i thought this was in my poetry book but i couldn’t immediately find it. It is one of my favorites. While going through yet another folder of stuff, writing mostly, throwing most of it away, i ran across the original. It was written in a wheel book while my ship was en route Pusan, Korea from Vietnam. On December 31, 1970, i finished it on a flight to Seoul after we had docked in Pusan, and eventually tore out the pages and put them together with a paperclip.
Now, i have to go through that poetry book again to make sure it’s not there.
one hundred miles at sea
i saw a gull
against the cold, harsh rays of sun
whitest i’ve ever seen
out of how many thousand,
the gull was captured
in a prism of time
from which i shall soon escape
then watch the mockingbirds.
Dark grey clouds like a lazing, sulking cat hung over the Mexican mountains to the south and the precipitous hills east before Mount Laguna. Before long, as it has been frequently over the last fortnight, the cat will quit lounging, stalk, and attack with fury. Rain. Ain’t like my Southwestern corner.
But the weather is fitting for this thing they are calling social distancing. The governor of California has issued an edict for all Californians to stay at home. i am obeying because a higher authority has declared i will obey. That would be my wife. So i have gone beyond “social distancing” and am now damn close to sequestering. i think i am wise enough and healthy enough to not become part of the problem, but i am also positive i do not wish to be a bad example. So, bristling as usual when someone tells me what i should do, and not really blaming Maureen, i will do what i feel is the right thing and stay home. There is some leeway for exercise and going to parks . Eventually, i decided to forego golf, even though there is enough leeway to justify making it to my Friday Morning Golf round. i didn’t go and by the time my stalwart golf buddies finished their round, we knew all the courses out here in the Southwest corner will be closed by tomorrow. And i have a hard time bucking authority, even if the order is dubious — government men and corporation men have this penchant for relying on statistics, and those statistics come from “yes men” surrounding them who have agendae of their own: believe me, i know, seen it in action, but it ain’t pretty — but that obedience has been fostered by parenting and the Navy over about fifty years. So i’m staying home for now.
On my walk before the cat clouds struck with the rain and during the governor’s speech, i thought of my little cabin, the one i’ve dreamed about for a long, long time. i am not against being alone.
In the summer of 1984, my father called me. i was with Maureen in our relatively new home in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida. Daddy was calling to explain why he was selling the lake cabin.
The cabin had been our playground, our relaxing place, our escape for us, extended family, and friends. In the sixties, my parents and my aunt and uncle bought the cabin on one-acre of lake front property on Denny Road, which was located on Barton Creek about a mile from the Cumberland River. It was a continuous gathering place with steaks grilled by the men and the rest of the supper fixed by the women with lots and lots of iced tea with lemons and sugar long before they began to make “sweet tea,” and we all sat at the table enlarged by card tables on the kitchen and dining room side of the one-room cabin with a outhouse out the side door but with running water, a toilet, sink, and shower, and after supper proper, the women brought out banana pudding, prune cake, pies, all kinds of pie with milk and coffee and we played games, mostly cards and board games with the kids, and we laughed and we frolicked outside, often rolling down the tiered-slope yard to the dock where there was a cool spring just off the end of the southern slip of the dock, which made you feel refreshed when you jumped or dove off the dock in the hot summer months, and we fished mostly fruitlessly off the banks and the docks and we water-skied around the largest pool of the Barton’s Creek, and Daddy would take one or two of us out to the river and troll for the striped bass, and we would plug the banks for the smallmouth bass and brother Joe would even play with the water moccasins, catching them with his hands out of the rocks piled high on the bank to prevent erosion, and we sunned on the dock, and the children and women would laze in the floats off the dock over the spring and the world was right and we didn’t know all of the nastiness, the prejudice, the hate going on in the world, and we laughed and dreamed and at night, we caught the fireflies or lightning bugs and put them in Mason jars with holes punched with an ice pick in the top and watched the sparkle in the night with the stars brimming over the heavens because there were no city lights to interfere with our vision, and we caught June bugs in the daytime and tied one leg on a string and let them fly around our heads in endless circles while we danced our young jig. And all of the world was right at the one room cabin on the lake.
But my uncle had died and the young ‘un’s moved away, and fewer people came to the cabin, and Daddy stored his boat in my aunt and uncle’s original garage for they had expanded and added another garage in the back, and my uncle was gone so my aunt lived alone with the old garage empty except for the washer and dryer and the Christmas decorations upstairs, and Daddy liked his boat there so he could go fishing somewhere else besides Barton’s Creek and Old Hickory Lake, like Percy Priest or Center Hill but he tended to the lake cabin and laid out a garden plot and grew his tomatoes. Then in ’84, he was 70 and he told his oldest son it didn’t make sense to keep the place just to mow and keep it up and tend the garden, especially when he and “Mother” were on the road a lot in their camper. And so, he said he was selling and told me he would get $44 Thousand.
And i gulped and understood and thought hard about buying it from him. i even had dreamed about becoming the owner and living there full time. i had drawn my plan, which added a couple of bedrooms upstairs extending over the parking area and turning that into a carport or garage and enclosing the outhouse into the house and extending upward for an upstairs bathroom; i also (knowing me) included a fireplace downstairs and upstairs. i wanted to buy it from him but i wouldn’t let him give it to me even if he offered and forty-four grand was quite a figure for a lake cabin second home when i was a commander and my new bride had left her job to be with me across the country and we didn’t have a lot of extra cash and even that did not play as much as my knowing him and knowing he would not allow me to get someone to maintain the place because he wouldn’t want me to pay for that and he would do the maintenance and that was the reason he was selling it, so resignedly i nodded approval of his decision.
And then it was gone. Many years later, Daddy and i went for a ride around the county and ended up on Denny Road. He stopped on the other side of the gravel road and told me what he would have done had he kept it. It was exactly the same plan i had without the fireplaces. After all, our Castle Heights home in which the parents lived for 62 years never had a fire in the fireplace, but still, our conversation brought back my thoughts of a cabin.
i wrote a column about this lake house for the Lebanon Democrat several years ago and received an extremely nice note from Linda Garvin Everette who lives there now with her husband. She had the column and the old photo framed and her husband was thrilled. And i was even more thrilled: good place from my past for good people.
And today, Linda sent me a photo from her house looking down on the dock and the creek. The dock, although i’m sure it has had loads of maintenance is still the same configuration as when it was our escape.
i still think about that place, but i ain’t moving out of the Southwest corner, at least for the meantime. Still, the idea of having a getaway cabin remains a dream.
This dream has been an off and on thing with many variations. When i was single, i dreamed of it being a romantic place i could take ladies and grill a steak and toss a salad and dine with wine with a cheese and sauterne after dinner moment with soft lights or better, candlelight and some classical guitar on the stereo. And then, i thought such would be for my wife and i to get away from the world and later take our kids so they could enjoy childhood on a lake like i did.
This dream morphed when i was in Watertown, New York. While i was the sports editor, i became friends with Earl Weideman, a teacher. Earl was a character, John Johnson, my friend and eventual publisher of the Watertown Daily Times who got me to come north for the job, introduced Earl and i. Earl and i ran a lot together and one weekend, we and my wife drove to one of the smaller towns on the St. Lawrence River, i’m guessing Cape Vincent. And we boarded a boat and drove out to the Thousand Island Earl’s family owned, and i fell in love with the place, not to mention i acted a bit goofy in my green Texas Boot softball jersey, which my daughter still wears around the house even though her sister Blythe was not quite yet on the way seventeen years before Sarah was born. Later in the winter, Earl drove me out there on the iced-over river in his car. i didn’t wear shorts then. And i started wanted a cabin for escaping the world again.
About ten years ago, Pete Toennies joined me on the last five days of a early March ski trip in Park City, Utah. It was a grand man trip. We skied daily at Deer Valley and went out for dinner each night. Stories abound. But one afternoon we were having a drink after skiing in the bar of Deer Valley’s Snow Park Lodge. A woman began talking to us about her home, which was out in the toolies, forty acres, only accessible by horse and sleigh or snowshoes in the winter. Then we went back in September with our wives and played golf and i dreamed again of my cabin, this time in Utah.
Now when i dream, i admit it is not reality, but it’s still in my mind. i think of taking all my old, not too pretty stuff, especially for a designer wife, currently filling up my garage and getting 40 acres with a one-room cabin and a big fireplace and living like Thoreau. It doesn’t have to be Utah. There are other places, and Tennessee lakes come into my vision again, and the small mountain town of Idyllwild about ninety minutes east and up from here is attractive.
Of course at my age, medical facilities would have to be near, preferably Navy, and a couple of decent golf courses with decent green fees also would have to be accessible. Although i want the heat to be mostly from the fire in the hearth, i will need heat, and probably air conditioning and…
Ah, hell. i ‘m sequestered right now, and we don’t have or need air conditioning, and the fire in the hearth is just right, and if i want to be alone, i can go out to the garage.
So i don’t think a one-room cabin is in my future.
All of this volunteer sequestering has giving me time to read as well as write. In the last two weeks, i have read two books i had put on the shelf with good intentions. They are related. Now, they are read.
My nephew Tommy Duff gave me one for Christmas, Ted Williams: What Do You Think of Me Now? by Richard Ben Cramer. The other is one i had on my shelf and will be sending to Tommy today, Being Ted Williams: Growing Up with a Baseball Idol by Dick Enberg (with Tom Clavin). There are a lot of connections for me with books about The Kid, aka The Splendid Splinter. Both books admit Ted Williams was a flawed hero. Of course, all heroes are flawed. But most won’t accept that possibility about their personal heroes. With Ted, it’s impossible for all but an idiot to believe he wasn’t flawed.
Both books do an excellent job of portraying perhaps the greatest hitter baseball has ever experienced in honest assessments.
i was interested because i feel some connections. Ted is acknowledged as one of the many great athletes who have come from the Southwest corner. He was focused on baseball, specifically hitting the baseball. i was never that focused but loved the game.
Baseball was also the only one of the three major sports when i was playing in which i was not at a disadvantage because of my size. Five-Six, One-fifty (that was a long time ago) boys must be the best athletes in the world to make it in football and basketball.
Darrin Sproles, my height, made the NFL with the San Diego (once) Chargers, the New Orleans Saints, and the Philadelphia Eagles. Sproles, who retired recently at the age of 36, made the pro-bowl four times and was an important cog on the Eagles team that won the 2017 Super Bowl. Of course, Sproles was 190 pounds of very fast and agile muscle. i wasn’t then, and i am far, far away from that now.
Spud Webb at 5-7 and Muggsy Bogues at 5-3 were successful in the NBA. Both could dunk and were phenomenal shooters. Although i had a good eye and occasionally could hit from the corner and could drive with a quick release, i could almost get my hand over the rim most of the time, didn’t have a real jump shot, and was predominantly a right-hand dribbler. i shudder to think what a shambles it would have been had i played against the top tier of basketball players.
But i often wonder how good i could have been and what level i might have reached had i focused on baseball, had the instruction available now, and practiced hours and hours and hours rather than just playing. And i played a lot, a whole lot.
After all, Eddie Gaedel was 3-7. Of course in 1951, Bill Veeck, the high jinx promoter and owner of the St. Louis Browns put Gaedel on the team roster, and had him pinch hit against the Detroit Tigers. Gaedel walked on four pitches — he still officially has the record for on-base percentage, 1.000, his only at bat.
Not considering him, there are a number of players around my height who have succeeded at the major league level. Wee Willie Keeler, Hack Wilson, and Rabbit Maranville were early stars at my height. Phil Rizzuto and Freddie Patek came later. And currently, Billy Hamilton and José Altuve are my height.
i played a lot from somewhere around five-years old to forty-six. In my junior and senior years of high school, i played either baseball or fast pitch softball six days a week in the summer. i played softball regularly up until forty-six, and played in an “over-33” baseball league for four years, giving it up at 46 when i hit .206 for the season. Other than having great difficulty catching a high fly ball coming straight at me, i was a good fielder, a decent catcher, and very good contact hitter. i had no power, hitting one home-run the entire time.
But still i wonder…er, dream, and love the game. Absolutely love the game.
As for the Ted connection, i played at least five games at Ted’s original stomping grounds in San Diego, the diamond at Hoover High in San Diego. His accomplishments were always in the forefront of my mind when i was playing, especially after hitting over .400 a couple of years in Lebanon’s Babe Ruth League, probably the pinnacle of my baseball capability. And when he and Tony Gwynn became close and discussed hitting, he again became my hero along with Tony, the only guy who really challenged Ted as the last major leaguer to hit .400.
The two books both cover Ted’s entire life. They give different looks. Cramer is a writer and it shows. His prose is excellent and catches a lot of what Ted was like, especially in his later years when Cramer interviewed him several times. How Do You Like Me Now takes an in-depth probe into Ted’s psyche, pretty much concluding at heart, Ted, in addition to being one of the best baseball players ever and subtly pushing for Ted being the best hitter, ever, had a big heart and was well-intentioned even with his flaws.
The other book has more connections for me. Dick Enberg, in case you didn’t know, was one of the best sports announcers ever, and certainly covered more sports than most: baseball, football, basketball, tennis, and boxing at the highest levels. Enberg’s story intertwines the story of the Splendid Splinter with his own rise to success, an interesting parallel.
In the last of his sixty years as an announcer, Enberg came back to his home in La Jolla and was the television play-by-play announcer for the San Diego Padres. My team. Enberg announced Padre games for five wonderful seasons. Having given up my season tickets in 2014, and contributing to Maureen becoming a knowledgeable Padre fan, we watched him almost nightly through each of his last three seasons.
Sadly, Dick Enberg retired as a broadcaster at the end of the 2016 season. He passed away just over a year later, December 21, 2017. His book about his boyhood idol was published posthumously the next spring.
i don’t think i could pick one of these books about Ted over the other. They both give us a portrait of a man who was one of the best athletes in my lifetime, a war hero (he flew with John Glen and Jerry Coleman, the previous Padre announcer and Yankee second baseman during their glory years), and one who pursued excellence to a fault.
Great reads, especially if you are a baseball fan.
With all of this stuff going on, i forgot to post about something that happened yesterday.
You see, my father-in-law, one of my best friends ever, a fellow golfer, a project partner, and, yes, a drinking buddy, not to mention a wonderful father to my wife and grandfather to my daughter and having a great relationship with my father.
Ray Boggs would have been 102 yesterday. i could tell tales, brag, praise and make fun of him (which would make him laugh). But i think there are a couple of photos that tell the tale so well:
Southwest corner weather has been dreary and is projected to remain that way for at least a week more. For years, we would have a month of dreary weather somewhere between October and early April. Then it went away. It’s back. In spades.
The weather guessers were greatly disturbed by a relatively dry February. The word “drought” kept slipping back into their lexicon. Now, they are all estatic it’s raining damn near every day. Of course, next week, they will all be complaining how all of this rain will be increasing vegetation and making wildfires more likely and more volatile in the upcoming dry season. i shake my head in sadness. “It’s called weather,” i think. Of course, i watch as now most of the weather guessers are very pretty, voluptuous really, and weather watching has taken on a whole new meaning in the world of political correctness and women’s equality. As usual, i’m confused.
The weather fits my mood.
Today, after a very wise email from our daughter Blythe, we changed our travel plans for April from “maybe” if things get better to “nope.” i cannot adequately describe the depth of my sadness. It’s always “too long” between spending time with Blythe, Jason, and, of course, our grandson Sam, and this time has been even longer than most.
This included my extending the trip on the back end to visiting back home in Tennessee. The last significant time spent in Lebanon and Nashville has also been too long, way too long.
So the long and short of it is i ain’t going to Texas or Tennessee as planned. As i have noted to others: It’s not cancelled. It’s postponed.
This whole thing has me spinning. The medical experts seem to now be getting the platform they needed. Quite frankly, up until yesterday, i was wondering just how bad the corona stuff really is. i never have liked the beer (stories along the border can sway your opinion, but it is essentially because i don’t like the taste), but this, this is even worse. i was perplexed in the media, as it does with every thing that breathes took the news of COVID-19 with complete over reaction. In this case, it may have been the correct thing to do.
And then i thought, “big deal.” Viruses happen all the time. Don’t like ’em. But they’ve been sort of there for a long time. And they kill people. Sad, but a fact. It sounds like this baby has a leg up on the killing stuff. Blythe forwarded two articles from NPR and the Washington Post, that put some perspective on the spread. She made me smarter. Maureen made me smarter too with her comment this morning when were considering dining out this evening. She doesn’t want to be a contributor to this being passed along to others.
That’s it. That’s the key for me. Although well beyond the classification of “elderly” (she is nowhere near as “elderly” as i am), Maureen and i are in pretty good health and the only “precondition problem we have is i have always been pretty goofy. BUT, we can be enablers of the spread if we don’t observe good health practice. To be blunt, i don’t wish to be responsible for someone else dying. i have many, many friends who are “elderly” with “pre-existing conditions.”
So we are hunkering down in the Southwest corner. Oh, we won’t raid the stores for toilet paper. We will go out for necessary things like groceries and health care, and we will attend medical checkups, etc. But we are pretty much hunkered down.
Of course, now i have to figure out how to play golf on Friday.