Sunday, December 7, 2014

Staying in Touch

One of the good things about getting old is the urge to get back in touch with old friends and the good old days we shared.

I'm not a huge fan of Facebook, and though I do have a Facebook page, I don't put very much personal there, and I make entries pretty rarely.

But from time to time, one hears out of the blue from someone you're very glad to meet again. For me that is Johnny Ruark.

Johnny and I go WAY back, well more than 50 years. He was an ace Little League pitcher for the small town of Bostwick in Morgan County, Georgia, where we grew up. He had a terrifying fast ball. But he was also a good guy, thoughtful and kind, and with a sharp sense of humor.

I didn't get to know him well until we were in high school, but we had some crazy days, and I always enjoyed his company. He was quiet and never expected the world to revolve around him, but he could always be counted on to get a group of guys laughing with a joke or to bring me a Bull Durham cigarette to smoke behind the announcer's booth on the football field when we were supposed to be in PE.

Johnny spent his career in the Air Force, a good thing to do for a great fastball pitcher. Nice to know the good guys are strong and smart. So he's lived overseas most of the time since we graduated about a hundred years ago.

But he dropped me a note on Facebook last night, and it took me back to a day in 1962 when my Little League team pulled off a 5-1 victory over the famous Bostwick Red Sox. I got two hits and scored two runs, largely because I was trying to keep from being killed by Johnny's fastball--as I recall it. (In truth, I'm not really sure he pitched that day, but I'm going to say he did.)

And what fine memories that brings back--summers and baseball and learning about girls and watching "Live Atlanta Wrestling" on TV.

But I'm never that far away from it. On the hearth of our fireplace I have my Del Crandall catcher's mitt from Little League along with the Mickey Mantle signature Louisville Slugger from our Little League days. The bat was badly cracked and thrown away, but my brother and I repaired it with nails and electrical tape.

I try not to live in the past, but sometimes an old friend reappears out of nowhere, and one feels grateful to think back over that long road.

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