In the above 8th Grade photo, you may see more of the “player” (especially if you note the scab on the end of the nose) than the budding writer. I do! But I think, also, what can be seen is a happy, family-oriented person growing and finding out who she might become.
It wasn’t quite the right timing in American culture in the 1960s for me to become a “player”. Unfortunately, that ambition on my small farm community stage served mostly to enrapture me to the point that it distracted me from actively pursuing writing as a career choice. The choice of writing was possible and available, but the sports distraction at this time was too great.
I chose to write only about sports — horse racing and baseball and basketball, primarily — when I wasn’t playing sports.
My Dad and the two brothers between whom I grew up were great competitors. They taught me grit and grind and that practice makes perfect and to compete as though one’s life depended on it — to win. All of this I did with all my bodily fiber.
We played two-on-two, or one-on-one (depending on the available personnel), in the hayloft that Dad had fenced off with chicken wire to keep the basketball from bouncing out of the court down to the barn floor some ten feet below. We broke through the hayloft’s thick floor boards on hard rebounds, grunted, jostled, and screamed through games that determined little more than bragging rights. We all were players.
In Summer, we played the old baseball “three dollars” game. One player self-hit the ball to the others, with a catch in the air being worth a dollar. A one-bounce catch equaled a value of 75 cents, two bounces earned 50 cents, and a ground ball paid 25 cents. The first player to score three dollars worth of balls then went to the batter’s box and the game started over. I always scraped more skin off my knees on the barnyard driveway going for catches than my brothers did. But they tolerated my competitive spirit.
We played those games endlessly.
In high school, I became totally immersed in our school’s Intra-mural Basketball League. It was my main sports outlet with persons other than family members because our school had no “girls teams” in uniform to play other schools in sanctioned competition in the ’60s. In our voluntary Intra-mural Basketball League — one for boys and one for girls — classes played each other in 10-minute games on our lunch periods. It was serious business, with records being kept and championships being held at the end of “league” play. My class won the girls’ title every year of our last three years of high school.
All this sports distraction became obsessive and led to my doing less writing, although at no point in my life did I ever abandon the written word, or lose my passion for it. In later years, too, I realized I had probably missed my chance to become one of the first female sports broadcasters, or some other person of interest in the sporting ranks.
So my next writing stardom after stalagmite and stalactite fame was modest. I won an award as a high school Freshman in an American Legion essay contest on Democracy and Americanism.
By then, my English teachers had begun to notice my writing abilities.