A short story about two young country boys with a major need to have a basketball goal
| I guess we were about thirteen or fourteen years old when we took the great journey. We both had acquired an avid passion|
for basketball and it had taken over our lives and became our constant pastime. There were no organized youth leagues, no Y.M.C.A., no recreation departments or even gyms or playgrounds in our town growing up, so we played in barns, cow pastures, goals nailed up on the side of a tree, etc. We didn't even have a garage to put a goal on like the city kids had. Yes, there's plenty of advantages of growing up in the country or in the mountains with all the nature and wide open spaces, but having level land to work or play on is not one of them. I do remember at some point in time, someone had leveled out a spot near my friennd David's house behind a barn for some reason and this became the Baileys Branch Community Athletic Fields. Well, not really, but to us, it was 'big-time' !
I think this was the first time in our childhood we actually had a place level enough and wide enough where we could actually hit a baseball hard as we wanted and not lose the ball in a poison oak patch or off the side of the mountain. This spot was also our basketball
court also and at one point we actually played full court with 2 goals. Oh, it was still dirt, not paved or concrete and you sometimes had some bounced of the ball when dribbling that defied the laws of physics. You had to maneuver around stumps rocks and maybe a cow pattie or two, but shucks it was still basketball and we enjoyed it.
At some point, our basketball goal broke and in those days one couldn't just drive to Walmart and get one nor did either of us have the money to get one even if we could. So, when we heard that a friend at school had one of those nice thick-rimmed regulation basketball rims he would sell to us for five dollars, we were excited at the opportunity.
Now this fellow only lived about 4 miles from us - driving distance that is. But David had this bright idea that we would just hike over there. Something, he said, about making an 'adventure' out of it. So, after school, one spring day, we headed out on our little 'adventure' hike Now, we both knew where this boy lived and we knew what direction to walk and walked roughly where we would exit out at on the old dirt road called 'Turnpike' near his house. If I remember correctly, the phrase 'just over the hill' was used quite often as we continued on with our adventure. As we trekked through the woods, climbed over the barbed-wire fences, painstakingly maneuvered through the briar patches and waded through the creeks, it became apparent that our destination was indeed, 'just over the hill' - Six of Them To Be Exact ! Each time we made our way to the top of one, we would crest the hill, gaze down the slope and see this deep valley or gorge below, then slowly make our way back up another steep hill. Somewhere, at about the fourth mountain ridge, I think we both forgot why we were doing this. The realization at one point hit us that if we yelled at the top of our lungs we were in a place where no one would ever hear us. We knew that there was an old rarely used dirt road we called 'Turnpike' was somewhere nearby , but I guess we thought it would be more adventurous to take this so-called 'shortcut' (David's words, not mine) . So, after a few more fences, briar patches, cow pastures, creeks and woods, we finally made it to the top of the last mountain and spotted a few houses and a gravel road and knew we were getting close. We picked up the pace a little when we discovered we were fenced in with the presence of a quite large and grumpy Hereford Bull. We met with the other guy, paid him for what we had pictured in our minds as a big, thick professional NBA basketball goal, which was really just an old rusty rim without a net but it was heavy and sturdily built so we started back on our return journey.
Now I don't remember anyone volunteering to drive us home nor do I remember much about the return trip. Maybe we took the old Turnpike road like we should have done in the beginning, but I can't recall much of anything. I do remember it was already dark and I had told my parents I'd be home before dark. Oh well, it was an 'adventure' anyway, who cares? Everything is just a blur from that point on, but I do remember Johnny Carson was on when I got home.
David and I continued on with our love of basketball and we both were starters on the varsity team in high school. We won the county championship our senior year, the first time for our school in many, many years. David was offered a scholarship at a nearby college and I went on to coach middle school and high school basketball so i guess our little 'adventure' was a worthy goal.