Banks County Opinions...

June 20, 2001

By Todd Simons
The Banks County News
June 20, 2001

The pump house, the trees and my dog
Summer for me today is not much different than it was 15 years ago. When I was thirteen I was left to decide what to do on my own, and any activity might just pass as recreation.
Now, I have taken the job of the man that must find material for three pages of sports for this community at a time when sports like school, isn't in session. There is stuff going on but it is more leisure than sport. It is more about learning a sport than it is competing in a sport. The fun of writing "rounding third with a thoroughbred's determination, the runners jaw clenched and his foot sprang off the bag. The ball's seams sizzled next to the runner's ear as they both raced towards home plate. The runner picked up his back leg and pointed the front leg toward the plate, the catcher crouched and never moved his glove. The sliding runner pulled his leg back like a boxer retrieving his jab and wrapped it around the catcher so that the tip of his toe grazed home before the glove could touch the runner. The good guys won 2-1," is behind me now for a little while. Now all I can do is inform the community that if you want to learn to play tennis and you are younger than a high school student, this town has a person who can teach you.
It isn't as interesting, but I'm left alone to find something to write about. I think back to the summers of my youth when planned activities were put on hold. That is when play was the best. That is when I got creative.
To begin, there was the regular arsenal of entertainments: the pump house, the trees and my dog.
The pump house's north side had a spray-painted catcher with a bright red glove for pitching from 60' 6". The west wall was dotted with round dirt blotches from balls that were thrown against it, fielded off the dirt and returned into play.
It was on that wall that I mastered the "pop up pitch."
I could have gone places with the pop-up pitch. Here, after many years of disciplined restraint is one of the secrets of my youthful athletic prowess.
First, let me explain what It is.
The "pop up pitch" is a pitch that isn't all that hard to hit but once contact is made it is impossible to hit any where but back to the pitcher and the pitcher was always me. I was a one-man arsenal. I guess it was possible to hang a "pop up pitch" but even then the outcome was rarely more than a base runner who was retired in the double play that came during the next at bat. When mistakes were made I had to risk not throwing the pop-up pitch so that a ground ball would be put in play.
Throwing the pitch wasn't as easy as I made it appear.
You had to have your two longest fingers running along the seems, like a two seam fast-ball. It is thrown with the over hand delivery of a regular fastball, but their was the "Quisenberry adjustment" that came in about 1984 after I spent a winter training with the side arm hurler. When the pitcher steps with his left foot (if you are right handed), it must land in front of the pitchers right eye. This allows the pitcher to be in the proper position when the ball is hit back to him. Also the arm must be loose, super loose.
The final secret is to make sure that the ball lands low enough against the wall that when it bounces off the wall, it hits the bricks around the bottom and the ball shoots up into the air where the pitcher waits with gloved hand ready.
I did this for hours, even days.
The second entertainment was the trees. I lived pretty far from neighbors by modern standards. There were a couple of houses I could walk to but there I would find 90 year-old earless relatives who responded unintelligibly to yelled inquiries about the1952 Farmer's Almanacs under the T.V. Guide. I'd find the archaic almanac's next to December's People magazine and the Parade magazine from a Sunday ago. Slow readers or strange librarians?
Between me and whoever else stood the trees. They are the most versatile of God's inventions as far as play goes (that might exclude water). I had forts made from depressions where roots had become uprooted and a board hung high from a sturdy limb where I could swing. Fallen trees and ones with low limbs became trampolines and rickety bridges over gargantuan gulfs. But I also took my bike into a tree that had fallen.
It was one of those large oaks with thick branches. Even sideways, it was forty feet tall. Game one: carry the yellow Huffy as far as you can into the tree's branches without falling or dropping the bike. Game two: R
ide back down.
They should have had the X-Games then. I'd have been a world famous tree bike rider, or just a tree rider.
The third was my dog Lady. Lady was like a leg, she was always there and only tragedy could take her away.
I know one day I made it our game that we would climb over the house together. Up one side, over the roof and jump off the front. It was a take off of a game my sister and I made up where one of would lie limp and the other had to drag the person off the bed around the bed and back onto the bed without the others aid. My dog surely must have felt helpless. When I took her 50 pounds in my arms and stood at the edge of the roof her face was a mix of panic and a calm reserve that questioned my ignorant intent.
There was a tree that I could have slid down, but I decided we were in this thing together. So with her in my arms, we leapt from sturdy wood through 20 feet of air to the hard ground were she barked, jumped back, put her front paws on me and barked again. We celebrated our success as the whippoorwills called the sun down and the dog and I threw a baseball high into the grey summer sky.
Maybe it was easier then, but maybe that was just the last summer after many summers of practice.
Todd C. Simons is a reporter for The Banks County News

By Jo Evelyn Dean
The Banks County News
June 20, 2001

Teaching responsibility
Teaching kids to take responsibility is a parent's job. When parents show through their words and actions that they take responsibility for their own behavior, they become effective and powerful role models for their children.
It has been said that the three most important works in parenting are: "Example, example, example." It is true that children watch what we do even more than they listen to what we say. This is a big responsibility and one that all parents should take seriously.
"What you are speaks so loud, I can't hear what you say." Our actions are what children observe and they want to be just like us.
To model responsible behavior for children here are some do's and don'ts:
·listen to your words. Avoid phrases that imply that someone other than yourself is in charge of your actions. Instead of "I can't" say "I don't want to." For "I have to," say "I want to." For I should, substitute "I've decided to."
·set reasonable expectations, then give children opportunities to live up to them. Don't expect your kids to read your mind. Be clear about what you expect them to do. And once they know what's expected, don't be in a hurry to help them out. Give them a chance to make and learn from their mistakes. This is often hard for a parent to do because you know that you could do it for them, but this is not the way to help them learn and grow into responsible adults.
·explore issues of responsibility with your children by encouraging them to think about actions and consequences. Rather than ask why something has happened, ask what went on and keep asking. If the child seems dissatisfied with the result, ask what he or she would do differently next time. Help them to see that they can learn from their mistakes so that they don't repeat them.
·be responsible, not reactive. When something angers you, take time to calm down, then think of alternatives that can get you back in charge of the situation. Reflecting on the outcome afterwards can help you-and your children-make better choices in the future.
·get involved in the community. Participation in some kind of volunteerism helps all family members recognize that they are part of something much larger than their circle of family and friends. Working with the elderly, the handicapped and a variety of human service agencies can give a young person a real feeling of responsibility because they are giving back to others. A child who sees their parents volunteering is much more likely to get involved in positive, productive activities because they see the example that their parents have set.
Jo Evelyn Dean is a county extension agent serving Banks and Jackson Counties.


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Homer, Georgia
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