We left Woodsong around 10 last Thursday morning and headed south. We watched as the roadside grass turned ever more green. Because previous winter trips to the South included some of the coldest softball games we ever endured, we’d thrown coats into the back seat of the car. When we arrived at Lafayette, Louisiana, we found ourselves in the land of live oak trees and where alligator and quail are on restaurant menus. Roses, pansies, and tulip trees were blooming, and coats were never necessary.
This was the closest to us of softball games on Oregon’s schedule this year, and we arrived there Friday in time to briefly see granddaughter Geri Ann before the Ducks began play against the Ragin’ Cajuns. Our daughter-in-law Vickie was already there, and soon Bryan and Tara with the three Archibald boys arrived also. Aidan, Maddux, and Payton were so excited to see their “Auntie G,” who was just as thrilled to see them.
In the first game, we were able to see Geri Ann hit and play in the outfield and then come in to relief pitch. It was a good game though we lost 3-2. At supper that night, Maddux was prepped to eat his first crayfish; and despite his reputation as the family’s picky eater, he pronounced it very good and shared with whoever had the nerve. Gerald and I ate gumbo although different kinds. Before our visit there was over, I’d eaten chicken, crab, crayfish, and shrimp in my gumbo. I’d heard of jambalaya in the song most of my life, so I had to sample a bite from Tara’s plate. After supper, we all gathered for a family visit in the hotel lobby before good nights were said and we went our separate ways although Aidan managed to snare a bed in Vickie’s room.
We were back at the ball park by mid morning and watched our only win over 7th ranked Lafayette 6-3. Cheridan Hawkins pitched most of the game and added nine strike-outs making her total this season 42, which is why she is 19th in the nation for strike-outs. This broke the Cajuns undefeated status to 8-1.
Our third game that afternoon against LLU had us losing again by one run: 5-4. This 30th Louisiana Classic with three teams had a different format from what I’ve previously attended anywhere. Very soon we were playing our fourth game--this time against Central Arkansas. Geri Ann pitched, and we won 8-0 in six innings.
As usual after the games, we went to the team’s restaurant choice to meet up there with the family for a final meal together. I really liked that establishment’s rustic decor, and I especially enjoyed the long wait before our table became available! (Much more fun than eating peanuts and throwing the shells on the floor!) On to the side of the dining rooms was a colorful country stage with a Cajun band in front of a small dance floor surrounded with benches for sitting as we waited to eat their locally famous Creole food.
When we entered, a little girls’ softball team was actively engaged in a combination of gymnastics, horseplay, and dancing, and I think our music lover Maddux was already out there with Geri Ann. Later Aidan joined them; and finally over his protests, Auntie G enticed Payton to join in the fun. Many older couples were obviously regular customers, and it was pleasant to watch their expertise at country dancing. Perhaps the most skilled was one young man with a cowboy hat that had circled the seated crowd commenting to us with thick speech that I could not understand. He found a partner near the band that I assumed he had danced with before, and they were so good it was a joy to watch.
None were cuter though than Oregon freshman Cherish Burks and her baby sister. Little Leah at eleven months had provided us with smiling beauty all weekend. She could almost walk, and everyone was expecting her to take off by herself any time. Perhaps she wanted to save those first steps to show off for her daddy when she got back home to California. I speculated she was such a pleasant child because her mother too was always smiling. When Leah was tired, she would take her bottle and go to sleep in her mother’s arms or in her buggy as her mother pushed, but always she had an audience because she was so engaging and so pretty. I may have watched her as much almost as the teams on the field. Well, on the dance floor, she was in her element. Those little feet that moved so well if someone held on to her arms as she walked were now stepping high in perfect rhythm. She also had a steady supply of partners picking her up and carrying around with the music. Just as cute were twin brothers, who were probably two since they were steady on their feet—too steady at times. (Watching their dad or mother race to intercept them as they would dart toward the opening into the main restaurant provided some humor.) Watching them interact with little Leah was so sweet as children always seem delighted to see someone else their own size.
Watching all this made me almost disappointed to be called to our table for food. (A screen in that room, however, let us hear and see the band and an even larger group of senior citizens circling the floor.) The meal was good and everyone was happy. That is until Geri Ann had to join the Ducks for the trip back to their hotel. Because the Archibalds had to return to College Station yet that night in order for Aidan to play baseball the next day, this was a final goodbye to Geri Ann. The team left, and Maddux sobbed. And soon Payton was sobbing also. Gma Vickie solved Maddux’s grief by inviting him to spend the night and go home with her the next day, so he was able to see Geri Ann again on Sunday after all. Bryan and Tara quickly figured out a solution for Payton, who would soon be fast asleep in their van going back home. At age nine, Aidan is very committed to his sport. And we heard that he pitched a very good game,
The next day many of Oregon’s younger players were on the field against Central Arkansas, and the score was even more lopsided with a 19-3 score in five innings. After the game, we were busy saying goodbye to Geri Ann, Vickie, and Maddux and getting on the road to Dickenson, Texas, so we did not stay to see Central Arkansas play the host team.
We arrived at Gerald’s special Air Force buddy’s home with the help of our GPS. I found out after we returned to Woodsong that I had mistyped one number in Gerald’s cell phone, so Ray and Gladys had been unable to reach us. (I am still confused about that because I know I checked it after I hurriedly typed it in a personal message on their Facebook page, but I guess I goofed.) We had a great two-hour visit while the guys reminisced and Gladys and I got acquainted.
We met their granddaughter and two great granddaughters temporarily staying with them. Camie, the younger of the two great granddaughters was 19 months, and she had a head of lovely soft black curls and a beautiful face. Gladys brought her into the family room when she woke from her nap, and she was all smiles for us strangers even though her mother and sister were not there right then. She too entertained us showing us how she walked with Gpa Ray’s shoes and sharing her doll and toys. After watching Leah and her, I began to wonder if babies don’t cry anymore.
It was hard to leave, but we needed to hurry on to Gerry and Vickie’s house in College Station. We were looking forward to it because we knew Gerry would be in a great mood. He had been with A&M’s softball team at the Mary Nutter Classic in California that weekend and had come through undefeated against all the great teams there. We had a good late evening visit and got re-acquainted with Chloe, Chance, and Nelly—their house dogs. (The bird dogs are exiled to a friend’s ranch during softball season.) Erin and Josh had been there dog sitting for Vickie all weekend, but they returned earlier in the day to their respective places. (Erin to her apartment to teach the next day and Josh back to Fort Hood.) We enjoyed sleeping in the bedroom decorated with all Erin’s softball awards and mementoes. however, and that made us feel like a partial visit with her. We are still looking forward to meeting Josh.
The next morning I slept late while Gerald and Gerry ran around, and I came downstairs to the smell of bacon and sausage and the sight of another beautiful baby—this time a little boy named Trent that Vickie cares for part of the day three times a week. He could pull himself up, but does not walk yet. His curls were blond. He is their sunshine, Vickie explained. He proved my theory that modern babies must no longer cry. At nap time, Vickie would put him in his crib, walk out of the room, and he would go to sleep until nap time was over. Nor did he wake up crying but all smiles. We enjoyed meeting him and watching him play contentedly with his toys and all of us. Soon after his lunch, he took another nap. We ate a late lunch with Gerry and Vickie and packed our bags. We were all out on the front lawn saying our final goodbyes when the Trent’s mother and little sister came to pick him up.
We traveled late on Monday to be further on the way home the next day. The grass was even greener than in Louisiana. And redbud and other shrubs were flowering by the roadside. There was sometimes even a hint of green in the dark limbs of the trees in the wooded areas. The starkness of the bare limbs was often broken with large balls of mistletoe.
We drove an hour or so before we stopped for breakfast on Tuesday to break up the drive. I believe it was in Arkadelphia that we stopped for lunch at a local barbecue place that claimed fame for having catered 10,000 folk at one gathering! As we traveled north, the green grass became more splotchy, and finally by Missouri, it was mostly brown again. There were large fields of bright green winter wheat, however. Once we saw a rice field covered with water and ducks. Then we were on Interstate 57 after stopping at Boomland for rest and cheap gas. We picked up our accumulated mail at the post office when we arrived in Marion just before it closed. After a bowl of chili at Pulleys, it was back to the farm and carrying in luggage. I sent text messages to our four kids that we were home all safe and sound. Made the coffee for the next morning and attended other details of living. I think Gerald checked the Internet. We fell in bed early for a good night’s rest and woke up to snow coming down outside our windows.
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6 months ago