When I was 12 years old my Dad retired from the Navy and we bought our first farm. It was a pretty basic and simple farm. Among all the animals that we had we had six milk cows. The milk we got from them we ran through a hand crank seperator, sold the cream to a local creamery and fed the skim milk to our pigs. It was my job to milk by hand two of the cows before and after school and help Dad separate the milk. Because of the strength that I got in my hands and forearms from milking two cows twice a day I was the champion on the monkey bars of all the boys from the fifth grade up through the eighth grade. I think of all the sports that I was involved in growing up the monkey bars is the only thing I really excelled at. Oh yeah, I used to whip everybody in marbles too.
Though I never did very well in any sport I went out for everything and worked very hard in practice. I was determined to become the best at something. Through High School I wrestled, played basketball, ran track and cross country, in college I played basketball and baseball, and was mostly a reserve spending most of my time on the bench. It wasn’t until after I graduated from college, was married and farming that I finally became a champion.
Our little community of Trout Lake, Washington had an annual fair. Klickitat county had the county fair in Goldendale, but all the dairy cows in the county were in Trout Lake so we held the annual Dairy Show in Trout Lake, and it developed into quite the country fair. We had a greased pig chase, a lamb riding contest, porcupine races, ax throwing, cross cut saw competition, and a variety of other unique contests. One of them was a three-man tug-of-war contest. My brother and brother-in-law and I formed a team. There were a number of teams, and we probably pulled four or five times before we got to the championship pull against the Clark boys. They were at least twice as heavy as we were. The pull lasted for a long time because we dug holes with our boots, laid down and just hung on. After awhile they got tired and we easily pulled them across the line. Our prize was a six-pack of warm Nesbitt’s Orange soda pop.
Even though it has been many years ago I often think about the hours and hours of after-school practice times, the hours-long bus rides to games, the disappointment of not playing much, and the frustration of losing again. Sports was a major factor in my character development as a kid and as a young man. Managing my pride and self-talk so that I always worked as hard as I could even though it was usually in vain. Sincerely celebrating the success of others who were playing while I watched from the bench. Mentally dealing with the trash talk and put-downs that I usually received from those who played a lot and were better than I was.
Now I am 74 years old and I often think, life is funny, a mystery, God, indeed, worked all things together for my character development to make me as much like Jesus as possible.