OK, enough of that. Let me tell you, however, what the coming of warmer weather meant back on the corner of Third Street and Wharton back in the day.
Today, the hedges are gone. There is a covered porch attached to the house that replaced the patio. There is also a detached garage/workshop lining the back property line. Only the basketball goal remains as evidence of the sports haven that once lived inside the hedges. Even it is not the original goal.
You see, I was fortunate to have one of the best backyards ever. Take a trip back in time with me. You might even see someone you used to know. A thick 7-foot tall hedge surrounded my backyard and driveway. There was an opening to the road and a couple of little passageways to the side yards. Between those hedges were all sorts of makeshift ball fields. Between those hedges a lifetime of memories was made.
First, there was the blacktop driveway that served as my home basketball court. Kids from a one-mile radius frequented my court. They were younger and older, black but mostly white, those that could play and those that couldn’t. The only thing there wasn’t was those that wouldn’t. Everybody played. There was only about 12 feet of court to the right of my goal, but there was a good 30 feet to the left where the driveway extended to the road. It is easy to figure out why I became better at driving to my left and why the left corner shot was my favorite in high school. My driveway shaped my game. Countless games of long-short 21, pig, horse, 1 on 1, 2 on 2 and so on were held there. Steve Guess and I even amassed an 88-game winning streak, only to see it broken by Marty Jaggers and Danny Sigler. Maxfield Hendricks lived across the street. Hundreds of times we would face off in one on one games. He would pretend to be Jim McDainiels from Western and I would be Jim Andrews from UK. I wish I would have known that McDaniels, I mean Maxfield, was going to be such a prominent car dealer when he grew up. I would have thrown a few games in order to get a better deal on future automobile purchases. We played late in to the night during the summer. There must have been many nights that we kept neighbor Jasper Thomas awake to the sound of our bouncing basketballs. Thankfully, Mr. Jasper was always nice about it.
Also making my backyard unique was the goal post dad cut out of tree saplings. We had some of the fiercest games of tackle football ever played in Cadiz right there between the hedges. Does anybody remember the Gilbert Sears family or the Coulters? David and Steve Sears were regulars, as were Timmy and Weasel Coulter. I can still remember Deano Oliver chasing the oldest Coulter kid, seconds away form tackling him. Coulter looked over his shoulder to see where Deano was, only to turn back around and crash head first into a tree. The blow from the tree momentarily knocked him out.
For a while, there was the new kid named Frank that blew into town and our tackle football games. He was from a bigger city somewhere. He didn’t last long, however, because he liked to talk ugly. His cussing got him banned from the backyard by my mother. Six other mothers soon followed suit, and poor Frank had no place to play.
One of the coolest things about football in the backyard was when dad quarterbacked for both teams. We had one play that was unstoppable. It was where I ran straight toward his dog pen, which housed Old Smokey. From there I cut hard right toward the clothesline pole. Dad’s pass was always on target for a touchdown.
Back to those saplings-goal posts. Bill Fort and I must have kicked thousands of field goals into Junior Cameron’s backyard. Amazingly, Mr. Cameron didn’t raise much of a fuss, either.
Let’s not forget the raised pitcher’s mound and the makeshift home plate dad built for me. The backyard was just like Wrigley Field. Wiffleball games were played every day of the summer. Games of hotbox were also played where two fielders tried to get a runner out that was hung up between bases. Home run derby contests were held before the major leagues had even thought of having such a thing.
When I venture back home, where my mom still lives, the memories flood through my heart, mind and soul. I look around and realize that I miss the hedges. I miss the goal post. I miss the baseball mound. I miss the friends that used to frequent that yard. Most of all, I miss my dad. Oh, for just one more touchdown pass, one more game of pitch and catch, one more moment together …
Enthusiasm Makes the Difference
Mike Wright is the head coach of boys basketball and cross country at Trigg County High School. Emails concerning Coach’s Corner can be sent to email@example.com.