My brothers and I were all gangly, thin and somewhat scrawny kids. Daddy - he helped us make up for that by teaching us to be quick, good shots on the basketball court and willing to take a blow or two to keep up with the rest of the team. Unfortunately, even with those skills, I was still the scrawniest participant on the team and didn’t really get to stay on the basketball court that long.
My brother on the other hand took to the basketball court like a duck takes to water. He would study the moves of the Harlem Globetrotters and other great athletes and then hit our little homemade basketball court out by the barn. He would practice for hours, sometimes allowing me to guard or play horse with him and sometimes even allowing me to get a shot in. I think everyone who reads my stories already knows I thought my brother was the greatest person in the world.
When we moved to the farm, we had to change schools. We went from a rather large, multi-classroom “city” school to a small school that had no more than 200 students grades K-8. It was like a storybook schoolhouse with the biggest part of it being the gym and basketball court. Basketball was a big sport in that area so brother and I set out to make our mark. Again, brother did quite well. The larger and stronger farm boys quickly learned to respect his skill and his stamina. He didn’t mind taking a fall or two either if it meant scoring for the team. So, he spent most of the games on the court, usually came home with a black eye from bumping into an elbow or someone else’s forehead and spent a good deal of time in the emergency room getting x-rays for his bad knees and ankles.
At one particular ball game, we were playing a team of some really good and fast ball players. They were ALL big farm boys so we should have been intimidated but brother didn’t scare much. By we, I mean brother’s team of which I profoundly felt a part of! He had scored quite a few goals with his superman style lay-ups and his teamwork with the other players. They were playing like an orchestra with each player being the instrument that complimented each other player on the team. For some reason, this other team singled my brother out and decided to double team him. I assume they thought this would slow down the rest of them – picking on the small guy and making the rest of them frustrated. What they didn’t know is that brother of mine could take a fall and be a hero. He would much prefer that than having his team mates have to take up for him.
Brother really didn’t take into account the closeness of the gym wall to the boundary line under the goal. So, as they were going for the final lay-up, the ball was handed to brother. Brother expertly jumped as if to be making a lay-up and tossed the ball to another player accomplishing the fake off with amazing precision. The score was made and the two players tagging my brother managed to knock him completely into the wall!
The room fell silent. He was out cold but still standing on that wall. It was sort of strange seeing him standing there, arms limp beside him, still standing on the tops of his toes. By now the referees had designated the fouls and decided to get brother to go for the free-throw shots – we knew that wasn’t a challenge.
But, he was still there, suspended on that wall. Mom was so used to the injuries and visits to the emergency room, she just pretty much sat next to me calmly waiting for the coach or someone to tell her to go and get the station wagon to the front door of the school. Still…brother was there on that wall. By now, I had decided he was dead, referees were stirring around, our team was getting ready to beat up the other team for killing him…but he began to move.
Mom still calmly waiting in the stands next to me finally asked someone to let her know what was going on – “Do I need to get the car and have the doctor meet us at the emergency room”.
Coach came over to us and answered her question – “no ma’am, but you need to get his orthodontist because his braces are stuck in the wall!”. Not only did big brother knock a hole in the wall with his head, but his face was stuck in that hole because his braces wouldn't release the boards!
The crowd was calming and coach had a screwdriver literally prying brother out of the wall. Of course, no one yet knew short of family and a few team mates that brother was stuck in that position. When they finally got him loose, everyone was on their feet clapping, team mates were high fiving each other and referees were calling for a break in the action to determine who was going to make the free throw shots.
Brother made those shots and since it was close to the end of the game, Mother got the station wagon and we headed to the orthodontist who agreed to wait for us to get there. They must have spent hours removing those braces and the splinters that were stuck in them from brother’s teeth. Story is he still has teeth because of those braces. I don’t think he remembers a lot of that game, but everyone else in Lincoln County will never forget. Unfortunately the school burned down which destroyed the famous hole a few years later.
It doesn’t happen to everyone, but when your scrawny, quick and tough – I suppose you have to be willing to eat a wall or two to prove you can hang with the big guys!