Archives for posts with tag: Ken Burns

The World Series is on this week and my mind flashed back to baseball through my years, a zig-zag view of the sport. When I was a kid, we played baseball all the time, mostly a version of workup with whoever was available in the neighborhood. My brother played on a team, but it was different. We all didn’t go to every game, sometimes the coach piled the kids in his car to drive somewhere, they went for ice cream after games, there were no trophies unless you won something really big, like a whole season. Kids just played baseball and dads coached. I guess there were leagues for the ones who were really good, but I don’t remember much about those.

The World Series was a big deal. Countless friends of mine remember teachers setting a radio in the window of the classroom so the kids could listen to the series, which were mostly played during the day. We sat quietly at our desks, listening to the sounds of the game. I loved the Yankees because of Mickey Mantle. I don’t think I knew he was from Oklahoma, but who was more baseball than Mickey? Years later, my father played golf with him and I was impressed. I’m still impressed even knowing his life’s ups and downs. I have a cat named Mickey because he swats with both paws, a switch-hitter like the Mick.

Baseball was always around, but I was doing different things until my kids were in high school. One of my daughters played softball in high school and I learned to keep score, definitely an insight into the game and all its intricacies. I didn’t really get back into it until my husband got season tickets to our local AA team and we became fans, real fans. Our seats were in the second row behind home plate and we would go early to watch them line the fields, watch the team warm up. It was a place where we lived in a different world with friends who sat around us, player’s wives, scouts, kids all over the place. It was a world of what we want the real world to be. There were no outside worries at the ballpark. You ate your hot dog and cheered for your team. I love AA ball because you are watching kids who are on the verge of making it big. Some of them did and it was fun to watch them move on to the big leagues. Some of them played minor league ball for a long time and finally had to move along. That life of little pay, long bus rides, motels and time from your family isn’t always fun no matter how much you love the game.

We kept those tickets for 19 years, after my husband died, after the kids all had kids. The family went together, we loved the mascot, we watched fireworks, we played the games outside the field, one of my grandsons went to the player clinic. Many happy family memories at the ballpark. We finally gave them up when the team moved to a nicer stadium. It wasn’t because we lost interest in the game, but because we had our own ballplayers now and too many games to watch to make all the big games. We still love them…we just pick and choose our games.

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I never saw a major league game in person until a visit to Denver in 2010 where we watched the Rockies play the Cubs, my son-in-law’s favorite team. It was a treat, a special game in beautiful Coors Stadium but not quite as intimate as our home AA field. There’s something nice about watching kids who are trying to make the dream that can beat out multi-million dollar players for winning your heart.

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I do love the game. I watched Ken Burn’s series, “Baseball,” and love all the history, the symbolism. I’m not one who can throw out all the stats, but it doesn’t matter. Today, I have three grandsons playing the game, playing because they love to play. They play pretty competitively so I thought they all were trying to reach the pros. I think they’d like to play at least into college. Mostly, they just play to get better and keep playing. It’s fun to watch them, fun to watch the families who make every game on fields that are better than the pro teams played on in the game’s beginnings.

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Pretty good lessons in life. Sometimes you swing and hit a home run, sometimes you strike out. You run to the bases, trying to get to the next one and then you come home. There’s the glory of the win and the sting of defeat. You’re part of a team and you play together to win. All those things we’ve heard through the years.

Nothing too profound here. Just having some baseball memories. Here’s a good quote to ponder while you watch the series…

“Baseball was made for kids, and grown-ups only screw it up.”
Bob Lemon

My guess is that my first acknowledgement of the Dust Bowl was seeing the painting, Mother Earth Laid Bare, by Alexandre Hogue at Philbrook when  I was very young.  It moved me.  It has always been my favorite painting at the museum, maybe because it tells a story in such a graphic image.  I am an Oklahoman, so I know about the Dust Bowl.  Sort of.  I knew Okie wasn’t a term we liked until Governor Bartlett used it as a tool to boost the state’s image.  I used to take Okie pins with me to Europe to give the people I met.  I’d read The Grapes of Wrath and seen the movie, although that story wasn’t really about the Dust Bowl itself.

A few years ago, I read Timothy Egan’s book, The Worst Hard Time, a brilliant accounting of the Dust Bowl that made me really want to understand what happened.  I’ve travelled through the Texas and Oklahoma panhandles, driving through Boise City, OK and Dalhart, TX, two of the worst hit places.  I’ve been through eastern New Mexico, eastern Colorado, western Kansas and western Nebraska, seeing those great plains.  I’ve driven through the tall grass prairie to see what the land was like before the ravaging of the plains through greed and ignorance of what we can do to the land.  I watched a documentary called , Black Blizzards, which featured Tim Egan and visualized much of what he had written.  I’ve studied Woody Guthrie and his music which captured the times so brilliantly.  Ken Burn’s recent series, The Dust Bowl, incorporated all of this information and introduced me to Caroline Henderson, a college educated homesteader, who stuck it out, never gave up, and left us her letters and articles about her life.

I’ve always been interested in the women of the west.  Many of them were perfectly happy where they were, close to family and friends, but went along to share the adventures with husbands following a dream.  Some wanted adventure, some had dreams of their own, some wanted to escape lives in the east.  I think the fascination is in imagining what I would have done if I were in that place and time.  A friend of mine says she knows she never would have gotten past St. Louis.  The people who settled in the Dust Bowl area wanted their own piece of land, an independent sort who didn’t want the confines of the city and loved the wide open spaces they found.  The dreams became reality and times were good and then they went bad, really bad, for a decade.  Ten years of a combination of the Depression, drought, and floods of dust, year after year after year.

What would I have done?  Would I have left right off the bat, walked away from the home I built with my own hands, the land I’d tilled myself?  What would I do when my children were coughing up dust and there was no milk or food or crops?  What would I do when I’d waited so long that there was nowhere to go…no jobs, no money for gas to leave, nothing left to sell and nobody to buy it if there was anything.  What would I do?  Would I be stubborn, full of hope, or let it get me down?  How much courage did it take to leave?  How much courage did it take to stay?

Honestly, I don’t know what I would have done.  I guess all we can do while looking back is learn from the stories and hope that we would have the courage they had to keep on living in desperate times.  And I can be extra thankful and appreciative of all that I have today.