Vicki Fields could outrun me in elementary school. Ye gads, I got beat by a girl! And here is the really awful part, there was no subterfuge. I didn’t trip or give her a head start. She was just flat-out faster. It made me want to spit nails! But I couldn’t do nothing about it because – and you talk about cold hard facts – she could also beat me up!
My only comfort was knowing her father, Mr. Tom, was one of the best baseball players on the local town team. I saw him make a diving catch in that old field up by Walnut Street when I was 6 years old that I still rank as one of the best I’ve ever seen.
At least I lost to a very athletic family.
Pam Collins could out spell me… and Pam wasn’t near ’bout close to being the best speller in the class. She wouldn’t exactly rub it in. But she did point out a little more often than I thought necessary that she didn’t “sit down first” in those Friday morning spelling bees.
Pam might have been a tick smarter than me. But the plain truth is didn’t neither one of us hold a spelling candle to LaRenda Bradfield, Billy Thompson or Diana Morris.
I don’t remember exactly how Emily Scarbrough started playing baseball with us. She was just always there. And it didn’t take a New York minute to realize she was the real deal!
If you’d seen her throw, drift under a high fly or hit my best outside fastball to right field, you would have been impressed too! She mostly kept her mouth shut and just played ball – like you were supposed to. But if you called her out on a close play at second and she thought she’d slid in under the tag, she’d hop up and get right in your face – like you were supposed to!
We didn’t care a whit about family history, economic status, social standing or gender; in our small town, we needed players! I’m telling you, Emmer earned her position the old fashioned way – she showed up every day and played like life itself depended on each pitch! She was, and will forever be, “one of us.”
Somewhere along about junior high Charlotte Melton invited me out to ride horses with her. That was a tough chore. Charlotte won blue ribbons for her barrel racing… I wasn’t exactly Roy Rogers in the saddle.
But I discovered pretty quickly that riding off into the sunset wasn’t all that bad. We discussed parents, school, teachers, movies, the possibility of me making the high school football team, what it would be like to have a girlfriend or boyfriend…
Charlotte would talk with you about anything! Sometimes maybe more than you wanted to know… But what a treat, and a growing lesson, to hear her explain “the wonders of the universe” from her side of the fence.
And it worked magic on my horse-riding abilities!
The summer of my sophomore year I was playing baseball over in Huntingdon when Mary Hadley Hayden showed up. She flashed a smile like none I’d ever seen. Her blonde hair danced off her shoulders and she stood and cheered when I cranked a double off the left center field wall…
My whole thinking about boys, girls and life took a giant leap in a different direction!
I sought out my older brother for advice. Mother hugged me and declared I was growing up too fast. The second time Daddy caught me day dreaming about Mary Hadley instead of pulling those weeds along the back fence he whipped me “for a while.”
Apparently I wasn’t growing up as fast for Dad as I was for Mom…
We marched through life like those folks going to St. Ives: wives, cats, brothers, sacks, sisters, kittens, girlfriends, aunts, mice, uncles and cousins by the dozens…
That could be changing. Word out of Washington is that the House of Representatives is making, or has made, some new rules pertaining to gender-neutral… whatever that means!
I hope it’s not because Vicki outran me, Pam spelled better than I did, we let Emily play in all those games, Charlotte told me too much, Mary Hadley stirred my heart…
Here’s my best gender story.
Daddy and I were sitting in Dr. Holmes’ waiting room years ago while Leon was getting sewed up, again. I’ve told you many times, my father grew up 40 miles from nowhere, had only a third grade education and could be as rough as a stucco bathtub at times.
Mrs. Odell Bateman walked through the front door, Dad stood immediately out of respect for a lady entering the room. He remained standing until Mrs. Bateman found an open seat and sat down.
Then, and only then, did Dad ease back into his seat.
I’m guessing Mrs. Bateman might take exception to any changes Washington has in mind…
This article originally appeared on The Star: Hunker Down: Honoring Mrs. Odell Bateman