Monday, April 18, 2011

America's Favorite Past-time on Sketchbook Sunday

Parents of future little leaguers beware: baseball is the All Encompassing Past-time. Little did we know 6 weeks ago when Small Fry started that our schedules would begin to revolve around a dusty patch of ground off Hogan Road in Creive Hall. Now we have practice two nights a week, games two nights a week plus tacked on scrimmages in the back yard to help the Fry connect bat with ball and ball with glove. It seems to be working, at Saturday's game the Fry got a hit and actually got on base. Fry was up at bat and I was distracted with Baby Sprout in the dugout when a solid "konk" sounded across the field.

I looked up in time to see the Fry drop the bat - stunned - and stare at the coach.

The ball coasted to a stop in the dust two inches from the pitcher's toe.

Then everyone in the dugout including Baby Sprout started yelling "Run! Run!"

Small Fry made it to first base and later the coach gave him the game ball for getting his first hit in the season.

We actually won that game, though we parents tell ourselves that winning doesn't matter as long as the boys have fun and learn how to play. The boys certainly don't seem to care: at tonight's game the scoreboard wasn't working so our guys didn't even know who won until the game was over. The news that we'd pulled off another win was second rate compared to the sight of Star Wars gummies and chocolate chip cookies for after-game snack. With snacks and bats and hats and whiney baby sisters we packed up the van and headed home.

On the way, Fry asked "when do we play again?"

"Practice is Wednesday," I answered.

Soon enough.

Everything I Need to Know I Learned from My HorseFor several years now I've tossed around the idea in my head of writing a book called Everything I Need to Know I Learned from My Horse. Mostly I get these ideas in the bathtub at night when every idea, even the lame ones, seem good and completely accomplishable. Notwithstanding the fact that this series would be interesting only to me and therefore completely unpublishable, I decided it would be fun to illustrate them as part of Sketchbook Sunday. To begin, a little background about the Fabulous Illustrator for the uninitiated: For the first 14 years of my life, all I wanted was a horse. I was the typical horse-crazy girl: collecting pictures of magnificent prancing steeds and lists of the names I would give them like "Mary's Jubilee Star" and "Princess Silver Blaze."


All up until I finally convinced my parents to let me buy an 18 month old Welsh filly named Lady Lee. She was scraggly brownish gray with a white stripe down her face and I promptly rechristened her Kala. From the start I had to train her to do everything. She wasn't even that crazy about coming up to me - until I repeatedly showed up with food. That was the beginning of my education about how to use common sense. I am a firm believer that horses are the perfect animal from which to learn about humans. They have both the best and worst traits of human personality: courage, loyalty, and a sense of humor as well as stubbornness, meanness and greed (just try to hide a carrot from one.) If you can get a 1200 pound animal capable of putting you in the hospital without much effort, to, not only do what you ask, but actually like you in the process, then you are also a good ways along the path towards getting along with their human counterparts.

So to the first lesson I learned from my horse:
Rule number one, Don't Panic.

When Kala saw something strange like stick that might be a snake, she didn't mess around. Like lightening streaking the wrong way, straight up off the ground came her front feet. Since in the beginning, after having spent my money on said horse and what was left on her upkeep, I had no funds for a saddle, I was often riding bareback. In this split second of vertical incline I was left clinging to her mane and sides with two choices: panic and be left hanging in mid-air when her feet returned to earth and she bolted, or figure out how to stay calm, calm her down, and show her - there, there - it's just a stick.

Happily, I learned this lesson quickly.

The notion of Don't Panic has stayed with me over the years. Two weeks ago, bad storms roared through middle Tennessee bringing tornados with them. In the middle of the afternoon with wind banging on the house and the weather people telling us to get to our "safe place" I went under the stairs with a cordless phone and a laptop.

It was a damn sight more scarey than being dumped off a horse.

But, on cue, years of horse-borne common sense kicked in and Don't Panic prevailed. While I might have been pretty scared I thought clearly enough to keep a phone conversation going with Jim Dear the whole time I was crouched under blankets with a flashlight, hitting reload on

Don't panic means carefully steer around the deer that just jumped in front of your car, or listen to what your spouse says before you start the fight, or calmly ask your child to put the spider down. Don't panic was the first of many, but possibly the best, lesson Kala taught me on a hot spring day more than 20 years ago.

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