Category Archives: Reads

A Story of Two Cats

I am not a cat person. Never really have been. Never really will be.

But, there have been two cats in my life that wiggled their way into my dog-loving heart. Is there is a common factor between these two felines that has raised them above a “leave me alone and go catch mice” relationship?

Why yes there is.

They’re badasses.

BAD ASSES.

Big Bad Bud was one of a kind. He didn’t really like people and he was a killing machine. Birds. Mice. Rats. Squirrels. If it moved and/or pissed him off, it was dead. I can’t find the video or the photographic evidence, but Triple B once killed an adult squirrel and laid its lifeless body in front of the back door. I know, many cats do this. But do they also eat the squirrel starting at the head and leaving only a fluffy tail on the doormat? I don’t think so.

And the really incredible thing about Big Bad Bud was he only had one working eye. The other one was blind when we adopted him. Much to my dismay, we had to give him away when he got old, got cranky, and started to become nasty toward our other cat and some of the kids who hung out around the house.

We gave Bud away to some friends who live in the country and needed a mouser for their outbuildings. It was a match made in heaven. Bud fulfilled his duties wonderfully for a period of time until, one day, when he disappeared. Common sense states the elderly cat was caught by a coyote or wandered off to die in the woods. But for me, I believe in the Legend of Big Bad Bud. I believe he is still out there wandering Washington Co. hunting and surviving on his own.

The other cat is our current senior feline. Willie. The family we adopted Willie from was moving and could no longer keep him at their new residence. They asked if we were interested, we said yes. They thought Willie was around eight-years-old when we took him in. That was twelve years ago, making his age now around 20. He adjusted to Hays House life pretty quickly. Until his first Christmas at the house and he peed on the Christmas tree and was permanently banned to the life of an outdoor cat. He went out. He rarely complained. He, like Bud, was also not a fan of people.

The past 12 months, Willie has been slowing down. He is truly showing his age. He’s fought off several bouts of unknown illnesses, worked through the introduction of a new cat, Nala, and worked through the death of his respected friend and housemate, our chocolate lab, Sophie. I’ve known for the past few years that his days were numbered and getting close.

A few weeks ago, he got backed over by our Yukon. He hadn’t been feeling well for a few days. He’d been down and sleeping most of the day for about 3-4 days. I thought he was a goner, but he rebounded. He was still kicking but kicking it slowly. Willie never sleeps under the vehicles. Never. When we turned on the SUV to back out of the driveway on a Friday evening, he must have not woke up and the rear tire ran over him.

This time, I thought he was a goner for real. He crawled to his spot behind the garage and wouldn’t budge except for his labored breathing. I sat with him and tried to make him comfortable. I almost called the vet to get him put down. I convinced myself to give Willie until the morning and see if nature took its course during the night.

When I woke early Saturday morning and went to check on him, he was gone! I couldn’t find him anywhere around the garage. I wondered if a dog or coyote or something took him off during the night. But when I trudged through the house and out the front door to get the newspaper, there he was lying in his third favorite spot by the front porch. Alive but not kicking very well. Again, I thought about a trip to the vet. Again, I thought if Willie got his three-quarters dead-self moved across the yard, he deserved the gift of time. I gave him until Monday.

I raked and mowed leaves. In the middle of the process, I catch movement out of the corner of my eye. Wille! He is standing on all four legs. Moving 10 feet or so, and lying down for a rest. Incredible.

Every day I gave him another day before getting him put down. Every day he survived and improved. Limping and moving slow, but eating and drinking again. This past week, less than two weeks after the accident, he showed up to greet me one evening when I came home from work as he’d always done. Walking normally with a slight limp. I hate to get sentimental, but I just about cried. Willie is one incredibly tough cat. He doesn’t know any better than to survive. He has to be on Life #8.99999.

BADASS.

So, we will see what the future brings for Willie. In the meantime, the next badass cat at the Hays House will have big shoes to fill to follow Big Bad Bud and Willie.

My kind of cats. Badass SOBs.

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Halloween 2017 Read: I Am Stretched On Your Grave

“I Am Stretched On Your Grave” is an English translation of an anonymous 17th Century Irish poem called, “Táim sínte ar do thuama” This version of the translation is by Irish author Frank O’Connor. The music version was published in 1979 by Irish musician Phillip King and recorded by his band, Scullion.

This poem drips in sadness and grief. It paints an eerie picture as good as any classic gothic horror classic. It is the perfect poem for a windy, cold, and cloudy Halloween day in Kansas. Many Irish bands besides Scullion have recorded versions of this song. My favorite is the Sinead O’Connor version from her 1990 album, I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got.

Happy Halloween! Be safe and try to keep warm. And seriously, doesn’t “Táim sínte ar do thuama” just sound frighteningly awesome?

I Am Stretched On Your Grave

I am stretched on your grave
And will lie there forever
If your hands were in mine
I’d be sure we’d not sever

My apple tree my brightness
It’s time we were together
For I smell of the earth
And am worn by the weather

When my family thinks
That I’m safe in my bed
From night until morning
I am stretched at your head

Calling out to the air
With tears hot and wild
My grief for the girl
That I loved as a child

Do you remember
The night we were lost
In the shade of the blackthorn
And the chill of the frost

Thanks be to Jesus
We did what was right
And your maiden head still
Is your pillar of light

The priests and the friars
Approach me in dread
Because I still love you
My love and you’re dead

I still would be your shelter
Through rain and through storm
And with you in your cold grave
I cannot sleep warm

So I’m stretched on your grave
And will lie there forever
If your hands were in mine
I’d be sure we’d not sever

My apple tree my brightness
It’s time we were together
For I smell of the earth
And am worn by the weather

Written by F. O’Connor, P. King • Copyright © BMG Rights Management US, LLC

 

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Post #400! The Alien Dog Attack Saga

Unbelievable! This is the 400th post on The Coach Hays Blog. Who knew so much stupidity could reside in one place? Certainly not me when I start this little shindig back in 2010. One of the first bits of stupidity was this serialized story called Alien Dog Attack. It all started with a picture and kept going driven by a single goal…to make my mother laugh. It worked.

For the 400th post, here’s Alien Dog Attack and links to the Parts 2-9. I just realized today I did not finish the story. There is no Part 10. I’ll work on it.

I’m also sharing this story in the celebration of the dog who inspired the story, our chocolate lab, Sophie. She passed away at a few weeks ago. She sat right next to me for the writing of most of these 400 posts. She gave the best writing advice, was a great sounding board, and she’ll be missed as old Coach Hays pushes forward to the next 400 posts.  As will the real Big Bad Bud, who was the baddest ass cat I’ve ever been around.

Alien Dog Attack #1

It’s here! Run and hide! The Hays house was invaded this afternoon. The mom was able to click a quick photo of the invader before we were forced to take deeper cover. We are currently fighting off the alien attacker from the dining room. We have lost the living room and the office already in the fight. Trying to battle the laser beam ocular weapon of the canine from outer space has proven most difficult. We just don’t have the weapons to hold out much longer…

 

Alien Dog Attack #2

Alien Dog Attack #3

Alien Dog Attack #4

Alien Dog Attack #5

Alien Dog Attack #6

Alien Dog Attack #7

Alien Dog Attack #8

Alien Dog Attack #9

 

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Repetition

You want to be good at something?

Okay, okay. I know. That answer is easy. Everybody wants to be good at something.

But what does it take to get good at something?

You have to do whatever that something is over and over and over and over and over and over. Get the picture?

If you want to be good at something, you have to practice that something well. You have to repeat it.

Repetition is the key. Repetition with purpose.

If I want to be a good hitter, I need to repeat my swing over and over again. I need to repeat my over and over again while attempting to get a little closer to a perfect swing with each subsequent repeat.

If I want to be a good writer, I have to write. Over and over and over again. I need to work at crafting the words better with each idea and each sentence. Repetition.

Very few, if any, kids walk into first grade, kick up their feet, and tell the teacher they’re ready to read War and Peace. The first graders have to learn the sounds the letters make, learn the combinations and then the meanings. Thousands of repetitions are required before your average first grader is going to where the wild things are or even seeing Spot run. Thousands of repetitions, hundreds of mistakes and failures. Being good at something is all about the Fail Cycle.

  1. Try
  2. Fail
  3. Regroup
  4. Learn
  5. Try again
  6. Succeed
  7. Level up
  8. Back to #1

Practice with a purpose. Repeat with the purpose in mind. Get better.

  • Hit the ball harder.
  • Write better stories.
  • Teach kids to read.
  • Construct a house.
  • Repair a car.
  • Operate a farm and/or a ranch.
  • Design a bridge.

Anything worth doing is worth doing right. Anything worth doing is worth doing the best you can.

Over and over and over and over and over again…

Why all this nonsense on repetition with purpose?

Because I think we are in a place where we want the “Easy Button”. If it ain’t easy, I ain’t doing it. Failure means “quit trying”. Failure means packing up the tent and crawling home. We want to be good, we want to pound our chest about how awesome we want to be, but we forget the “anything worth doing” bit.

We forget the satisfaction is in the journey and the trials and the tribulations. We forget that if we do the work and do the practice and do the repetition, good things usually happen. The “Oh yeah, that thing is really hard, but I just kicked its ass” feeling is a feeling like no other.

Speaking of repetition. This is post #399 on The Coach Hays Blog. Who would have ever guessed when I started this thing back in 2009 as an energy outlet after my football coaching career went belly up it would still be in existence?

I guess the better question is, how can one guy be so damn stupid?

Thanks for hanging around and putting up with my rants and raves and idiocy.

Who knows what the next 100 posts will bring?

More repetition on the theme of STUPIDITY without a doubt!

 

 

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Two-Way Street

The coaching life is funny. It’s a two-way street. A coach has much to offer the players and, if the coach pays attention and nurtures relationships, so much more to gain from the players.

I know the bottom line is wins and losses but that’s really a rather narrow definition. There is much more to it than just that. Granted, if you do the deeper aspects of the profession well, that is, the planning, the implementation, the performance, you usually end up with more tally marks in the W column than in the L column.

There is a simple beauty to the coaching life that often gets neglected by the parent and fan base and increasingly seen neglected in the coaching profession itself. The simple beauty of a two-way street. A simple thing that gets overlooked in the emotion of competition.

Coaching is teaching.

Every good coach I know is a good teacher. All the information and details and strategies and plans are nothing without the ability to successfully pass the information to the players.

Coaching is relationships.

Relationships are the foundation of the two-way streets. If a coach expects the players to follow, the kids need to know the coach has their best interest in mind and they’re not just pawns in the coach’s game. There is also an added bonus to developing open and honest relationships with kids—it gives back a lifetime of joy.

Coaching is passing down knowledge.

Just because I know something does not mean the kids know it too. I may be the Einstein of high school football but that knowledge is nothing if it stays locked inside my head.

Coaching is passing down a love of a game.

Why coach if you are not passionate about the game? Why accept this huge responsibility without having the drive to do the work to make kids better people and players at little or no extrinsic value?

Coaching is bringing together individuals to make one team.

One of the absolute joys of coaching is taking individuals from different backgrounds, with different personalities, and displaying different skill levels and provide the environment in which they can unite under one common goal. That’s when the magic happens.

Coaching is a verb, not just a noun.

A lot of people have the title of coach. A lot of people wear this title proudly. Sometimes with too much pride. Coaching is action, not a title. Do the work.

Coaching, like life, is about give and take. Take the time to give to each player who walks through the door.

Build a solid two-way coaching street.

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TLW Batting Cages #ClayCenterBaseball

(Part 2 of the Campbell Field Renovation Project focuses on a special place, a very special family, and the memory of a very special baseball player.)

Out of great tragedy, rises hope.

 

One of the greatest upgrades to the Campbell Field field baseball complex is the addition of the TLW Memorial Batting Cages. One of the things I am most grateful for in this whole field renovation project is this wonderful area donated to the baseball community following the tragic loss of one of our own.

I remember TLW coming to our Clay Center Baseball clinics when he was barely big enough to hold a bat up. He was my kind of baseball player. Ornery-awesome, to coin a Coach Hays phrase. Ornery as all get go, but willing to do the work to be the best ball player he could be. He’d be acting like a fool between drills, but once it was time to work, he soaked up what you were teaching him and attacked the skill with gusto. He was a kid who was right up my alley. I like ornery-awesome players and TLW was a classic.

As a baseball community, we can never do enough to show our gratitude to TLW’s people. Wendy, David, Jared, Janae and the rest of the family, THANK YOU!

Thank you for giving us a great place to hit baseballs and to coach hitting. But most of all, thank you for giving us a place to remember the TLW in his element. Every time I’m at the cages, I am reminded of that little baseball player with the big glove, the big bat, and the big heart.

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The Beginning. #ClayCenterBaseball

This is the first in a series about the Campbell Field Renovation Project. As we wind down on our renovation’s goal of having an acceptable place to play high school age baseball, I’ll give a bit of history in story and pictures, lament on some of the trials and tribulations involved in such a project. But most of all, I’ll try to convey our gratitude and joy for the community’s support of this project. Today we start at “The Beginning”.

The Campbell Field Renovation Project. It officially started in September of 2013. It actually started about a little over a month earlier than that, though. It all started with Lody Black’s nose.

Yes, Lody Black’s nose.

We had started a baseball workout group in mid-July of 2013. We had about 6-10 kids showing up for the workouts. It was a good thing. Except for the field. It was in poor shape. The lip was so high around the infield/outfield grass line from years and years of blowing dust because there was no decent irrigation system that when you stood in center field, you couldn’t see anything below the knees of the batter in the batter’s box. That was problem 1 of 1000.

Well, another problem was rocks. I know you folks who spent time on or around Campbell Field think the rocks are bad now, but you should have seen them then. Imagine years and years and years of dust blowing off the infield only to be replaced with dirt from highway and roadside ditches. Needless to elaborate further, there were rocks. And glass. And rebar. And chunks of asphalt. And…

On this particular night in late July of 2013, we were doing a ground ball fielding drill. We tried to clean off an alley in which to field ground balls relatively rock free. We are cooking in the ground ball drill. I am hitting fungoes from home plate the kids are fielding and dropping the ball into a bucket. On about the fourth bucket, the line of kids begins to shift geographical location. (Anyone who’s worked with kids in lines before will understand this phenomenon.)

As I hit ground balls, the line shifts slightly from 3B to SS area. I hardly notice and keep hitting grounders, one after the other. Lody is up next. He’s the oldest one there. He’s going to be a senior. He was one of my favorite local baseball kids ever since he was a wee tyke. I hit a screaming grounder. Lody moves left to field it. I see a line of big white limestone rocks in the path. Lody sees a big white baseball coming his way. The ball hits a rock, veers upward like a missile and hits Lody directly on his nose. His nose bursts open in a fountain of blood and flattened across his face. Fortunately, Lody was okay. In fact, he may be a little more handsome after this event.

We decided then it was time to do something. The condition of our premier high school baseball facility was anything but premier; it was totally unacceptable. So, myself, Rex Carlson, and Larry Wallace, Jr. talked to our mayor about the problem. Mayor Thatcher agreed something should be done and deemed us the ad hoc committee for Campbell Field Renovation.

 

We accepted the challenge. I went home, opened up a Google search and found out that “ad hoc” means, “No money.” But, that didn’t matter. We live in this great community of Clay Center, Kansas. Through the generosity of this community, we were able to get donations of materials, talent, equipment, and money to get the job done. Thank you!!!

We made a document of all the projects we needed to do and presented it to the Clay Center City Council in September of 2013. It was a plan set in three phases, mapped out in a logical order to improve the field and do it around the high school and summer team’s use of the field. This week, we finished Phase III. We had the final few sprinklers in the infield irrigation system and an automatic control system installed. (No more us manually turning on the system every morning before work and every evening during hot spells. The older I get, the tougher it gets to do this every day.) 

After four years, we are turning the corner. We are winding down the activities of the ad hoc committee for Campbell Field Renovation. The little ad hoc group has expanded to include a couple of guys (Butch Swihart and Brian Moon) who know what they are doing and are the main reason that things got done. (Note: You need a job done right, call Butch and/or Brian.)

The city has a couple more little projects we’d like to see finished. We need your help. We need to apply some good old citizen pressure on the city to come up with a smart solution to this problem. And fast!

  • Scoreboard. Our scoreboard is broken. It’s the second most thing people “inquire” to me about on Campbell Field. This is a major piece of equipment to replace, with “major” meaning “expensive”.
  • Press box/bathrooms. The bathrooms are an embarrassment. It’s the numero uno point people talk to me about on Campbell Field. It is past time for something to be done.

If you haven’t been out to see the upgrades, stop by and have a look. It’s a great, little high school sports complex. Campbell Field and Otto Unruh Stadium.

Clay Center Pride.

And if you happen to run into Lody Black, thank him for taking one for the team. But most of all, tell him he’s got an all-star nose…

 

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