Saturday, March 19, 2005

whinging persimmons

whinging -- that's the technical term for "throwing a really long ways" and i used a limber, green switch to perform that magnificent feat. that's what i was doing that day -- whinging persimmons. we all have to have a purpose in life and need something to occupy our time. that day, the summer before i turned 10, i was running short on things to do and didn't have much purpose in life, so whinging persimmons fit right in my schedule of events. since i didn't have any specific responsibilities at the time, i was expected to stay out of trouble while the older and more responsible people on the farm were working. that in itself was often a challenge!

it was a nice, hot summer day. i had ridden my motorcycle in the morning and found a persimmon tree down in the pasture. persimmons are about the size and consistency of a golf ball in late summer. we usually kept fairly good track of where the persimmon trees were because they were the most awful tasting things you could imagine. we always fed them to visiting city folks, just for kicks. persimmons were so tart and sour that a person's mouth just puckered up and went totally dry. like all the saliva in your mouth was suddenly sucked out, leaving a dry acidic taste. what people didn't realize was that persimmons are really delicious -- after the first freeze. then they are ripe, red and juicy and sweet. of course, those people who tried a green persimmon were not about to take a chance and try one again!

i picked a shirt-full, all that would fit in the front of my t-shirt w/ the bottom folded up. then i gave my shirt another roll up and tucked it tight around me to transport my treasure back to the house. when i arrived, i saw that a road crew was taking a break in our lane. they had a long-standing tradition of parking their trucks in the far driveway under the huge catalpa trees and resting in the shade for breaks and lunch. sometimes they even left their vehicles there overnight or over the weekend.

most of the guys on the crew knew my parents and had been there several times before. i didn't have anything else to do, so i decided to show off in front of the road crew and spend some time whinging persimmons. i was in the other yard, w/ my sharpened, green switch and a pile of persimmons. it's important to have a green switch when whinging persimmons, because the bendable limb provides the best whinging performance. the sharpened end made stabbing the hard, green persimmons easier. with a little luck and considerable skill, i could whing persimmons about 100 to 150 yards or more, over the highway and into the neighbor's field. that was what was so amazing about whinging persimmons -- they flew forever!

i was just getting warmed up, had a few good throws, and had the attention of a few of the workers. they had called out greetings and waved, just like normal. after a couple more throws, something unusual happened. right after i threw, one of the guys just dropped flat. he was an older man, the crew boss, and the other guys thought he'd had a heart attack. i was quicker than that, though, as i was fairly sure it had something to do w/ the persimmon that i had just thrown.
i took off running for the house like my butt was on fire, and i was pretty sure it would be if that man lying on the ground had anything to do w/ me and my persimmons. i raced in the back door, to get out of sight quicker, and then went on about my normal activities. i never mentioned the fallen man or the possible misplaced persimmon. no need to go looking for trouble, as it usually had a pretty good idea where i was at any given time.

nothing was ever said about the persimmon episode or the man who had collapsed in the front yard, so i assumed everything was cool. like i said, no need to go looking for trouble. what i didn't realize was the fallen man knew my parents and knew them fairly well. a couple months later when we were at the county fair, he happened to bump into my parents and did he ever have a funny story to tell them! or so he thought -- as my parents didn't see much humor in the story.

i was to meet my parents back at the pta stand, which is probably where they spent most of their night catching up w/ old friends and hearing the news. the problem was that they were hearing news they didn't much care for while the rest of the crowd was having a real knee-slapping guffaw out of it. after they had said their hellos to friends and neighbors, the road crew boss came up and started telling a story about how he had been out working near the campbell's last summer and just collapsed on the job. he told of how all his crewmen thought he'd had a heart attack and was dying. the crewmen were starting to get really worried, as they couldn't rouse the man at all, when one of them picked up a persimmon from the ground near the fallen man. as they looked up, they saw a little kid running for the house. they put the clues together and figured out that the persimmon had come from the kid throwing them in the yard. the fact that i was running to the house confirmed their suspicions. the persimmon that i had thrown had struck him in the left temple and knocked him unconscious. he had fallen right where he stood. looking at the shocked looks on my parents face, he realized that i had never told them about the incident, and then he thought it was that much funnier. he was not the least bit angry about the incident, and he thought that i was quite the intelligent (but ornery) kid to keep that information to myself!

i didn't know yet that i was busted, as i was off running around w/ my friends riding the rides. when i showed up at the pta stand, i noticed how my parents didn't look quite as happy to see me as everyone else, but i didn't know why. i ordered a hamburger and drink and sat down to eat. when i was done, we loaded up in the car and started home. i guess my parents figured 40 minutes in the car on the way home was enough to take care of my behavior discussion, so they didn't say anything about it until we were loaded up and on our way.

i was seated in the back of the car and it was dark, thank goodness. my dad said, "is there anything you'd like to tell us about?" and i was thinking "what kind of a stupid question is that?" if there was anything i wanted to tell them, i would've told them already, so i said, "uhm, no." so dad encouraged me to think real hard about something that i had done and maybe not told them about. the problem w/ that suggestion was that there were several things i had done and not told them about! i wasn't about to start confessing to things when i didn't know what they were fishing for. i had a whole list of things to choose from, too.

dad went on to tell me that they had met up w/ mr. simons at the fair, but that meant nothing to me. then he related their experience of mr. simons telling them a story about their kid hitting him w/ a persimmon, knocking him unconscious, and then running in the house. he also pointed out how embarrassing it was for to be told this story when he and mom had no idea what mr. simons was talking about. i didn't buy it, though, because i didn't think dad would've been too happy w/ the story told whether he knew about it in advance or not, but i decided not to argue that point right now. i was thinking, "i don't know why you're embarrassed, i was the one about to get into trouble!" dad was starting to see the humor in the situation, but i don't think mom saw the humor for several years. that didn't mean that i wasn't still in a heap of trouble for that escapade, but at least i had one parent was NOT set on killing me that night!

school started the next week, and i had a new teacher -- mrs. simons, the wife of the persimmon victim. of course, she had heard the story since the day it happened, and she knew that her husband was getting quite a kick out of the fact that i was in her class. after all, he could hear about my antics all year long! whenever he came to school for some reason, he always went out of his way to talk to me. i apologized for hurting him, as that was never my intention, but he was not upset over it.

we became good friends, and years later when i was in high school and a 9th grade starting player on the varsity volleyball team, he was my loudest fan. he always sat on the bottom row and near the door, probably so he could sneak out and smoke, and yelled and cheered like crazy as i was scoring points on serves. when i broke the state record on unreturned serves, he was the one keeping the count and pushing the coach to keep me in and substitute others out, especially those people that couldn't keep a volley going. he was my personal cheerleader!

when people expressed surprise that i could serve so fast and so hard that the other teams couldn't return them, he would just laugh and say "of course she can serve. she's been throwing persimmons like rockets for years, too. must have been good practice for serving volleyballs." then he would wink and give me the thumbs up.

by the end of my high school volleyball career, mr. simons was attending the games in a wheel chair. his legs didn't work anymore, but that hadn't dimmed his attitude, his excitement, or his determination. he was a great inspiration to me over the years, even though i didn't know him that well. i guess we had a special bond since he was the man i almost killed w/ a persimmon.

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