The Porter boys were gifted and natural athletes.
I know; I have already spoken at some length about my lack of athletic prowess, mostly due to my size as it applied to football. But what I haven’t told you is that I eventually did Letter my junior and senior year of High school in a sport, after several stops and starts in a wide variety of athletic pursuits. And I actually attended a small two-year school in Central Kansas called, well, Central College on a limited soccer scholarship. What I lacked in real skill in sports, I made up with unbridled enthusiasm. Even after the whole Walter Griffiths cleat mashing Howdy-Doody episode, it was never said I lacked zeal.
Steve and Tim Porter were the same age, roughly as my brother Howard and I. They lived in a little brick-faced house on Hillview Drive, about two miles from our house on Wassom Street. Well, two miles if you didn’t take the shortcut through White Oaks; one or three little acres of trees and brush that would hardly have been considered a forest, unless you were Little Red Riding Hood on the way to grandma’s house. We were told to stay out of White Oaks because it was supposed to be a dangerous place for little swine like us. Nobody ever told us exactly why it was dangerous or what was supposed to be in there. In 1974, I’m sure the only danger was a few silly teenagers drinking beer or maybe a vagrant or two. I don’t remember that Lebanon even had any vagrants. Maybe that’s because they were all hiding out in White Oaks?
Besides being the shortcut, which probably eliminated or added a half mile to the trek- hey, nobody ever accused me of being Magellan- the little dell was full of Queen Ann and Bing cherry trees. That in itself was reward enough for braving the possible rowdy drunken teenagers and imaginary vagrants we never saw. We never ran into any trouble in White Oaks. Regardless of the shortcut, had it not been for the cherries, we would have stayed out altogether because, the truth is, for as dangerous as it was supposed to be, it was actually rather peaceful and boring!
Where was I? Oh, yeah, the Porter boys…
Steve, the elder, was a fundamentalist plodder. Now, don’t get me wrong. He was good. He had speed and skill. But somewhere along the way he figured out that if he studied and practiced the fundamentals, then he would excel at the sport, whatever sport that happened to be. And as it happens, he was right. He played High School Basketball and, in his twenties, as a married man, played college ball in Kansas. His teammates, a bunch of smart-aleck teenagers, called him grandpa but he was fundamentally skilled and just horse enough to keep up with them and play some of them into the ground. Not bad for a grandpa. Tim, the younger brother on the other hand, was a true virtuoso.
Tim could look at a play for a few minutes, capture the essence of the skill required, internalize it, distill it and in no time was flying gracefully like a bird of prey through the air and sinking some blind over hand, over the shoulder, under his legs, around his back, impossible shot from an outside corner of the driveway that would have had the crowd, if there was one, on their feet.
I hated him.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. I don’t want to talk about basketball. Well, okay, maybe one little story just for posterity…
We were playing some cutthroat ‘round’ ball in the driveway one night under the dim confines of the streetlight. Let’s see, there was Steve and me; Brian, Tim and Howard and another neighborhood kid named, Arnold. With six of us, we could just have easily played a three on three match but we were playing our famous cutthroat game. Tim, the basketball wizard, had the ball and flew through the air with his usual grace, threw up one of his famous blind, over the shoulder, no lookee, no see, jump-shots, that was nothing but net, and yelled,
Everybody came to a screeching halt. I don’t know who fouled whom in the darkness. I was guarding Steve, or at least trying to and I think Brian was probably beating up Howard. It’s called cutthroat, remember? Anyway, Tim yelled that he had been fouled.
“Not me, man.” Howard called from the darkness on the far side of the driveway. “I was hitting Arnold!”
Anyway, back to football. I know what you’re thinking,
“Why didn’t he learn his lesson from that whole cleat mashing Howdy-Doody, Walter Griffiths incident?”
Well, I didn’t, okay?
Besides, that was organized school ball with pads and referees and big-boys. This was backyard, sandlot football with a couple of kids who were closer to my size.
Every Saturday Howard and I would walk to the Porter’s house to play backyard football. Mrs. Porter insisted we shouldn’t play tackle, but we did after a fashion. Joining our little two on two game was a neighbor kid named Brian Smith. Now, you can’t very well play two on two football if there are five players. Somebody is going to be the odd man out. You can do it with the game of basketball, because then you just play cutthroat- every man for himself. But that doesn’t work for football. So, we had to have an ineligible man- you guessed it, the fifth man. He was in charge of hiking the ball and then could block but could not advance downfield and we rotated this position every play. As Dr. Phil is so often pleased to say,
“It don’t have to make sense!”
The point is; it worked as long as the center followed the rules, for however convoluted.
We used to play in the front yard but eventually, switched to the back. The front yard was too small and one of the end zones was the driveway. The size of the yard wasn’t really the problem. The driveway was. See, if you are rushing a goal-line stand into the driveway and get tackled, even if you score, the concrete just doesn’t have the same amount of give as say, the yard. Since we all valued our arms and legs and teeth, we decided the back yard was a better spot for tackle football. Both end zones were grass and dirt and somewhat softer than the driveway.
It was fourth and goal. Howard and I were against Steve and Tim and Brian was the ineligible center. Bear with me. My memory is a bit hazy from here, as you will soon understand.
Brian hiked the ball to me. Now then, if I had called a pass play, everything would have been fine and I wouldn’t have much of a story to tell, but I had called a right end-around running play and Howard was to be the lead, and as it turns out, only blocker. Brian, the center was supposed to turn and stationary block the rush. But that’s not what happened.
Brian evidently got confused.
Instead of turning and blocking Tim or Steve, he hiked the ball and blocked Howard! Which, again would have been okay, except that I was already tucked tight into my little brother’s back pocket and charging forward to score a touchdown.
Brian gave Howard a mighty shove in the chest. Howard’s head snapped backward and hit me square in the face as snugly as a billiard ball in a side pocket. I remember thinking,
“I’m going to score!”
And then I heard an awful crunch, saw a blinding flash of white and thought to myself,
“What’s that sound? Ow…”
That’s the last thing I remember: until I woke up.
And you know the position I woke up in- that Walter Griffiths, flat on your back, looking up at the blue sky, cleat mashing Howdy-Doody position. There were four fearful and anxious faces looking down at me.
“Wow…” somebody said, “I think his nose is broken.”
I reached up to where my nose was supposed to be and felt my face but did not find my nose.
“Hmmm,” I thought to myself, “I missed. That’s odd.”
I moved my finger to the left.
“No. That’s my eye.” I thought again. “Ow.”
I moved my hand back to the right to where my nose should have been, but still no nose.
“Okay…” I calmed myself. “Missed again. Must be further over.”
I moved my fingers to where my right eye should have been and guess what? Hey, my nose!
“Uhm… wait. This isn’t right. Where’s my eye?”
I reached around to feel my ear and poked myself in my right eye.
“Uh- oh.” I said to myself. “Ow.”
“My right eye,” I began to reason, “is not supposed to be where my ear is. That can only mean that my nose is not where it is supposed to be… Ow!”
And then I began to taste a pungent copper in the back of my throat. I was bleeding rather profusely. A simultaneous chorus went up from everyone.
Mrs. Porter’s comment on the phone to my mother was understated.
“I think his nose is broken.” She told my mother.
I needed to have my nose set, which is another ghastly tale altogether and some eight or nine months later, had to have plastic surgery to repair the damage. My plastic surgeon, whose nose looked like he had been hit in the face with a hammer, asked me,
“What kind of nose would you like?”
In my innocence and stupidity I asked him,
“Can’t I just have my nose back?”
And that would have worked if he had known what my nose looked like to start with, but he didn’t.
My Dear Readers- my book, A DogHouse Manifesto, is now available for purchase and listed by title at PublishAmerica.com, Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble.com and other fine book-sellers worldwide.
A DogHouse Manifesto © by Mitchell L. Peterson.
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