Just two years as Riverton’s baseball coach and Government teacher, I’m learning area lore. Like every hundred years the Little Indian floods terribly, rearranging its banks. This spring it cut through school baseball and football fields. For the next hundred years won’t be much baseball or football there. Maybe we’ll be relocated by football season. Not baseball.
Superintendent Weitz listened to me complain I’d scheduled all our games away but hadn’t found anywhere within fifty miles to practice. Looked like we’d scrub baseball season.
District bus drivers, bachelor farmer Rabbit Jackson and his cousin Hands Maury, overheard when they came into the office to file weeklies. They both listened with unusual interest, then discussed a private matter. Jackson cornered me as I left.
“Farm’s five miles south on Meeker, then a mile west on Bluff Road. Pop by after school tomorrow. Gonna have something might interest you.”
So I did. At the side of the big barn, Jackson started, “Old Fordson’s scraper blade works pretty good. Field oughta do for practice. Barn side for a backstop. Outfield’s real good since I got the rough spots smoothed-out. No lights. Have to practice while the sun shines.”
Indeed. Jackson’s Fordson carved a diamond with a grassy infield, dirt basepaths, and left a huge velvet outfield. Minor league caliber except it was fenceless.
“Why, Jackson?” It was a stupid question, but it was on my mind.
“Maury and I figgered the kids need that team experience.”
“You play baseball in school?” Seemed obvious to me.
“Nah. Maury did. I can’t glove. Ran track. Back in sixty-one and sixty-two, Cleets Harrison, Pokey Schuman, Baggy Spencer and I took mile relay at state. I was anchor. Fast, too.”
“Oh, I see now…”
“Yunh. Name’s Robert. Nickname stuck. They do, you know?”
“Field sure looks nice, Mr. Jackson…”
“Rabbit. That bus coming down Bluff is Maury and your team. I gotta tend feeders. You got a team to get ready. Hands’ll help.” Jackson turned to leave.
The bus squealed to a stop. Everybody got to work.