"Your hands build me up when I'm sinking ... "
Dateline: Fingers in the Cake
I was sitting on the floor of his house, going through some scripts that he wrote. He would type, and then hand me the paper to read.
Most times I didn't say much. Sometimes I would change things; a word here or there, put a sentence in, take a sentence out.
And hand it back.
He would look at it, nod OK, and blend it into his copy. Then we would talk -- not of specific sports or athletes, but of the theory of sports, the feeling of sports, the sport of sports.
After a couple of months I was moving on to another assignment. Our last script was spread all around me on the wooden floor. I don't remember what the script was about, but during the writing of it, we talked of family, wives and children.
It was 2 o'clock on a Saturday afternoon, a New England fall day. As I was leaving, I stood on his porch step and shook his hand goodbye. This was the last thing Frank DeFord said to me, and it forever changed how I would cover sports:
"Don, remember, life is the greatest sport on this planet."
I remembered those words today as I stood amidst the wives of the B.A.S.S. Elite anglers, especially so as I felt a tiny child's hand grab a pant leg at the back of my knee.
Looking down, I saw the two-year-old face of Helen Faircloth, all covered in cake icing, looking up at me. I watched in slow motion as she stuck her mouth on my pant leg and wiped it all off.
I smiled as Helen toddled away, thinking about what Frank had told me years ago, knowing that I wasn't at a baby shower at all; I was, in fact, right in the middle of covering the greatest sport on this planet.
And the blue icing on my pant leg proved it.
Ladies of the Lakes
I am a lump of a bewildered human being without my wife around.
Had not it been for meeting and marrying Barb, I would never have written one word as a professional. I write because Barb has my back.
And whether they admit it or not, the same holds true for the married Elite anglers out here on the trail. I can't tell you how many times I have been around the ladies when a call will come in from their husbands out practicing -- they need a battery, or a certain type of lure, this thing, that thing -- and off the lady goes.
NO ONE ON THIS TOUR FISHES ALONE.
The cameras may show you one dude alone on a boat catching a fish and jumping all over the place, but trust me, this is a team sport at its best.
I know that because I see it.
I see the cell phones in the ladies' back pockets, always on when their husbands are out there on the water.
I see them hunkered over their smart phones reading the BASSTrakk thing. I see them standing alone on the shore, or alone at the end of the dock, scanning the horizon. Looking for the colors of their boat.
I have felt the tightness of their grip on my arm, then felt it loosen as their boat, and their husband, came into view.
So, next time the camera zooms in on a lone dude in his boat sticking a bass in front of the lens and being all He-Man about it, remember this is a team sport -- and that not too far away the rest of the team stands waiting.
The Ladies of the Lakes.
Tiny Fingers, Big Cake
I am the only guy over the age of 12 in the room. Even though I know everyone in the room, I don't want to be here. I want to be anywhere else. I can best explain it like this: It's the feeling you get when you go to the dentist and he tells you it's no big deal, and that you shouldn't need any Novocain.
But he is wrong.
And there is nowhere to run.
That's pretty much how it feels to go to a baby shower when you're not the father of the baby. Even then, just showing up to pick up the gifts and high-tailing it out of there, it's a change-the-shorts kind of experience.
But I am, sort of, like, you know, the collective Grandpa. So I try to sneak into Kohl's at dinnertime when most people aren't shopping and buy two very soft stuffed animal things, grab two gift bags that almost fit the stuffed animal things if I shove them a couple times, and scoot out the front door, basically unharmed.
Basically … I forgot the darn cards.
Right now at family B.A.S.S we, actually not me but others, are having a baby boom. We have eight new babies either here now, or about to be here. Got showers planned all over America, I think.
This shower was for Becky Iaconelli and her and Mike's new baby, Vegas Michael Iaconelli, who is also attending in person; and for Norma McCaghren, who with husband Billy is expecting a baby in about eight weeks or so. (Don't hold me to that exact number, because you have to remember the only thing I was thinking about when I was asking for facts was how quick I could get out of this baby shower thing.)
So I'm taking pictures of the baby shower cake, sizing up the room and the size of the cake -- doing the quick cake-eating math and figure I can get at LEAST a couple pieces before the ladies go noticing -- when I notice that the cake has been jacked. Someone has been doing finger tasting, and it looks to be tiny fingers.
Thank goodness for tiny fingers, because as soon as the ladies see it I know I will be finger printed for cake residue.
Snap, snap, snap. Take photos of the cake, the kids, the ladies, stand by the door checking the photos and then make a quick exit. Suddenly I feel a tug on my pant leg, back behind the knee, where tugs are still available.
When I look down to about the two-foot level, I see 2-year-old Helen Faircloth looking up at me, smiling.
Her face is covered in frosting the color of the tiny fingers on the cake.
And then she takes her cute little frosting-covered face and rubs it in my pant leg.
My Droid does it's "you've-got-a-text-message-alert" thing, and once I find where I left the Droid, I hit the message symbol and I see Kelly Jordon is texting me. When I click on it I see the most amazing photo of the day, if not the year.
I see Kelly and Keri's baby.
And the baby isn't born yet.
Back when Barb and I were having our children Barb would get an ultrasound and they would hit print and hand me the sheet and say doesn't that blob on the paper look so cute.
And I would always shake my head yes, even though all I could see was this island thing in the middle of some ocean floating around in Barb's belly.
Then the doc would come in give it a quick look-see and congratulate me on the son coming my way in a couple of months.
And in a couple months, we had Ashley. My daughter.
On the photo from Kelly I can see a child. I can see Kelly and Keri's future. I can see my friends, in miniature.
"Keri and I both are going to pick out her first name since I wanted it to be Ruby."
"Ruby," I say with about the same inflection I think Keri also used.
"Yeah, I know, so that will be her middle name."
"Something" Ruby Jordon will be joining us around June 3rd, and her pink nursery is already waiting for her back home in Texas. Then Kelly, who is not one lost for words, tells me this:
"db, that photo I sent you, I'm out here idling through a canal during practice, and my phone beeps and when I pick it up I'm looking at my daughter for the first time. It was the first time I ever laid eyes on her."
And then Kelly Jordon is lost for words.
He needs only one though.
"Touch me and my troubles all fade."
Don Barone is an award-winning outdoors writer and a member of the New England Outdoor Writers Association and the Outdoor Writers Guild of the U.K. You can reach db at www.donbaroneoutdoors.com.