Since leaving Woodsong on Wednesday, June 2, we have seen rice fields in Southeast Missouri, continued road construction in the beautiful Ozark mountains, rolling hills with cattle feasting in Oklahoma, lots of softball games at the Hall of Fame Stadium, windmill farms as we left Oklahoma, sparse short trees and shrubs on flat lands in Texas, and many friends and relatives including the new friends we made at the Women’s College Softball World Series.
Thrilled that University of Georgia women’s softball team had made it to the elite group of eight World Series teams, we packed hastily as Mary Ellen bought us tickets on craigslist, and we scurried to leave things at home in as good a shape as possible. We had time to stop and see Gerald’s first college roommate Harold Smith and wife Jo in Springfield, Missouri.
Harold is actually a third or fourth cousin, but his family lived “up the creek” from Gerald’s family, and my mother-in-law considered Harold’s mother her role model and dear friend. When Harold came home from two years in the military and Gerald had not liked the summer after high school on the floor of the Caterpillar plant in Peoria enough to hang around to get in their engineering program, the two young men rented a room together at Carbondale for a three-month term. Then Gerald was lured back to the farm to help his dad, who had rented more acres in the Mississippi bottoms.
Harold stayed, went on to college at Shurtleff awhile, and back to Southern Illinois University Carbondale for his degree. Then on to seminary and the pastorate. And eventually graduate school for a PhD in counseling to help with his ministry. Jo became a kindergarten teacher even as she mothered their two children.
After a longer visit than we intended and Gerald had inspected Harold’s big backyard garden, we stopped for supper and then went to visit our good friends Myron and Marjorie Dillow in the Baptist Retirement Center in nearby Ozark on the outskirts of Springfield.
Margie was smiley and looked lovely despite her long-time multiple sclerosis and two serious surgeries that had her in nursing care there until she was well enough for them to move into their own unit. Myron too had surgery followed by a serious back injury caused by an off-road driver suddenly pulling on the road to broadside and wreck their van (needed for Margie’s transportation). The injury continues to cause difficulties in his activities, but he continues to write, and he has strawberries and other goodies in the coop garden across the street even though a friend had to pick the strawberries this year.
Needing to go further towards Oklahoma, we didn’t accept the Dillows’ invitation to spend the night. Gerald told them we’d stop again on our way home. We did and now we have Myron’s two latest history books on a school and a community church out in Pitkin in the Colorado mountains, where they went for years for cooler summers for Margie.
We arrived that night at a motel in Joplin just as guests were being directed to the back of the building because of a tornado warning. We sat in the car in a downpour listening to the radio until the warning was lifted and the rain slowed enough for us to hurry in for the night’s rest.
We were in Oklahoma City in time to pick up our tickets that had been sent to our friends John and Mary Patterson’s home, check out our room in the motel, and our seats in the stadium. It was hot but we were under the roof, so it was tolerable. We enjoyed getting acquainted with those in nearby seats.
On our left, was a mother and daughter and adorable 13-month-old Cameron from Casey, Illinois, where the daughter Angela Ashley had played for Coach Thornburg and Olivet College, and then later taught and coached in the Casey middle school. Nancy Darling, the mother, had once worked for Schwan’s and traveled regularly in our end of the state. She now has a second home in Arizona, and these folks are avid Arizona fans but helped us cheer for Georgia.
On our right was John Dorman, an extremely knowledgeable softball fan, and his granddaughter Carley from Orange, Texas, and he soon knew everyone in sight. During the weekend, he was joined by his sister Donna Scales and his niece Jackie, also a school coach. They too kindly became Georgia fans, and we hope to meet up with them at the 2011 World Series.
There were other drop-in visitors in seats around us that were sometimes unoccupied by the ticket holders, and we all played, “Do you know?” and often found connections, such as the young woman who had played for Gerry’s Southern Force.
Our first game was Thursday night, and we faced top-seeded Washington, returning 2009 champions. We had defeated them a year ago one out of two games and that gave our team confidence. We did so again and went to bed that night delighted that we had put Washington in the losers’ bracket. (Actually it was more like 2 a.m. when we were able to reach the motel and settle to sleep. But the sleep was sound and sweet with the first victory behind us.) That meant we did not play again until Friday night.
Friday night put us in the losers’ bracket when Tennessee, also of the Southeastern Conference, beat us 7-5. After we had Saturday lunch with Gerry, Gerald went to the day games in the l00 degree heat, while I elected to visit the air-conditioned archives at the Research Center at Oklahoma History Center.
Locked away with only pencils to write with and wearing white cloth gloves, I made a good many copies of documents I had never seen before on the Trail of Tears. Actually this was copies of copies of the original documents, but I still had a very good time, and the librarians there were kind beyond measure to me. The Center closed before Gerald was able to come from the games and pick me up, and one of the workers saw me in the outside garden area and stopped to make sure I had a ride. I did not doubt that she would have taken me to our motel had I needed her to do so!
Saturday night we played Florida, another SEC team, whom we were very pleased to defeat 3-2.
The win over Florida put us in the semifinals for the second year in a row. Undefeated UCLA, wearing black wrist bands in honor of John Wooden who had died at age 99 on Friday, beat us 5-2. Since that was our second loss, that ended Georgia’s tourney participation. Had we won, we would have had to play UCLA a second time that evening to eliminate them with two defeats.
Meanwhile in Georgia, Tara was coaching the 16-and-under Southern Force in a weekend tournament and Geri Ann was playing. Vickie, Erin, Mary Ellen, and Brianna were there to cheer them and to enjoy taking care of Tara’s three boys. If we had gone into the finals, they hoped to drive out for the Monday night game. With Georgia’s loss, that plan had to be abandoned.
Gerald and I drove down to Bricktown after the game and had Sunday supper with Gerry and told him goodbye. The Georgia Bulldogs flew back on Monday morning to Athens. We left after a leisurely breakfast heading for my sister’s in Amarillo.
UCLA went on to quickly defeat Arizona two games in a row on Monday and Tuesday nights making Wednesday’s game unnecessary. These two teams combined have won 18 championships our of 29, I think someone said. It is time for a SEC championship
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