Passages – A Marriage I Was Actually Involved In

Make no mistake, this post – more than perhaps any I have ever posted in this blog – is strictly personal. But it is also highly celebratory – another avenue to express my hopes and deepest love for a newly-embarked mission of Love into their very own and undoubtedly unique family and on into Infinity as a new constellation made up of so-willing participants……..Hey – my family expanded last weekend.

The metaphor of Mark Twain’s where he mentioned “I spent the coldest Winter of my life one summer in San Francisco” has always seemed the best-abbreviated single statement about a complex situation in my personal reading history. Well, I think I might have my own answer to that, after this last week:

“I had the most meaningful experience of my life celebrating someone else’s marriage last weekend”. 😉

In this case, of course, I am referring to giving away my very own daughter, Alena, to her very agreeable choice of a man who I actually both like and admire. I spent an entire visit to San Diego in an emotional oven which I would not have traded for anything in this entire known world.

This picture pretty much says it all……………

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After 19 full months of my life’s very first medical challenges including literally learning to walk – twice! – the timing of the wedding of Alena and Greg fit so perfectly into the “What I most need now” category, it had to be designed by a physical and spiritual therapist.

My most recent road to here has been winding and full of stops and starts, punctuated unfortunately mostly by “stops”. To say ‘I had a bad experience’ is an understatement of rare dimension. As I mentioned in my Father of the Bride Speech at the reception, I first met my daughter’s husband over Skype on my computer at home. Stuck as they are all the way out in San Diego, 2,500 miles from Dad, it was the only method of actually seeing people while completely unable to walk 100 feet without a cane. Make that 10 feet, actually. That’s how bad it was.

I remember that call as if it were yesterday……. Alena and I had planned it and it finally unfolded as I sat here in my social media cockpit, completely reluctant and nervous about putting my face on the screen. I weighted about 130 pounds at the time (“Like I had taken a taxi straight from Auschwitz”, is how I framed in in my speech, lol)  but what we were celebrating at my end was the relative fixing which had finally occurred following a mistake in a surgical procedure for me. It had cost me – plenty.

(I may as well confess also that it was the lowest ebb of my entire life…………bar none)

So I answer her call and I see them and I punch up the camera on my computer linking us and I get this monster smile out of them both as my mug appeared to them. It was the first time I had met Greg, although I had had conversations about him with Alena. She was pretty in love, lol. Hey – works for me!! 😉

The long and short is how impressed I was with Greg. We dominated the conversation as Alena could tell I was pushing and prodding, lol, in my predictable protective fashion. We were able to laugh as a crowd and I couldn’t help but notice his jokes were completely as lame and dreadful as my own. We have a winner!!!!!!!!!!!!! Oh Lord, still my thrice-beating heart!!

“Dayem, Cletus, I dunno but something in me says I shore hope she keeps this feller!!” 😉

We laughed and cajoled our way through this initial conversation – and later ones as well, but hardly as refreshing or as noteworthy as my first meeting with Greg – which went for at least an hour of leisurely pace and relaxed exchanges. Note too, this was long before he popped the Big Question. (And which question, it very much bears noting, he called me privately later to seek my approval…………a moment I will treasure forever and ever……….(LOL, as I also said in my little speech – “The truth is, you had me at the ringtone!”, lol)

At the time, I was just enjoying my daughter’s boyfriend and delighted to see he embodied many of the values I also admire, such as hard work, a tendency to sacrifice and a way human urge to help others as a fireman, EMT and now Safety Supervisor for the largest electrical contractor in America, Par Electric. That he was a nut very much like me was just a bonus and probably predictable, for all you deep personality scientists out there. 😉

Here is Greg now, sporting his marrying socks and a pose for the Ages:

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And this is what he thinks of my daughter:

(That would be me fiddling with my cam on the right and hooting a little with the rest of us, lol.)
13061921_10208069113378312_960597819837344805_nThe bottom line in all this is the remarkable restorative power of Alena and Greg’s so obvious love for one another and its effects on me and my strictly personal health. It was a shot in the arm like a tsunami of enforced Loving. I have been suffused with love – just drunk as hell on it – and I don’t plan on forgetting it in all of the time remaining in my days of abusing the Earth.

The social ritual of marriage is such a cleansing, hopeful and refreshing moment. We welcome each into the wider world as they form a small nucleus of their own bright new planet. Our hopes cling to them now going forward as they inhale all of our best angels on a daily basis. We have, as a group who are so willing to love them until the end of time, ushered them most supportively into their next phase as adults – the phase of forming their own family as free adults. As a rite of passage, marriage is easily the very most hopeful. The delicacy of life and love could not have a more splendid send-off than what occurred on that magical weekend in San Diego. It was muscular.

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There are moments in life which build a prior momentum of their own and which we recognize only when they unfold before our doubting eyes. These moments are the Treasury of our existences. Their preciousness has no competition – they are galaxies which extend our souls into those of others – in delirious Joy! – as we experience the common human mutuality of all of our collective emotions, hopes and fears – in this case, invested in the fallible and starkly hopeful persons who we try to influence in the very best of ways. This precious couple embody everything that matters in this world of ours. Our Idealism is never more clear than when we participate in the rite of marriage. This was never made more clear than 6 days ago. I was stunned by its impact and I still am.

Back to the theme of selfish entertainment……… 😉  Did it make me healthier?

Ha ha, that one is easy. How about this?:  “I never felt better in my life!!” 😉

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(You can tell, lol) 😉

So it has gone from this…………….

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To this:

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And now this old fart is crying again, lol. 😉

Y’all know I wouldn’t trade it for anything in this world. Absolutely nothing. It may well have been the very best day of my entire life. Already and gratefully rich in friends, I am now richer in family. How does it get better?

Brick Pavers – More Exotic

This is another of those posts I went and added onto substantially, having originally produced it in 2010.

As everyone should understand by now, I am a huge fan of brick paver surfaces. I have found nothing – nothing at all – comes close to their durability. The other inherent quality brick pavers offer is simply their beauty. Well designed surfaces gain immense visual power by being coordinated by color and even texture in a landscape. And since this rather new field opened up rapidly, it has been a chore to try and keep up with all the innovations, colors, types and styles of interlocking bricks. But what a pleasant chore it is. In this post, we examine the future, taking a peek around the corner at what seems destined to emerge. At the same time, we’ll investigate what we have available at this time. I believe it is of a surprising range.

What is the future, then, of brick pavers?  Have all creative avenues been blocked owing to their new popularity or are there people out there discovering new ways of experiencing the art of driveway and Piazza construction? The answer to that touches on our personal and community expectations regarding our outdoor environments.  I am more than pleased to say that the future is very bright indeed, as can be seen in this tiny sampling relating to the possibilities inherent in the paving art.

Brick pavers have evolved to such an extent that pictures such as the one above now represent a possibility that never existed before in a non-modular form.  The freeing up of ideas based on modularity and small sectioned pieces represents amazing possibilities for the enterprising designer.

Here are some other examples of what could happen and has: The first one below was designed on a computer using musical references in a mathematical formula….”resonances”, I believe the architect mentioned. It is a visual second in time of music as it would appear on an oscilloscope. It is from a Toronto, Canada plaza outside a facility that features music. I can only imagine the contractor scratching his head over the placement of the pavers, lol. Like many architects, they design, we install.  “Figure it out and make it work.” is a common enough statement.  Just the same, it is a fascinating bit of work, beyond doubt.

Here’s your standard average serenidpitous piece of driveway reckoning, a little on the whimsical side and surely not for everyone.  I just enjoy the fantastic sort of element of it all, myself and, yes, I would use it.

Look out!  This one is a mind blower, lol, all pavers.

Aside from the whimsical, however, are other sizes and style of pavers a bit more standard, yet still interesting, allowing many different possibilities as well. These are your larger compressed concrete pavers that are also seeing wide usage any more.

This example hails from a project we undertook in Portland, Oregon at a very successful Christmas Tree farm. The owner has just successfully re-commissioned his entire home as a sun-catcher…….he drew so much solar power that he literally offered his own power up to the grid and was compensated by the local power company. He had a small outbuilding which was completely filled with marine batteries. Really interesting guy.

Never one to let any potential sun get away – especially in often-dreary Portland – we erected a small pond out front for purposes of fire protection as well as for the reflection from the Eastern and Southern Sun to bounce off the water onto his living room ceiling where he had more collectors. 😉

Now this one is just pretty, lol. I liked the mixed colors. The view out the back is awesome ….this home straddled a ridge top, offering expansive views in all directions.

As hinted in the original picture above, people such as my hero in atristic nuttery like Isamu Noguchi were long ahead of the game. That plaza at Chase Manhatten Bank in NYC is among my 7 wonders of the hardscaping world.

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But Noguchi’s work in stone may be his very best. This is from his museum in Costa Mesa, Califonria.

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An overview:

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Back to the “somewhat normal”, lol, we have this, from a man who specializes in Labyrinths, of all things. http://labyrinthsinstone.com/ is his website and it is well worth a gander.

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This could go on. 😉 A lot of creative minds have been on this project of modernizing and making art out of the surfaces we walk on. This also occurred for thousands of years before now, dating back to Greek and Roan ruins where the gorgeous tiles and paintings drawn centuries ago last until this very day.

This ancient Greek floor below was discovered recently in Turkey, proving that humans have lavished beauty and much thought into what they walk on.

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A Serious Post Involving Nature And Food

A recent picture-taking jag dating back to my visit to the warm climes of San Diego as it rained in tropical Monsoon-style back in Louisville – where it was also warmer, lol – lets me catch up with events of a very modest and most natural nature.

We’ll begin with something serious.

(Know also that left clicking on pictures can enlarge them. Clicking twice on some of these makes it even cooler) 😉

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Moving right along, what follows is more or less random. For everyone’s Peace of Mind, having said that, I think it might be best to begin with at least one other picture of San Diego flora before we launch into the natural homeliness of a Kentucky Winter……a season I have found fascinating this year for some reason or another……..

The brilliance of succulents in general but of the understandably common Ice Plants in particular, have always completely grabbed my attention. Mixed into this picture is a rather ungainly Yucca/Aloe specimen which somehow manages to make the grade owing to its brilliant blooms. A nasty creature with amazingly sharp little pricks on the succulent-like leaves, I could be an ideal addition to a garden which someone spent too much time in. Just backing into could be the lesson of a lifetime. 😉

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Moving along now and recalling the downpour I described “back in Kentucky” during my coastal doings, in my return, I took a trip up the road a very small piece to visit one of my favorite Louisville parks – Beckley Creek Park. A part of a greater park system of recently constructed vintage, this park shines as an outstanding example of the new movement of city parks everywhere going “natural”.

Here is the Beckley Creek Portion, complete with its own website:
http://www.theparklands.org/Parks/Beckley-Creek-Park 

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This fascinating, $120 Million park system has become a deep and quantitatively huge geographical investment as an urban feature. Complete with walking and biking trails which will eventually comprise a 100 mile circle around Louisville, the islands of concentrated activity mix a delightfully-landscaped and architecturally pleasing bunch of elements together with a cleaned-up and only-somewhat-groomed natural environment.

Where the absurd richness of the Spring, Summer and Autumn’s deciduous glories abound in Kentucky, I was also pleased to see the contrast of Minimalist Landscaping Designs around the buildings of the park. Used for many purposes – from weddings and parties to your standard average dog park to conventions and educational experiences drawing Nature Lovers, the park answers the bell with resounding merits.

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From the other side of this building, we see the “Real” reason for its location, while this side of it expresses some genuine art for design freaks such as myself. Considering the dull gray skies and apparent skeletons of trees so common in a Kentucky Winter landscape, the dried old grasses, the solitary limestone boulder and the now-barren and ruined bed of perennial flowers and scrawny shrubs in the foreground still manage to gather the eye in a most-rewarding way.

Here, then, is the other side of the same building:

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And here is a better look at the creek it sits beside, now still somewhat swollen from the aforementioned rains. Yes, that is a working farm and barn in the distance.

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The creek I found totally fascinating. There are roughly a billion and one ways to view the creek itself, all within walking distance from parking spots along the road coursing through the park. As an historical presence, Beckley Creek has lots of historical stories, from Revolutionary times onward.

Closer to the Shelbyville Road entrance is my favorite perspective. A short walk from the car leads you though a path into an entire world of creekness. Huge Sycamore, Hickory and Walnut trees abound, as well, in summer, as a near-impenetrable set of bushes and shrubs, many of whom flower at different times of the warmer year, some of which are an allergy sufferer’s nightmare, such as Goldenrod in profuse quantities.

But it is this past Winter we are dealing with now. Here is a deceptively passive-looking creek view back upriver under so many now-barren deciduous trees……..

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What seems rather placid from this particular angle is really not so much. The higher water is typically brown like this from the collection of silts alongside the water frm rain runoff. What it can provide is a somewhat amazing sensuality as this liquid mass gets yet another angle:

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The storm’s after effects are vivid:

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Those collected leafs, caught in the spines of naked shrubbery testify to the incredible force brought to bear in the rushing floodwaters of that week.The height is completely telling – it was high!

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Alongside the trail down to this area, I noticed other damage.

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A completed cycle of growth and death stand right in front of us as we see the demise of a once-strapping young buck of a tree toppled over by the erosion at its base. It’s neighbor, already ancient beside it, stands drunkenly alongside a new aspirant, completing what was for me at the time a very moving tableau – a story of raw nature, cycles, time and the surprises in store for us all, tree or no tree. While there seems to be ugliness galore in the plain and uninteresting colors shown at this time of the year – and at such odds with the more outrageously vivid beauty and fullness for the other 3 seasons – the mind gets stricken by thoughts of passages in this gloom. This is merely one of the lessons available at this gorgeously abundant park.

Well, as luck would have it, then I came home to this rewarding scene:

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And there was another treat in store as well. Tom;s daughter Meagan and her man Jeff had sent an Amaryllis plant to us for Christmas. Not only that, but a Chocolate cake that was so rich, only I could handle it!! 😉 Which I did, for the record, like that would fool anyone who knows me.

I had a tough time getting pictures of the Amaryllis exactly right, but I managed a few as it began blooming, the first one recognizable as shot with a flash at night……..:

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Later, now ensconced safely and semi-permanently on Mother’s desk, daylight helped show off its color and textural softness:

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Obviously, I really like the plant, as do the rest of us.

OK. Here’s a random Stork at the Portland, Oregon Chinese Garden. I’m a Stork fan. 😉

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And this here is a look upward inside Gaudi’s massive 120 year old construction project of a catherdral in Barcelona. I thought they did that well, personally.

This picture is especially interesting when enlarged. I am sure Antonio intended this. 😉

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Jack Hicks – A Humble Legend

Jack passed away this morning, September 29th. I’ll recirculate this for another round in case someone out there has not yet read it. I have grown so close to him.

How many of us have met a Legend? I mean in the flesh – shook his or her hand, spoken with for a substantial period? Among a few modest others – some of whom I can name to their surprise – I have indeed met one of these Beings.

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His name is Jack Hicks and he is a former high school teacher, now retired, of Government/Political Science, something he has always taken very seriously and the results of which even hijinks-obsessed young men such as myself learned from about the workings of our governments. He also ran a vital organism in his town, the entertainment venue which seated 5,000 people comfortably for such events as the traveling Duke Ellington Band and those bizarre Dick Clark Rock and Roll Caravans. Jack ran the Parks and Recreation Department for Owensboro, Kentucky where I found my first, very nepotistic job.

Jack Hicks was also the coach of Owensboro High School’s baseball team.

Was he ever. In 22 years of coaching Owensboro High, Jack’s teams won 606 ballgames, The overall record of 606-196 includes the fact that Jack attempted not only to schedule games to play every single day of the season – with doubleheaders on weekends – but that he would play the best teams who would dare to schedule him. Games in Illinois and Indiana were not the slightest bit unusual, particularly inasmuch as Owensboro is on the Ohio River. It was a festival for those lucky enough to find themselves playing for Jack.

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This is “us”, at the end of the Regional Final game. (I am the very middle guy, 😉  ).  There is another picture lying around somewhere of us after the State Final game. Believe me when I say the expressions are far less serious!

Jack won four state championships in 1964, 1969, 1976 and 1977. My younger brother played on the 1969 team. Under his direction, the Red Devils won 20 district titles and 15 regional tournaments. I was fortunate enough to play shortstop on Jack’s 1964 team, his first Championship, for a team he now sometimes refers to as one of his “favorites”. Here’s the real news – the team the year before us was 43-2 on the year and lost in the Finals to Louisville Manual High School – the reigning power team at the time. When we won our regional tournament in ’64, Jack was quoted before our run that “this is not one of my better teams”, lol. He may or may not have realized it, but he probably served to make us pay just a bit more attention. Sure enough, we brought home the trophy, as unlikely as that seemed at the origins. The truth is, what he prepared meant that any team he put on the field was now able to win it all – at any point in time.

Anyway – and this is every bit as relevant, if not more so –  he also coached the local American Legion team – the totally wonderfully-named Owensboro ‘Velvet Bombers’ – to a total of 10 State Championships. Jack was the instigator of a revival of a titanic baseball love in a town which had embraced teams in the Pre World War 2 years and which had always had a small love affair with the game. Jack simply made it grow.
Here is a look at the 1937 high school team. They look ready!
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Beginning with Little League’s start in the 50’s, Jack worked with the organization known as Owensboro Youth Baseball to keep the topic and sport very much at the forefront of young men’s minds. The later legacy of all this was the establishment of a virtual powerhouse of female sports as well, also stemming from Jack’s work in this this absurdly sports-centered town which Sports Illustrated called the Number One Sporting Town in Kentucky in its 50th Anniversary edition. (click this link here)

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So what are the chances a kid with an atrophied leg, ravaged by polio at the age of 2, would become one of the greatest names in a sport? Jack will wince at this description – as he undoubtedly has throughout his life – and it does not remotely even bear on his achievements – not for someone who was far too active-minded and ambitious to dwell on any personal impediment. It is the superficial package which hides him and which acts as that immediate persona which we all also wear, just in different clothing.

It bears because he had an obvious handicap, nothing more than that. Whereas we all have “handicaps” as well, he had what may have been the good fortune to encounter his own personal impediments a few decades earlier than the rest of us. The rest of us are also hampered by maybe our poor self-esteem or maybe its opposite – unencumbered entitlement – or our handicaps of prejudice in all its guises. No matter, because in the end the bittersweet lessons of life will pound us all into motes of dust, where all we leave behind is our various legacies.

Jack, in this regard, was and is an absolute Giant.

Jack’s essential character not only produced fabulously talented ball players, but he also shepherded young men through their high school years focusing on the discipline required to play as a team and to maximize potentials. He was a disciplinarian of unquestioned power who led by example, ironically, a tactic which succeeded beyond any measure. His players and coaches became such luminaries as esteemed doctors, lawyers, business persons and one – Tom Meredith – Chancellor at both The University of Alabama and of U of Georgia as well. David Watkins – who saw time at the AAA level and who hit tape measure home runs as a high schooler – is now President of Jewish Hospital in Louisville and widely-regarded as one of the foremost doctors in the United States. Jim Howes, now an attorney practicing in Louisville, not only pitched our team to the afore-mentioned State Championship, but also won the State Championship in the discus and shot put, then went to Tulane on a basketball scholarship. Jim also became the world’s largest Green Beret in one of their very first classes, during the Viet Nam conflict. All of Jack’s players did well in later life – well, almost all. His legacy is often even overlooked by his protege’s, his touch was so deft. Jack’s talent was people. That he loved baseball may have been incidental to where they all ended up.

And having said that made me throw up a little in my throat, because it’s probably both less and more than that. The “inside baseball” tricks, knowledge, and sporting IQ of Jack Hicks’ players was always outside the known envelope. We traveled in some rare air, in my opinion, verified by results.

Strictly Personal – Recollections

Readers of this blog might be surprised to know my goal as a child never varied for 15 years: to play baseball for the rest of my life. I was pretty good, too. I was one of those kids who stood out as an 11 and 12 year old Little League ballplayer, bashing homers, pitching and fielding my way onto All Star teams and excelling there as well. This continued into high school where I encountered Jack at Owensboro Senior High School. Playing for Jack was equal parts incredibly good luck and an absolute learning adventure.

Somehow, in that Spring of 1964, as a wide-eyed inexperienced 10th grader, I made the team and was able to travel to Paducah, Kentucky for our first games of the season over Spring Break – we had scheduled a doubleheader with a local high school there. In what still seems a blur, our starting shortstop broke his finger in infield practice for that first game and I received my first starting assignment – a position I maintained for the next 3 years. I’ll absolutely never forget my nerves prior to the first ball being hit to me. The guys around me were all these big borderline “heroes-from-a-distance” and suddenly I found myself not only in the midst, but playing shortstop.

I thought my hair had caught fire!

We did fine. In fact, we did fine all that year. We won Jack’s first of 4 Kentucky High School  State Championships, we did so fine. That also made my hair catch fire. 😉

His too. 😉

The baseball incidents encountered under Jack’s tutelage could scroll on for literal miles. Back then, before rules limited the number of games teams could play, Jack scheduled us to play games every single day, with doubleheaders on weekends. We had 2 seasons I can recall with records of 36-11 and 25-9 (a year of too many rain-outs).  The above-mentioned Velvet Bombers also played – every single day or night, all Summer long, after the high school season ended. These games included Sundays as well, yet another opening for playing ball. Oh, the stories.

For a baseball kid like me, imagine those drives through Springtime’s lime green young leaves of those dense, sweet-smelling Kentucky forests en route to play baseball, of all things. I’d find myself in one of the big old 1960’s convertibles driven by some other hilarious kid equally giddy over our great good fortune, allowed out of school for the last period for purposes of travel, crammed in with 5 other guys with mayhem and baseball in mind, as serious as apprentice monks except when the comic or anarchistic urge hit – and it did – laughing our way to another game of baseball.

I’ve been to Heaven is what I often tell people. And Jack Hicks was an affable, smart, but thoroughly uncompromising “God”. He also hated losing, which, fortunately, didn’t happen all that often. He made good players and he made much of the system that produced them.

A couple years ago, during a quite improbable run of yet another Owensboro team to the State Final Game, Jack attended and was announced to the thousands in attendance. This was not his first acknowledgment to these crowds – he had been elected to the Kentucky High School Hall Of Fame much earlier. The ovation – according to those in attendance – was pretty off the charts. They honored who in my humble opinion – and that of countless others – was the greatest high school baseball coach in the history of the State of Kentucky.

I am so honored to write my little unasked-for piece on this shy and great person that it causes me to well up at the memories – all so equal parts triumphant, humiliating (hey, that’s sports!), fascinating and so full of the cooperative sweat equity earned by honest effort and shared by team mates with whom I still speak. I love it all.

Thanks, Jack. For everything – and that’s a lot of stuff!