Category Archives: Reads

As if to meet the moon

I watched the rare blue super moon eclipse this morning from the front porch. It was crisp morning, but not the usual frigid Kansas January 31st morning. Nature has provided us a bounty of the celestial phenomenon this year as a reminder of how incredible our planet and our universe really are. Watching westward through the bare branches of our oak, just minutes before sunrise, this Robert Frost poem came to mind.

“We ran as if to meet the moon” Mercy, that’s a kickass, beautiful line.

 

Going for Water
By Robert Frost

The well was dry beside the door,
And so we went with pail and can
Across the fields behind the house
To seek the brook if still it ran;

Not loth to have excuse to go,
Because the autumn eve was fair
(Though chill), because the fields were ours,
And by the brook our woods were there.

We ran as if to meet the moon
That slowly dawned behind the trees,
The barren boughs without the leaves,
Without the birds, without the breeze.

But once within the wood, we paused
Like gnomes that hid us from the moon,
Ready to run to hiding new
With laughter when she found us soon.

Each laid on other a staying hand
To listen ere we dared to look,
And in the hush we joined to make
We heard, we knew we heard the brook.

A note as from a single place,
A slender tinkling fall that made
Now drops that floated on the pool
Like pearls, and now a silver blade.

 

The International Space Station, with a crew of six onboard, is seen in silhouette as it transits the moon at roughly five miles per second Tuesday, Jan. 30, 2018, Alexandria, Virginia. Onboard are; NASA astronauts Joe Acaba, Mark Vande Hei, and Scott Tingle: Russian Cosmonauts Alexander Misurkin and Anton Shkaplerov, and Japanese astronaut Norishige Kanai. Photo Credit: (NASA/Bill Ingalls)

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Baseball at Night

Baseball at Night by Morris Kantor, 1934 (Photo credit: American Art Museum on Visualhunt.com/)

I ran across this painting while researching for a potential book about one of my favorite baseball players of all-time, Josh Gibson. I was hypnotized by it. I need to find out more about the painting and its creator, Morris Kantor.  But, for now, I’m sharing it here as a reminder that, despite the half-foot of snow and single-digit temperatures outside, baseball season is just around the corner.

Baseball…

Dream on, people!

 

 

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The Tokohama Ruse

In 1887, after a season of white baseball players increasingly refusing to play with or against black players, the “gentleman’s agreement” to implement a color line in professional baseball was approved. Cap Anson, one of the greatest players—and most outspoken bigots—of the era, receives much of blame for using his influence to force the issue. Truth be told, though, American professional baseball rosters were stacked with bigots who came from Southern and Northern upbringings. The ills of a society were again reflected in its sports.

In 1901, John McGraw of the newly formed Baltimore Orioles club of the brand new American League attempted to bring in a black player named Charlie Grant into the whites-only league in what has been coined, The Tokohama Ruse. The Tokohama Ruse has so much wrong with it. Blatant racist actions by all parties.

Fueled by a desire to win and compete in the fledgling league, John McGraw’s new Baltimore Orioles team was desperate to bring in talent. This original version of the O’s was short-lived as they went bankrupt after the 1902 season and the modern version of the O’s would not be established until 1954 when the St. Louis Browns moved to Baltimore. During their training camp in Hot Spring, Arkansas, McGraw ran across an extremely talented infielder who he wanted to sign.

The problem was the player McGraw had set his sights on was a light-complexioned black baseball player named, Charlie Grant. Grant was a talented infielder with the Negro League Columbia Giants playing out of Chicago. In order to make financial ends meet during the offseason, he was working at a resort in Hot Springs. Grant and some of the other player/employees of the resort formed a baseball squad whose main purpose was to provide a sports entertainment option for the guests.

McGraw saw Grant play and wanted to sign him. He knew none of the other owners would allow him to bring in a black player, so he came up with one of the more blatant racist moves in sports history. Light skinned Charlie Grant was now Chief Charlie Tokohama, a Cherokee who was the son of a white father and a Cherokee mother from Lawrence, Kansas. McGraw developed the elaborate backstory and chose the name from a map of Indian Territory (present-day Oklahoma) in the hotel which had a creek named Tokohoma Creek.

To make matters worse, McGraw painted Grant with warpaint and had him wear a feathered headdress on the field. Chief Tokohama played right along with the deception, probably for the chance at making some decent money playing at the highest level of his sport. It was reported he performed well in practice and on the road for the exhibition season, where fans lined up to see the spectacle of the “Chief”.

Before the Orioles made it back to Baltimore to open the season, though, cracks developed in the Chief Tokohoma scam. Charlie Cominsky, the owner of the Chicago White Sox, was the first to speak out as he revealed Charlie Grant as the true identity of Tokohama. John McGraw and Grant continued to publicly deny the allegations and stuck with their original story.

Cominsky’s reply?

“I’m not going to stand for McGraw bringing in an Indian on the Baltimore team,” he said. “If ‘Muggsy’ [McGraw’s nickname] really keeps this Indian, I will get a Chinaman of my acquaintance and put him on third. Somebody told me that the Cherokee of McGraw’s is really Grant, the crack Negro second baseman from Cincinnati, fixed up with war paint and a bunch of feathers.”

Nice political correctness, fellas.

Well, anyway, the truth breaks and McGraw quietly let go of Grant before the season started, saying the young Indian player was too inexperienced, especially on defense. Grant returned to Chicago where he continued to play baseball in the Negro Leagues. After 15 seasons, he returned to his hometown of Cincinnati and worked as a janitor. In 1932, Charlie Grant was killed when a car lost control after blowing a tire, jumped the curb, and hit him as he sat in a chair on the sidewalk.

With all the wrongs of the Chief Tokohama ruse, one does wonder what would have happened if it would have worked long enough for Charlie Grant, not Chief Tokohama, to show he could play alongside white professional baseball players. I doubt nothing.

The institutional bigotry was too ingrained for it to succeed until Jackie Robinson received his chance from Branch Rickey to become the first black player to break the color line. Or was he? In a future post, we’ll look into the Washington Senators, who in the pre-Jackie Robinson era employed several Cuban players, who may have actually been the first black players to break the barrier.

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The Importance of the Little “Lies”

I’d like to thank Mrs. Lane, Mrs. Murphy, and the freshman and junior English classes at Clay Center Community High School for the opportunity to speak about story structure and the power of story. It was an absolutely fabulous experience for me, and, hopefully, also a positive experience for the students.

The day reminded the 53-year-old grumpy, old man in me how awesome our young people are. It reminded me to have confidence in the future. It reminded me that these students will be fully capable of cleaning up the mess my generation is leaving them. I challenged them to keep their natural BS meters sharp by reading and thinking and attacking problems. I pleaded with them not to lose this skill as they grow and mature. A well-honed BS meter will be an essential skill as they learn to live with the portal to access all of humanity’s information that they carry in their pocket.

Parents and school administrators, be proud of your students! Their potential shines and I can’t wait to see them mature and grow into the people they dream to be.

Below is an excerpt from HOGFATHER by Terry Pratchett (one of my favorite books and movies) I’d like to share with the students as repayment for being so warmly welcomed into their world for a day.

HUMANS NEED FANTASY TO BE HUMAN

The Hogfather nodded at Death, as one craftsman to another, and then at Susan. She wasn’t sure if she was being thanked—it was more of a gesture of recognition, of acknowledgment that something that had needed doing had actually be done. But it felt like thanks.

Then he shook the reins and clicked his teeth and the sleigh slid away.

They watched it go.

“I remember hearing,” said Susan distantly. “That the idea of the Hogfather wearing a red and white outfit was invented quite recently.”

NO. IT WAS REMEMBERED.

Now the Hogfather was a red dot on the other side of the valley.

“Well, that about wraps it up for this dress,” said Susan,. “I’d just like to ask, just out of academic interest…you were sure I was going to survive, were you?”

I WAS QUITE CONFIDENT.

“Oh, good.”

I WILL GIVE YOU A LIFT BACK, said Death, after a while.

“Thank you. Now…tell me…”

WHAT WOULD HAVE HAPPENED IF YOU HADN’T SAVED HIM?

“Yes! The sun would have risen just the same, yes?”

NO.

“Oh, come on. You can’t expect me to believe that. It’s an astronomical fact.”

THE SUN WOULD NOT HAVE RISEN.

She turned on him.

“It’s been a long night, Grandfather! I’m tired and I need a bath. I don’t need silliness!”

THE SUN WOULD NOT HAVE RISEN.

“Really? Then what would have happened, pray?”

A MERE BALL OF FLAMING GAS WOULD HAVE ILLUMINATED THE WORLD.

The walked in silence for a moment.

“Ah,” said Susan dully. “Tickery with words. I would have thought you’d have been more literal-minded than that.”

I AM NOTHING IF NOT LITERAL-MINDED. TRICKERY WITH WORDS IS WHERE HUMANS LIVE.

“All right,” said Susan. “I’m not stupid. You’re saying humans need…fantasies to make life bearable.”

REALLY? AS IF IT WAS SOME KIND OF PINK PILL? NO. HUMANS NEED FANTASY TO BE HUMAN. TO BE THE PLACE WHERE THE FALLING ANGEL MEETS THE RISING APE.

“Tooth fairies? Hogfathers? Little—”

YES. AS PRACTICE. YOU HAVE TO START OUT LEARNING TO BELIEVE THE LITTLE LIES.

“So we can believe the big ones?”

YES. JUSTICE. MERCY. DUTY. THAT SORT OF THING.

“They’re not the same at all!”

YOU THINK SO? THEN TAKE THE UNIVERSE AND GRIND IT TO THE FINEST POWDER AND SIEVE IT THROUGH THE FINEST SIEVE AND THEN SHOW ME ONE ATOM OF JUSTICE, ONE MOLECULE OF MERCY. AND YET— Death waved a hand. AND YET YOU ACT AS IF THERE IS SOME IDEAL ORDER IN THE WORLD, AS IF THERE IS SOME…SOME RIGHTNESS IN THE UNIVERSE BY WHICH IT MAY BE JUDGED.

“Yes, but people have got to believe that, or what’s the point—”

MY POINT EXACTLY.

She tried to assemble her thoughts.

THERE IS A PLACE WHERE THE GALAXIES HAVE BEEN COLLIDING FOR A MILLION YEARS, said Death, apropos of nothing. DON’T TRY TO TELL ME THAT’S RIGHT.

“Yes, but people don’t think about that,” said Susan. “Somewhere there was a bed…”

CORRECT. STARS EXPLODE, WORLDS COLLIDE, THERE’S HARDLY ANYWHERE WHERE HUMANS CAN LIVE WITHOUT BEING FROZEN OR FRIED, AND YET YOU BELIEVE THAT A…BED IS A NORMAL THING. IT IS THE MOST AMAZING TALENT.

“Talent?”

OH, YES. A VERY SPECIAL KIND OF STUPIDITY. YOU THINK THE WHOLE UNIVERSE IS INSIDE YOUR HEADS.

“You make us sound mad,” said Susan. A nice warm bed…

NO. YOU NEED TO BELIEVE IN THINGS THAT AREN’T TRUE. HOW ELSE CAN THEY BECOME

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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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