every slice of seed-speckled watermelon of every summer stay.

One summer, building was my labor of choice.  Built a tiptop treehouse.  Built a ladder first, though, then once up, I pulled that sucker apart rung by rung and used the sections and slats to fortify the platform, then built a second level up so high, the wind waved the floor side to side.

Grandmother sighed.  Grandfather chuckled.

Built a rack for my bike to sit up in.  Built a leanto on the barn to house the rack for my bike to sit up in.

Then I took my bike apart, piece by piece, laid out neat as a pin on the dusty musty floor of the hayloft where I’d hoisted it.  Then piece by piece, I put in back together.  Then I tied it to the hayrope, then wrapped the hayrope ’round me, then swung her out the uptop hinged hatch.  Failed to check the age and strength of the hayrope, and oversight i made but once.  I flew only a second or two, but my oh my, it was worth the bruised bum and sprained wrist I endured.

Grandmother insisted on a sling.  Well, that lasted till I was out the door.

Mechanical doings, though, they fell together in perfect order for me.  I found my head wrapped around gears and engines and belts right well.  Rebuilt that bicycle, improving the gears and even added a small engine to give me speed.  That it also scorched the calves of my skinny legs only spurred me to pedal all the faster.  Grandfather and his workmen allowed me a birdseye view of tractor maintenance.  Even helped change the oil once or twice.  Built Grandmother a conveyer chute to carry her laundry from the upstairs bedrooms to the backporch where the ladies had the wringer.  Sadly, it took up too much of the stairway and no one except rail thin me could pass by.   Then, I built a trap.  Built a trap for run-away chickens.  Grandmother’s straying chickens were constant nuisances and I reckoned doing my part to right this torment might give her a modicum of joy, and me a modicum of peace.  I did give her such a headache.

And this contraption, this contraption worked like a charm.  Not the usual rat trap baited with cheese and a trap door, mine had gears and chains, whirring when the door closed behind the errant chicken, then ding dinging a bell when the chicken put its weight on the springed and sprung floor.

I won’t say this invention, while clever,  was my finest, for the purpose for which it was made lacked portent.  Chickens, stray or not, had no reason to be, other than perhaps scrambled eggs with cheese and Sunday dinner.

Simply, they could not, or would not, fly.  So what then, I ask, was the point?