Friday, July 26, 2013

The Skinny on the Ballfield

There was a kid created and maintained ball diamond where we played our games. It was on a level plot of ground that no one used, so we claimed it. It became the place where we played softball or baseball. Each kid would bring his equipment; a bat, a glove, or a ball if they had one and we would play ball.

It always depended on what type of ball that was brought as to whether we would play baseball or softball. If no one brought a ball or if we wanted to cool off after several hot innings, we would make use of another natural resource near at hand. The stream ran alongside the ball field, nearly parallel to the first base line.

Let me describe the layout of the ball field. Route 711/ 381 was almost parallel to the third base line, a teacher’s yard was just beyond the outfield at second base, and a weedy patch of briars grew along the base line to home plate. The stream and the highway was far enough away not to be a concern, but occasionally a ball would roll into the teacher’s yard or driveway. That wasn’t a problem either, but when a foul ball ended up in the briars and weeds, we had to search for it or quit playing. With only one ball available, finding it was imperative. Even when we found it, we sometimes stopped the game. Emerging hot and sweaty with legs scratched and burning from the thorns, we would decide on going for a swim.

None of us ever brought bathing suits; it was skinny dipping or getting our underwear wet. (No one wanted to be called a sissy because he was afraid to swim naked and no one wanted to be called a baby because his underwear were wet.)

The cool water of Indian Head Creek would stop the burning of the scratches. The water was slowed by a rock dam that we built. We maintained it and it was chin high at its deepest part. The stream ran behind a line of trees and clumps of Laurel bushes. There we were hidden from the traffic and from the teacher’s windows. Nothing disturbed us as we swam other the passing of an occasional train.

The train tracks ran on a ledge about twelve feet above the water. When we heard the rumble of an approaching train, we all headed for deep water until only our heads bobbed in the water.  We would wave at the engineer and most times, he would give a short toot of the locomotive’s whistle.

It was an odd feeling when the train passed. The heavy rumble made the creek bed seem to shake beneath the water. Even before the rumbling died away, we were back on the bank diving and playing tag.


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