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Saturday, August 13, 2011

The Fourth of July

The Fourth of July

The Story Tellers

Claude Reyman

Merritt Plantz
Darlene (Kohlhoff) Cleal
Sandra (Masters) Propst

Pat (Manifold) Cerny
Judy Soles McMillie

Terry (Ketner) Emry
Anne (Gilchrist) Osborn

Ortha (Reynolds) Emry
Lolita (Gilchrist) Purviance

Raleigh Emry


by Claude Reyman


Growing up before our time, it seemed very possible that our parents raised two sons to be Ordnance Engineers.

At about a yard stick tall, Bruce Jr. and I negotiated with our parents and bought fire works from a mail order house in Texas. Oh, the wait was terrible and each day we would run to meet the rural route mailman. He would say – "nothing today". Finally, this box would arrive and would you believe that it was 36"x36"x36" in size? Nothing but the best for us to do our damage and smell up the air with the pungent burnt odors! M 80’s and the works were our fond memories. This box would cost us about $12.00 and this took the last cent we had to pay for our "fun in the sun" excursion.

Together with Dick Kreycik, we would fight a war against each other until it was time to do the chores (i.e. milk the cows etc). Now our war plans would be started. We would take two boards 1" by 8" inches and form a 90-degree angle and then nail them together. Then, we would take two 2"x 4’s cross them for support and that formed our weapon. Somehow we got the idea that placing a gallon container at the base of this "weapon" and then placing another smaller can inside, we had the mass destruction weapon. We would fill the first can with about 3 inches of water, take the second can and place a pin hole in the top and run the "cracker" fuse through the hole. "Let me tell you", if you wanted to see force, with the water as the sealer, the can inside would travel about 200 foot in the air and land about 100 foot away. Boy, this was a big deal and to think that we designed it ourselves was awesome!

It would take us all summer to get through the box of fireworks. I guess we were lucky as we never removed any fingers or started any fires; however, we did place "damage control" into effect after engineering our major last war effort. It was on a Saturday afternoon and the parents had gone to Valentine to shop, we decided that we needed some new excitement to stir up or blood. At the South end of the coral, we had a 10 foot diameter water tank for the cows. Dick Kreycik, Bruce and I took our water can cannon unit and decided to throw it into the tank, allowing it to sink to the bottom. Boy, when it went off, the water spray went 30 foot into the air and the can went to several hundred feet. Oh, this was great until we goofed and the can tipped over and you're right, it went out the wall of the water tank. This took another ordnance degree to explain to our parents our thoughts behind this project. Bruce Sr. was tongue tied over this event.

In a later year at Lincoln, the three "evils" got together (Bob Tyler, Dean Honnen and myself) and we lit up the skies in Lincoln, Nebraska. Talk about bottle rockets; yup, you guessed, we would place the bottle rocket in a bottle and aim. We about burnt down the Tyler’s home as one of the rockets fell onto the roof and caught it afire. Now that is excitement watching three grown men and the wives run in circles attempting to put out the fire. This certainly caught our attention for future fun time. Enough is enough about firework!


A Cool Reception at Halsey
by Merritt Plantz

Here is one I try to forget, or at least not have happen again.

For many years when we all had kids, our favorite way to enjoy the 4th Of July was to have a family picnic. In 1951, I believe it was, we decided to picnic at the Nebraska National Forest near Halsey, Nebraska.

The several families all got up that morning, packed our picnic dinners and headed west, dressed as one normally would for a summer picnic. In the wintertime we usually carry blankets and heavy coats in the car, but in July, no way! 

As the ladies got the food out and ready for a delicious picnic, the people dressed in shorts, etc. began to look for blankets, coats, or anything that was warmer than shorts. There was no ice on the swimming pool but certainly no one was thinking of putting on their swimming suit.

I have no idea what the temperature was by then, but for the 4th of July it was mighty cold. To this day, when the subject of a 4th of July picnic comes up, someone will say, "Do you remember the year we went to Halsey for the 4th? We all remember and no one suggests we try it again.


No Ifs, Ands or Butts
by Darlene (Kohlhoff) Cleal

This happened to my friend. She was carefully cleaning up the house after 4th of July fireworks. Gathering firecracker duds, going in the house, emptying ashtrays, emptying trash, etc. She then took all this into the bathroom and emptied it into the trash can there. She was going to take this trash to the main trash sack when BOOM!!!

First, she was sure she was losing her hearing - small acoustic bathroom, LOUD noise. Then it began snowing in the bathroom. It seems a cigarette butt had set off a dud and shredded all the paper in the trash can. The paper all went vertical and then came drifting down, onto her hair, the sink, the shower curtain, the floor, well you get the picture.

She learned that one must be sure cigarette butts are cold before one trashes them, and that duds are not necessarily duds! Oh yes, and gravity


A Day In Paradise
by Sandra (Masters) Propst

I awoke that morning with a sense of excitement. Already my room was flooded with light, there was a strange smell in the air and I could hear popping noises from outside. Then I realized it was the FOURTH OF JULY, and my whole family was going to Hidden Paradise. My grandparents, Glen and Rose Masters, owned a rustic cabin on the Pine Creek and all the relatives that were home would be meeting there for a day of fireworks, food and lots and lots of fun.

I quickly dressed and ran downstairs to find mom putting the finishing touches on her potato salad and baked beans and dad was putting a chunk of ice and a big watermelon in the car. A chunk of ice sounds strange today and even though the cabin had electricity, it didn't have a refrigerator but a trusty old ice box and with a big chunk of ice installed would keep the perishables cool enough to keep us from being poisoned. My brother Dan and I helped load the car, not forgetting our fireworks, while mom and dad loaded baby Randy.

Back then highway 20 going through the hills north of Long Pine was steeper, and dad knew how I loved it when he gave the car more gas to speed down then up the hills. The sensation would give me butterflies in my stomach, and I'd lay giggling on the floor of the back seat. Mom would always admonish dad for driving too fast, but he would look at me in the mirror and wink. Driving down the main street of Long Pine, dad would point out the landmarks of the once bustling train town. My favorite was the old round house where they would turn the engines around to send them back east.

And finally we would be going down the big steep hill heading for what truly was a paradise for children. We would wind our way through all the vehicles from other counties and states and people toting inner tubes over their shoulders. I could feel the excitement growing, anxiously wanting to get in the creek. Then we came to the slope that was the parking area for the family cabin and was glad to see that already some of our relatives were there. We all loaded up with all the essentials, including the inner tubes that dad had stashed in the trunk, and went to greet everyone.

Already the temperature was climbing in the 80's, but the water was so cold that dad put the watermelon in to keep it cool. To get into the water was an experience of courage and daring. You either jumped in all at once to get the shock over fast, or you took it slow and only lowered your self by inches. Of course, there always had to be one sneaky cousin that had to splash you. Soon we had the tubes under us and were floating down the fast moving current of the creek. I was always proud of the fact that I learned to swim in Pine Creek. Even though it was shallow, the current was strong enough that swimming against it was good training, so when I finally swam in a pool, I could swim with no fear.

One of the warning signs the grown-ups would watch for was when our lips started to turn blue, then we would have to get out of the water and warm up. That meant it was time to start shooting off firecrackers. To keep from burning down the cabin and protect the smaller children, we would go up on the road where there was no grass, just good clean sand, and with the tin cans we would gather, we would start blowing up cans, blowing holes in the embankment on the side of the road and have a blast with no adult supervision. The only time we needed an adult was either for a lit cigarette or to light another punk. The sounds of the firecrackers would echo up and down the canyon, and you could always hear someone's M80's up the road.

Time to eat. There's fried chicken, salads, baked beans and chocolate cake and home made ice cream along with cold watermelon. And conversation. I loved listening to my aunts and uncles telling of their lives in the different places they lived. It seemed so alien to live in another state or town. I'd listen to grandpa tell stories of his childhood days and the early years he and grandma lived up on Turkey Creek north of the Niobrara, or when he delivered mail from the train station in Ainsworth to Springview before highway 7 ran north of Ainsworth to Meadville, but was west of town then north. They were stories that I've passed on to my children.

Then it was time to rest. We waited an hour before going back into the creek, and the babies were put down for their naps on the big double beds with chairs and pillows stacked around them to keep them safe. The men stretched out for naps and the women cleaned up then sat and visited. We older kids would hike the roads and paths or sit on the bridges and watch the water beneath us, hoping to spot a trout. Of course they were all in hiding since the creek was full of people tubing.

Finally the magical time of the day was here. We were close enough to the Pavilion that the sound of music reached us but it seemed like it floated in the air. The grownups started getting dressed up and the ladies fixed their makeup and smelled so good. I don't remember if it was one of the Dorsey Brothers bands or Glen Millers or one of the other big time bands that would play at the dances on the Fourth, but I'd lay listening to the music and could hardly wait till I was grown up so I could go to THE DANCE, but soon I'd fall asleep, exhausted from one of my favorite childhood days.


Paradise Lost
by Pat (Manifold) Cerny

Many of my age group enjoyed renting a cabin at Hidden Paradise for special occasions - renting if you were not fortunate enough to own a cabin. Just prior to our buying a cabin, a group of we girls rented a cabin for the 4th. Next was the BIG job - getting someone to stay with us because we were not allowed to stay alone. We finally talked my mother into the job. The owner of Hidden Paradise was Mrs. Schlepp, and she was as tough as the name sounds. I will not use any names in this story because a number of persons in our e-mail group were involved.

The cabin we rented was fairly close to the Pavilion and the cabin across the crick was rented by a group of guys - older classmen. After the big dance the 4th, we girls were in no way ready to 'hit the sack' and neither were the boys. None of we girls had anything to drink but I will not vouch that this held true for those in other cabins. In the wee hours of the morning, residents of various cabins were in the crick and being noisy. Mom looked out the window to see one of the boys in only his shorts (he had forgotten to bring a bathing suit). She yelled at him, calling him by name, telling him to get his pants on. He immediately did. Now, with rolled up pant legs he was getting the pants wet. He asked me who that old woman was who yelled at him and I told him it was my mother. "Oh" he said "if I had known it was only your mother I wouldn't have put my pants on". She heard him, and yelled "oh yes you would".

The frolicking in the icy cold water finally came to an end and everyone retreated to their abodes. I don't remember what we were doing at sunup but we were making a lot of noise as we started eating breakfast - after all night raising cane, we were hungry. One of the girls had just picked up a sweet roll, when Mom looked out the door and said "be quiet and get into bed here comes Mrs. Schlepp." The girl with the sweet roll jumped in bed forgetting what was in her hand. She was a sticky mess when the coast became clear later - I can still see Mrs. Schlepp tromping back and forth in the road in front of our cabin. My bed was such I could peek out from under the sheet and see out the door.

We had the cabin rented for two nights but Mom (a working woman) said she had to have some sleep. Dad refused to baby-sit us and no other mother would come. Hence, we packed up and went home.

I know many of our e-mail group have wonderful memories of Hidden Paradise.


Soda Pop and Fireworks
by Judy Soles McMillie

I spent my grade school years in and around Seward, Nebraska, the place of my birth. Each summer I would spend a week or so at my grandma's house playing with my cousins, swimming in Seward's now-famous pool and watching the parade and fireworks in Seward, dubbed Nebraska's Fourth of July city. Times were tough, and my family seemed particularly finance-strapped, but we always had a good time at Grandma's, catching quart pickle jars full of lightening bugs, then listening to Grandpa play his guitar late at night after we'd gone to bed. We could hear him light his pipe with a match he struck on the seat of his bib overalls, and it made us giggle.

The very best part of Grandma's house was the soda pop. Seward had a beverage company called Husker Beverages. We always referred to it as the pop factory. The word "pop" is rather Midwestern, and certainly archaic, as I rarely hear the beverage called pop anymore. People in the south call it "soda," or they refer to it as "Coke" whether it's the Coca-Cola product or not. But to us it was Husker pop.

Meals at Grandma's usually consisted of cold sandwiches made from bologna or liverwurst, with lettuce and tomatoes from the garden, and Husker pop. We kids LOVED that menu every meal, but our parents often objected. Nevertheless, Husker pop was brought home by the 24-bottle wooden case, and we could have a bottle with every meal. What a wonderful treat!

Years later, my dad and his brothers and sister instigated a yearly family reunion in Seward on the Sunday closest to the Fourth of July. All the aunts and uncles, cousins, in-laws and family friends would eagerly look forward to our Seward reunion for the Fourth, and the icy tubs full of Husker pop.

In the year my older son Chip, turned two, we drove from Ainsworth to Seward for the reunion on the morning of the Fourth. We arrived about noon, just in time for the picnic potluck lunch. There were about 100 people, many of them children, and soon my 2-year-old let go of my leg and wandered off to play with the older kids. I saw little of him that afternoon, and as evening approached we gathered up our belongings and started for home.

In the car, I talked with Chip about what he'd done that day, his new friends, his newly learned games, his adventures with the older children. His most memorable experience was drinking Husker pop!

I asked him how many bottles of pop he'd had, and he said three. That's a lot of pop for a 2-year-old; no danger of dehydration! But he was one happy little guy, and so was his mother. I believe the love of Husker pop must be genetic!

Chip now has children of his own. It is my hope that his children are having the Husker pop experience just as Chip did as a youngster, and his mother before him. It's a great legacy, don't you think?


Memories of the Fourth in Faith
by Terry (Ketner) Emry

The small village of Faith, North Carolina was my grandfather’s hometown. Most places of business faced Main Street sandwiched between the Reform Church on one end and the Baptist Church on the other. I suppose any baseball little-leaguer worth his cleats could smack a power hit from one church to the other. The same gray granite buildings along the Main Street of my youth are still there today. They still speak of strength of community as well as the obvious resource that came from the nearby quarries. In fact, my grandfather’s quarry furnished the curbing for Main Street that the W.P.A. installed during the Great Depression,

My grandfather had once been the town mayor back when, as a young widower, he was trying to raise his five children with the help of his sister and her husband. The children had all been born in the home of my grandfather, which fronted Main Street. My mother was the next to the youngest. Her Papa never ceased to be her hero. He was a gentle man who loved his family, loved the game of baseball, and loved hosting family gatherings in his hometown during holidays such as the Fourth of July.

When I think of the Fourth, I think of Granddaddy Ritchie and the big parade down Main Street, the exhilarating carnival rides in the Faith Park, the pit-cooked barbecue washed down with freshly-squeezed lemonade and the brilliant fireworks display that evening.

My family’s connection to the parade goes back more than fifty years. My mother participated in the very first one after World War II. She was Lady Liberty with flowing robe and torch held aloft. A picture of her on that float still hangs in city hall as proof. I was never in the Faith Parade, but if I were to wish for such a thing, I would have been wearing a cowgirl hat, a western "snappy" shirt and a leather fringed skirt and I would have been riding atop the back of a prancing chestnut horse. My two youngest sisters and Cousin Jane, the "three ballerinas", did march in the parade one year with their dance troop. I can still remember the wild six-mile car trip over the narrow, hilly road to Faith from our country home to get the girls and their tutus there in time for the early morning start.

We would drive back the side streets and park up the hill at my Aunt Nez’s house. Then, equipped with folding lawn-chairs, we would walk through the orchard and garden path that joined both lawns down to Granddaddy Ritchie’s white frame, one-story house to join the throngs of other people vying for viewing position along Main Street. Granddaddy’s front porch, front porch swing and front yard would be full of relatives and friends all laughing and catching up on the latest gossip and cooing over the youngest babies in the group. Kids sat along the curb in the shade of two large maple trees hoping for the chance to catch the candy tossed to the crowd by the parade politicos, beauty queens and clowns.

After the excitement of the parade, which ended with the ear-deafening sirens of what seemed like every fire truck, police car and emergency vehicle in the surrounding counties, people migrated down the street to the city park. There they could enjoy the carnival rides and eat sweets like candied apples, snow cones and cotton candy or more substantial treats like pork barbecue with coleslaw, hamburgers or hotdogs, lemonade, tea or pop. My favorite ride was the Scrambler, my favorite sweet a cherry flavored snow-cone and I "lived for" the lip-smacking tangy taste of a pit-cooked pork barbecue sandwich topped off with Cheerwine pop from the nearby Salisbury Bottling Company.

Then it was time to mosey over to the ballpark for an exciting baseball game featuring local talent, young and old. I can picture Granddaddy up in the stands dressed in a white crisply ironed shirt, slacks, and a gentleman’s hat. His happy face was ruddily flushed with excitement and his sparkling blue eyes watched the action on the field. He had coached many baseball teams in his younger years, not to mention teaching his many grandkids the fine arts of the game.

Sometime during the afternoon, a skydiver would parachute down in the grassy field between the baseball diamond and the elementary school. Then came the greased-pig chase, the greased pole climb and other frolics and relays. A mellowing-out time followed at Granddaddy and Aunt Nez’s houses – all within easy walking distance of the day’s activities.

Of course, to top off such a day at the park, there was a fantastic fireworks display, which we sometimes watched from Aunt Nez’s side porch. The sounds seemed just as majestically loud from our hillside vista as from the park. The bangs, booms, fizzles, shrill shrieking calls and whistles and blooming colors erupted and rained down in sparkling brilliance.

It’s fun to remember those glorious Faith Fourth of Julys from my youth and I am exceedingly grateful for the experience. When I think of that first Fourth ever, I am reminded of how our forefathers risked everything for a cause greater than themselves. It required faith in their cause, faith in their ability to pull together as a young nation to defeat a mighty foe, and faith to make their dream of liberty and an optimism of spirit and ideals a reality. I can’t think of a more suitably named place to celebrate the Fourth of July than in a town called Faith – unless it’s Independence, Missouri. But then that is someone else’s story.


Memories - Both Happy and Sad
by Anne (Gilchrist) Osborn

None of my 4th of July's in the good old days sticks out in my memory---I think they were all converged in my memory, so I'll put them all together.

My very earliest memory of the 4th of July was when we lived near Long Pine and had huge neighborhood picnics and wonderful food---home made ice cream and chocolate cake under the trees--I think I must have been about 3 or 4 years old at the time. I remember some white balloons with red and blue decorations on them--maybe the first balloons I had ever seen---they seemed just miraculous to me. I still like balloons.

Other 4th of July's were spent at Meadville playing in the Niobrara which had warm water versus very cold water at the Long Pine Hidden Paradise which was where I remember other 4th of July's from early childhood on and more delicious food and watermelon.

When our brothers were alive, we always celebrated their June and July birthdays on the 4th of July, as well as my older sister Jo (Lolita) whose birthday is in July also. My younger sister Cindy and I were always envious that we didn't have a summer birthday, ha. (On a sad note, I thought this week that my youngest brother would have turned 68 this month---and the same age as my husband.) Hard to believe that much time has gone by.


We Don't Know Where Mom is,
But We Have Pop on Ice!
by Ortha (Reynolds) Emry

The first Fourth of July celebration that I remember was at my Grandparents' home northwest of Springview , Nebraska.

Cousins, Aunts and Uncles gathered at the farm from as far away as Pine Ridge, South Dakota. That was a long way to come in a Model T on gravel and trail roads. We kids had the run of the farm and played lots of games and had a great time. Evening came and the accumulated fireworks were shot off to the oohs and aahs of we kids. But what came next outshadowed the fireworks - my first bottle of pop!! I selected strawberry and what a treat with the sparkly fizz and wonderful flavor! That is one fourth of July I'll never forget.

Why Mothers Get Gray
by Lolita (Gilchrist) Purviance

One summer I let my two boys, Steve and Jim, fly to Nebraska for a visit with my family when they were about 12 and 14 years old. I wanted them to get to know my parents and their Bower cousins better and to have a real Midwest adventure. Since their stay was during the Fourth of July, I warned them about the hazards of playing with firecrackers, which are illegal. They were not to even think of touching one of those dangerous things! Nor were they to drive any vehicles while they were there, as I knew how they would be tempted to try since most country kids are very familiar with tractors, etc.

The boys had a wonderful time in the country and had many exciting experiences. I was so relieved to see them return safely in one piece. They were eager to unpack and proudly opened one of their suitcases. To my horror, it was crammed full of firecrackers and not one pair of sox or underwear could be found! Obviously, a whirlwind had sucked all my words of caution right out their little boy brains! I can't imagine what trouble they would have been in with today's airport security.

As for driving, nothing was ever said until years later when I happened to overhear the boys reliving their Nebraska experiences. They now get a bang out of the times Grandpa Frazier taught them how to drive the farm equipment or when a car slid in a muddy ditch with their cousins, Tammy and Tom. I guess grandpa got them out of that predicament. I am so glad I did not know THE REST OF THE STORY.


Meadville Memories
by Raleigh Emry

In 1945, we moved to our home-place on the Niobrara. I was one year old and my brain began to fill with memories. With passing time, it is now difficult to sort the hodgepodge of memories into two piles: "first-hand" and "hand-me-down". My memories then are a mix at best, and memories of Meadville are some of my first.

Meadville is about five and a half miles, as the crow flies, upstream on the Niobrara River from the home of my childhood and at the bridge that linked Brown and Keya Paha Counties. Old State Highway 7 linked the County Seats, Ainsworth and Springview, and at that time went through Meadville. There was no bridge south of Springview then. So Meadville was a convenient and scenic meeting ground for folks from both sides of the river. My parents were both from Keya Paha County and so Meadville held lifelong memories for them too. Some of my favorite memories are of the 4th of July holidays at Meadville in the "good old days" of my childhood. The folks who gathered there were a mix of family, shirttail cousins and neighbors from up and down the river, interspersed with a few folks from the surrounding towns.

For some of the years of my youth, Meadville had another convenience. My Aunt Phyllis and Uncle Perry Campbell and my cousins lived in the little house just across Highway 7 from the Meadville Park. In later years, my Emry grandparents lived there after the Campbells had moved to Ainsworth.

We gathered to picnic under the trees on the south and west sides of the Meadville Park near the Niobrara River. The park held a few rickety picnic tables that survived from season to season. Picnickers would also bring makeshift tables or set food dishes on the tailgates of their pickup trucks. Food was plentiful and delicious. I made many trips to the picnic profusion to pop another deviled egg into my mouth or to snatch a cold, fried chicken drumstick from a pile and gnaw the delicious delicacy to a cleanly picked bone. If I had left some room, I would then savor some mincemeat pie, before getting into the truly sweet stuff.

When the picnic dinner was over, people would scatter in pursuit of their various interests. Some would walk to the giant spreading cedar tree. The spreading cedar, a curiosity, grew only a foot or two above the ground but spread for quite a large area. The river has since claimed the tree. Some would walk off their dinners on short jaunts to the Meadville store or to the river bridge. Others would don their best excuse for a swimming suit, usually cut-off overalls for me, and would go into the river as far as mothers would allow. Some would walk to the Meadville bayou to fish or swim in calmer waters. The men and older boys would often play baseball and horseshoes.

Then, as predictable as the phases of the moon, Mr. Harr, from Harr’s Cold-Storage and Creamery, in Ainsworth, would show up with his insulated canvas bag of ice cream and would begin to yell, "Ice cream… Ice cream… Come get your ice cream!" Children would scurry from far and near to flock to his call. Sometimes my folks had enough loose change to treat us to an ice cream cone. Sometimes I stood wistfully by and wished for a taste. Nevertheless, there sometimes were freezers of homemade ice cream at the picnic site if I could wait for it.

Everyone brought their own fireworks -- usually firecrackers and sparklers. Some of the more well-to-do brought roman candles and treated everyone to an evening show. I always wished for firecrackers, the bigger the better, but sparklers were the fireworks for little kids. So, for those early years at Meadville, I usually had to be content with sparklers. Unfortunately, sparklers required waiting until dark and we had usually gone home before dark to do evening chores. Firecrackers could be set off at any time of day. I was jealous of those who were old enough to set off firecrackers. When a firecracker went off in my older brother’s hand and blistered, blackened and broke the skin, he too was demoted back to the sparkler brigade for the rest of the day. I remember being rather happy about his demotion to my ranks but was slightly envious of his nifty wound.

In the heat of the afternoon, the men would gather in the hot sun to play horseshoes (with real horseshoes) or to play baseball. The ladies would sit in the shade and visit. Older kids wandered between groups. Some competed in sack races, three-legged races and other track and field events. Toddlers and babies were content to play in the shade with the women. The shade is where I was when I can recall my earliest, fledgling Meadville memory.

On that 4th of July, the men from the river, I suppose the Meadville/Norden team, had challenged a team from Long Pine and perhaps Ainsworth to a baseball game. My Dad’s cousin, Earl Clark, was always a ballplayer, often a catcher, and never intimidated. The Long Pine team’s roster listed a Hollenbeck or two. The Hollenbeck name was famous around the state for their rodeo bucking-stock. Many a rodeo cowboy was pitched on his head from his luck of the draw of the Hollenbeck string of feisty broncs and bulls. A few of the Hollenbeck men were as scrappy as their rodeo string and some of them were in the ballgame that day. My dad was along the sidelines and rooting for the Meadville/Norden team. My Brother Bob, then maybe six, watched with Dad.

Something happened to change the flavor of the game from a friendly contest to a skirmish. I don't know what happened. This account was told to me by my dad many years later. Of all people, he may have been the least likely to have a clear memory of the events that day. The altercation was most likely caused by a close call at home plate… whether the ball had made it to Earl Clark’s catching glove before a Hollenbeck foot slid home. Earl and the Hollenbeck began to duke it out. Before long, Hollenbeck had pulled Earl’s shirttail up over his head, effectively trapping his arms and bending him double. He held the wad of trapped arms and clothing with one hand and proceeded to give Cousin Earl a few uppercuts to the nose with his loose hand. Blood began to gush through the shirt fabric as Earl danced to free himself.

My Dad, although not a large man, was known to hold his ground and voice his opinion. He saw this mild infraction of gentlemen’s rules for boxing and made a comment about fareness to no one in particular. If Dad had intended to say more, he didn’t have the chance. Baseball has a way of arousing tempers. An informal and seldom kept baseball statistic is the numbers of punches thrown to punctuate a point of view. Dad was standing between two Hollenbecks and didn’t realize it. 

The Hollenbeck, to his left, took a roundhouse left to Dad’s breadbasket. This doubled Dad like a jackknife. The Hollenbeck, on the right, then had an opportunity to plant an uppercut right to Dad’s jaw. This unfolded Dad and laid him out on his back. Dad’s observations about fair boxing were over. He lay there collecting his wits as Bob ran to tell Mom. Bob’s relay race of the boxing results accompanied by his worried look was how I discovered that Dad had had an early fireworks show on that 4th of July. I was worried too, for Dad, until he joined us in the shade and sat to clear the cobwebs.

The baseball game ended like most, I suppose. Someone won, someone lost, someone vowed revenge next year. Few held grudges. Meadville and Long Pine players shook hands and went home friends. Dad recuperated with little to show for his time out. Earl Clark? He was none the worse for wear. He showed up in the shade for an after game snack. Fellows clapped him on the back and they all laughed heartily. Earl sported a bloody shirt… maybe a shiner… nothing that a big slab of watermelon wouldn’t cure.

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