Bagpipes and Baseball, Crawdads and Chasing Cars

Jefferson Weaver
Jefferson Weaver

Several times a week, she chases my car.

She always stays on the yard side of the ditch in front of her home. She always stops and runs back to her mother when she’s called. Sometimes she gets distracted by chickens, flowers, pretty rocks or cats. She always brightens my day when I see her racing along beside me, sunkissed hair blowing in the wind, a beaming smile on her face.

No, I am not talking about a dog. I’m talking about a happy child.

We never had kids, so we’ve always been able to enjoy those of other families. Miss Rhonda is much better at playing games, fixing ouchies and drying tears than I ever will be. Be it the beard, the hair, the hat, the height or my semi-permanently ingrained expression of frustration with the world, the littlest kids are usually frightened of me. I don’t try to frighten them, I promise. Well, not very often. 

It’s usually around primary school age that they begin to be willing to approach me and become friends. By then they have learned some survival skills, so I can be less concerned about a tiny, tender human being hurt on my watch.  I still go overboard trying to keep them from hurting themselves, but it’s a little easier after they’ve graduated toddlerhood.

My little friend is often one of the happiest children I have ever met. As previously mentioned, she has animals and a loving family. She has friends that she sees right often. She is of the age when the world is her oyster, and she is hungry for a seafood buffet. So much is still new, and there is so much to do she can’t keep up with it all.

She reminds me of the baseball players I like to watch sometimes. Considering the rapid decay of modern society, I rarely attend DYB ball games like I used to, simply because a grown man with no kids at a youth baseball game is automatically suspect. It’s sad, but true. There are monsters among us, and while I would stand firmly beside the monster-slayers, I don’t want to distract anyone from their time on the diamond.

The kids playing that level of ball can’t realize that it’s their golden age, a shinin’ time where they’re shielded from most of the ills that invade every facet of the human existence. They’re of an age where they can still enjoy just playing ball, as long as the grownups behave themselves and let the coaches do their jobs. That time is priceless, but they have no idea of how wealthy they are for a few years.

Winning and losing are important, of course, but neither a win nor a loss is a crushing blow. All they have to do is throw the ball, hit the ball, and catch the ball, and have fun doing all three. That’s what baseball and softball are supposed to be about anyway, not spending four years stressing over whether the professional and college scouts will be at the next game, or any of the other worries piled onto high school athletes. Little kids can still count on their parents to bear those burdens, and the good ones will.

I was passing by a popular fishing spot the other day (it’s none of your business where, since I intend to hit it on my own soon) when I spotted another child I consider a hero. The little fellow was bouncing, fidgeting and doing all these things you aren’t supposed to do while fishing, but he was still catching fish. His spincaster was barely one step above a cane pole, and several leagues behind even my least-reputable rig, but he didn’t care about the trappings. He cared about catching a fish, and he was overjoyed with each one he pulled in. 

It was beautifully simple, and simply beautiful. There is no way an artist could have captured the brief moment I saw, and I don’t care who your favorite writer is, he or she could never adequately describe the scene. Some kids are deadly serious about angling, but others remember that it’s supposed to be fun. That little angler had his priorities straight.

Two of my favorite young men, W and Little Preacher, are not many years away from the stress and ornery-ness that come with adolescence.  W was hit on the head by an owl recently while wearing his favorite fur hat on a scout campout. The hat and my buddy survived, as did the owl. He will never forget the incident, and will happily share the story.  I admit, I was jealous.
Little Preacher is learning to play the bagpipes, and he is always willing to share the latest discovery or factoid to makes its way across his music primer. Even if I didn’t love the pipes, I’d love to hear him talking about them. He also loves telling Bible stories, and if you ain’t ever heard a little kid tell a Bible story, especially the really important ones, then you have no idea what you’re missing.
W and Little Preacher usually only see each other once or twice a year, but within minutes they’re off on an adventure. It’s rarely long before they’re back, breathless, happy, often dirty and always excited. They share snake skins, cool rocks, animal tracks, crawdads, lizards, turtle shells, bones, feathers, and the stories of how they came across each treasure as readily as Chris Columbus selling Isabella and Ferdinand on why they should fund his next voyage. They help me remember that a lot of the important things in life are found half-buried in the mud of an overflow ditch beside a sleepy river where the bullfrogs roar and the cattails rustle and you can see the fish building their beds in the sandy shallows. It’s vital to national security to know if a fox or coyote passed this way, you know, and have you ever heard an alligator hiss?

These are the things that really matter.

My youngest nieces have outgrown the age where it was fun to awaken their uncle from a nap to play some kind of intricate game involving Nerf darts. They are cool, collected young ladies now – but the boy I call my grandson recently caught his first wild hog, way down in Florida where he and his parents call home. He’s almost ten now, a long way from the little boy whose survival at birth was in question. I’d love to hobble along behind him as the hounds bellow and the hog turns around for one last battle, only to discover the dogs are not alone.

Every time I see my little friend smiling, waving and tensing up like an Olympic runner about to chase the car; every time I hear W and Little Preacher debating animal tracks; every time I  see the concentration on a face that’s barely three feet above homeplate, staring down another set of eyes 46 feet away on the pitcher’s mound – every time I think of those young faces, and all they have to look forward to, I feel a good bit better. 

I wish all kids could have the same love for life, where every day is a new adventure, with a world full of crawdad shells and hungry owls, bagpipes and baseball, where moms and dads keep the monsters away, and a whole new world was right across the woods. 

That perspective wouldn’t hurt most grownups, either.

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About Jefferson Weaver 1186 Articles
Jefferson Weaver is the managing editor of columbuscountynews.com and news director for WTXY radio. He can be reached at 910.632.4965, or by email at jeffersonweaver@columbuscountynews.com.