Of men and postholes: in search of a convenient, labor saving device Sunday, May 31 2009 

posthole diggerTwin handles of the post-hole digger protruding from the posthole along the line of a new fence: Is this a labor-saving device, or a labor-making device?

Considering the alternative, i.e. digging the holes with a shovel or, even worse, a sharpened stick, the twin-bladed post-hole digger is a labor-saving device.  But anyone who has used one for more than ten or fifteen minutes understands that the qualification “labor saving” is truly relative.

For that old-fashioned posthole digger is a very mean and primitive machine: a hernia makin’, blister breakin’, bone shakin’, sweat-n-dust cakin’, breath takin’ tool not designed for the faint of heart (or for lazy people).

So I’m relieved that, for the job at hand at son Zach’s place where I volunteered my unskilled fence-building assistance Saturday, we principally used the old-fashioned tool only for cleaning out  debris left by the extraction of the bit on the REAL posthole digger, a gas-powered eight-inch auger that digs holes with considerably greater efficiency than the  man-powered tool.

hole digging machineOf course, operating the gas powered machine was hardly a waltz in the flower garden: It’s grinding twist and torque requires two men to wrestle and hold it in place, and over the course of 20 or 25 eighteen inch holes, the handle bars will rub blisters with alacrity unsurpassed by Papaw’s handtool.

So yes, “labor saving” is a relative term, particularly as applied to the task of fence building.  I’m glad I only do it once every 20 or 30 years.

Bengals Baseball Blog: Final chapter, 2009 Thursday, May 28 2009 

The bus is headed home.  The ball didn’t bounce the Bengals’ way in this afternoon’s elimination round, as they came out on the short end.  I don’t feel particularly inspired to write much about the game itself, because disappointment casts a heavy damper on the powers of invention.  Suffice it to say the other team won, and our folks and friends and family are on their way home.  The bus is humming southbound on I-35 through central Oklahoma even as I write, about 9:00 p.m., since there just wasn’t any good reason to spend another night.  Bengal dugout

Rather than write about the loss, I’ll just try to put the situation in perspective.  Let’s go back to last fall.  Here was a brand new flock of freshmen.  Only one starting position player from the 08 World Champion team returned, and we found out he was lost for the season with an injury even before the fall ball exhibition season started.  So here were all these unproven 18 year olds (along with a couple of equally unproven but significantly more mature 24 year old ex-Marines, who had an impact on the season that no one would have imagined!).

I recall watching practice back then with my  Bengal Stadium pressbox  buddy, Mr. Fee.  We’d scratch our heads and look at one another, wondering out loud, “Is this gonna be a long season?”  The boys looked and acted like high school kids at times.  Even Coach Willis in those days conceded that whatever team emerged from this freshman class would likely take some lumps early on, although I believe he saw enough talent to believe they could make a decent stand by the second half of the season.

Anyway, we lowered our expectations.  And the season started.  Except for that anomalous game at Panola early on, all this team seemed to do was brutalize opponents’ pitching.  Few games, especially home games, seemed to last beyond five or six innings because of the “mercy killing” ten-run rule.  But even two-thirds of the way through the season, when I’d ask Coach Orgaine about his squad with the gaudy won-loss record they were amassing, his remarks were cautious, amounting to “Let’s not get the hopes up too high . . . we are beating up on mediocre teams, etc etc,  so what?”

By the end of the season, though, and then the way they handled themselves in the Regional tournament, most of us were willing to compare them to last year’s national champs.  On paper, the stats were comparable.  On the field, the skill and character showed in the way they played that aggressive brand of what I call “Bengal Ball.”  They were brutally impressive in the regional tournament, clearly in a class above the competition.  So we sent them to Enid, brimming with confidence that the LSUE Bengals were the team to beat.

And they truly were, regardless of what happened in Enid.  In fact, I’m not going to lower my estimation of this gang.  First of all, they hardly bowed out meekly in the early rounds of the Series. Except for today’s loss, they were formidable opponents to whomever lined up in the opposing dugout.   The ball can bounce funny ways at this level of competition, to the degree that (in my opinion) the team that wins the championship has to have a little luck  to go along with its talent.  Today, for sure, we had no luck at all (no excuse for getting beat, mind you!).

Also, this team will be back next year.  (Remember: all of the position players are freshmen!).  I’ll predict right now that LSUE will return to the World Series next year, and they’ll be a year older and bigger and stronger, physically as well as mentally.  If they keep their heads screwed on straight, look out, NJCAA Division II!

Finally, I can’t lower my estimation of these kids because I’ve rooted too hard for them all year long to turn away from them.  I think I can truly say I’m as proud of them tonight on their way home, eliminated, as I’d be if this were Saturday night and they were coming home with the championship trophy stowed in the bus’s luggage compartment.   Shucks, they’re our guys!

And in addition to “our guys,” of course, there’s my girl.  Above, I posted the  dugout picture  from Enid in this “good night” tournament  blog because daughter and Bengal student trainer Ann is right in the middle of all those baseball players, just like she’s been the past two years.  I’m sorry I wasn’t able to see this last round of games in person, so I’m grateful to radio station KVPI, the voice of Bengal sports, for posting that photo in a tournament gallery on the station’s website.ws_web

So what else is there to say about Bengals Baseball 2009?  Maybe I’ll have more thoughts in days to come, but for tonight, this is a good state to leave it.  We pray for their safe passage home, for happy reunions with family and friends, and find solace in the refreshing thought that next season will arrive in due course.

Bengals Baseball Blog: Games 3-4 Wednesday, May 27 2009 

Game 3 ended past my bedtime last night, and since I was out of the office all day, I didn’t have a chance to post any blogservations.  The boys lost, so perhaps it’s just as well that I wait until this evening after a victory in game 4 transpired.ws_web

We lost game 3 Tuesday evening to Scottsdale CC, 5-4.  I can’t remember our team scoring only four runs in a nine inning game all year.  They faced perhaps the toughest pitcher, a lefty, that they’ve seen (and our team, with those hard-swinging left-handed batters, has shown some propensity this year to struggle against lefties).  Anyway, from what I saw of the game, I don’t believe it’s fair to single out anybody or anything as the reason for the loss.  Our starter, Stefan Comeaux, threw an outstanding game on our side, making Scottsdale work very hard to earn their runs.  Gosh, it’s the World Series–the best of the best, so we expect close games.

The loss, of course, made game 4 this afternoon a potential elimination bout for the Bengals, and the worthy opponent was L. B. Wal12 Brennan Flicklace from Alabama, a team we played during the regular season (and beat) but who finished ranked 4th in the nation (LSUE was first).  This game lived up to its billing, too.  We ran our ace ex-Marine, Chance Mistric, back to the mount on three days rest.  Chance didn’t seem as effective this afternoon, but the offense put up some early runs that kept him in the game long enough to get the win.  But Wallace chipped away at the Bengals lead, once as wide as 9-4, to get within one measly run of tying the game in the eighth and ninth.  But Coach Willis called in the fire truck, driven this afternoon by flame-throwing Brennan Flick (#12 to the left) who looked as good as I’ve seen him (which is pretty darned good–when Brennan’s on, he throws 94 mph bee-bees).  He confounded the Wallace bats, stymying a rally in the eighth and slamming the door on them in the ninth in perhaps the only three-up, three-down at-bat for Wallace all day.

So the Bengals put off the bus ride home with a determined effort.  We hope and pray there’s more where that came from tomorrow afternoon when we play game 5 in another one of those elimination games where the winner stays, tAlliehe loser heads to the house.

On a personal note, seeing the games on LSUE Internet TV certainly is a treat and a daily highlight since Saturday–how many other teams in the Series have such a technological blessing?  But at the same time, I am awfully frustrated that I’m not THERE.  I feel like I’m part of this enterprise and I belong in Enid, so that’s a troublesome issue I’m dealing with these days.   And then Coach W’s wife posts tourney pix on Facebook showing so many of our friends at the games (the cute little Bengal fan is  coach’s daughter and #1 fan Allie).   All I can utter is “Grrrrr!  It’s not fair!”

Bengal Baseball Blog: NJCAA Div. 2 World Series, Game 2–WOSU Singled to death! Monday, May 25 2009 

ws_webDid we feel some uneasiness before this round 2 game against Western Oklahoma State? Even though I believed the Bengals remain the team to beat, I worried.

Western Oklahoma State had one of the top offensive records in the country.  Like LSUE buried their regional tourney opponent 19-5, Western Oklahoma buried theirs 20-6.  Something had to give?

Turns out Western Oklahoma gave, getting battered by the Bengals 21-11.

21-11?  Is that a baseball score?

I’m afraid so.  What may be more striking about the score is the fact that the Bengals scored all those runs with the benefit of only two extra base hits: a solo home run and a double.  All the rest of the runs resulted from singles.  17 singles, to be exact. I’ve never seen such an instance of being singled to death.

25 Gabriel ThibodeauxI didn’t get to watch or listen to much of the game because of a meeting I had to attend, but studying the box score in the end was tell-tale.  Before seeing the evidence, I would have said “No way a team’s going to score 21 runs in seven innings (we won by the 10 run “mercy” rule) without multiple extra-base hits.”  But the Bengals did.

The big Bengals bat today belonged to first baseman Gabe Thibodeaux, who went 5 for 5 with 6 runs batted in.  Not a bad day.

I was frustrated, not being able to watch the game on the Internet, but I give thanks to PR guy Van Reed who sent me email updates inning by inning during the meeting in which I was stuck.  Thank God game 3 (Tuesday) will go on Tuesday evening.

Geaux, Bengals!

LSUE Bengals Baseball Blog: Game 1 Sunday, May 24 2009 

I decided the NJCAA Div. II  World Series and our beloved Bengals baseball team, ranked number 1 nationally going into the championship Series, would make a blogworthy topic for the upcoming week, so here goes.ws_web

The Bengals won game 1 Saturday evening against Monroe CC (NY) in an unaccustomed fashion: they had to not only come from behind, but come from seriously behind, overcoming a five run deficit that started the first inning when Monroe got to our ace for a couple of lead-off walks followed by a series of base hits.  But the Bengals chipped away at the deficit, a run here and a run there, tying the game in the eighth and then winning dramatically in the bottom of the ninth with a walk-off grandslam by infielder Joran Bourque.

What stuck out in this game?  The following to me:

  • Starter ace Chance Mistric showed a lot of heart, getting off to such a miserable start (the ump didn’t help!), giving up five runs in the first, but holding Monroe to only two runs the rest of the complete game that he pitched.  In the ninth inning, he was still firing up 90+ mph fast balls.
  • This young, untested team’s perseverance (untested b/c they rarely faced having to bounce back from dramatic deficits all season long).  They showed the patient character we weren’t certain they would have when the test came.  That test came Saturday, and these guys were up to it.
  • Monroe gave up several unearned runs–3 defensive errors.   LSUE gave up zero unearned runs–0 defensive errors.  Arguably, Monroe’s defensive lapses were the difference in the game; LSUE’s defensive perfection stands in striking contast.
  • 6 Jordan BourqueSure, Jordan Bourque (photo to the right) gets the heroe’s welcome for the dramatic grand slam blast to end the game, but this was one of the most impressive team wins of the season.  Every scrappy run the Bengals scored leading up to the bottom-of-the-ninth finish–in addition to every run they didn’t give up due to good pitching and defense–was crucial in the outcome.

It’s a long series and a hard row to plow for the Bengals, but I have to imagine that the rest of the field of teams is looking at LSUE as the team to beat.  I’ve watched these kids all year long, and I sure think they are!

Geaux, Bengals!!

A budding Cajun musician? Gavin l’accordeoniste! Thursday, May 21 2009 

This gorgeous spring time of year, I conclude most days on the front porch playing my accordeon for 20 or 30 minutes.  I play until it gets too dark and/or the mosquitoes come out too strong.

Gavin l'accordeonisteLately, my neighbor’s little 3 year old fellow, Gavin,  enjoys these evening concerts.  He makes his Dad bring him across the street to watch and listen to Mr. David’s Cajun music serenade.  Yesterday when Gavin came, I let him try out the feel of the diatonic accordion.  He pushed a few notes and pushed and pulled the bellows randomly, but even though he didn’t play any intelligible tunes,  I could see in his eyes that he was all about this kind of music.

Gavin’s Dad tells me Gavin has Cajun music ancestors, so I’m sensing that the little fellow has some of those genes.  Maybe one day when he’s a rich and famous recording artist, he’ll recall Mr. David’s music on the front porch as a major influence and inspiration on his career.  If I’m still around, maybe he’ll cut me in for a piece of the recording royalties?  🙂

Joues la musique, ‘ti boug’!

More country roads Acadiana: Le beau chene de Prairie Basse Tuesday, May 19 2009 

Beau Chene

Prairie Basse begins just east of the Grand Coteau and the Coteau Ridge in central St. Landry Parish and extends eastward toward Arnaudville, Louisiana.   A remarkable landmark along the highway that winds through the prairie is the cheniere, or Live Oak grove, that stands in front of Beau Chene High School.  I wish I knew the history of the grove.  I imagine the school grounds was a home/farm place once upon a time, and these three or four sprawling Live Oaks are the remnant of that homestead setting.   All I know now is that these magnificent trees, the one in the photo the most spectacular in the grove, are some of the finest examples of Gulf Coast/Deep South Live Oak “architecture” that I’ve ever seen.

When I see these trees, I remember that poem Walt Whitman wrote after a visit to Louisiana during the Civil War: “I Saw in Louisiana a Live Oak growing.”  Whitman’s Live Oak was “uttering joyous leaves of friendship,” which suggests to me Whitman’s visit occurred during spring when the Live Oak sheds the browning leaves in favor of new spring growth.  In the February/March breezes, those shedding leaves noisily rain from the trees, driven by the wind.  As a Louisianian who has heard these trees “utter joyous leaves,” I have a rich appreciation for the imagery suggested in Whitman’s verse.

One linguistic note about “beau chene.”  The French word for Oak Tree (chene) is pronounced “shenn,” not “shain.”  I hear non-Francophones all over South Louisiana butcher that word as “shain,” but that’s just not right.  Here’s to linguistic propriety, OK?

LSUE Commencement 09: A Memorable Day Saturday, May 16 2009 

I have this love/hate thing with spring commencement.  It’s always on a Saturday morning–that’s the hate thing.  An extra obligation on the crown jewel day off of the week.  Processional

But I love it, too, for a number of reasons.

This year, the love was mainly having my own daughter recognized for achieving her associate degree on the way to her bachelor’s degree two years from now.   Papa's grad girls

But there was other love, too.  I spotted one of the teacher’s aides, a working grandmother, who started classes six years ago when the No Child Left Behind laws made the paraprofessionals head to college.   She made it, a part-time student, course by course, semester after semester, someone who never dreamed of going to college for the first 50 + years of her life!  I hugged her when I spotted her in the lineup before the ceremony.

And, as I called the names of the graduates as they proceeded toward the rostrum to receive their degrees, I met three different firemen whom I taught online in English 1001 and 1002 in the past few semesters but whom I had never met in person because they live in different parts of the state.  I felt like I knew them because of our extensive interaction in the online classes, even though we had never shaken hands or looked one another in the eye.  We took care of that today, and the experience was rich.

Yes, there are rewards to this humble profession.  This was a happy day.

Jeff-in-the-box: A sportscaster is born? (Another one for Cora!) Thursday, May 14 2009 

I blogged former student Jeff last month after I observed him teaching Human Anatomy in a night class at LSUE.  I was particularly blessed by the response to my post from his mom, Cora, a wonderful family friend for years upon years.  So this afternoon when Jeff showed up to do the play-by-play  of the NJCAA Region 23 championship tournament for LSUE/TV, I couldn’t resist taking this shot of him at work a couple of chairs down from me in the press box.Jeff PressboxWe had a good time in the box this afternoon and this evening.  The Bengals won their game handily, and Jeff did a fine job for the fans tuning in out there in cyberspace.  He clowned me by name at the mike a few times, but hopefully, the Internet audience doesn’t know who “Mr. Pulling” is well enough to draw meaningful conclusions.   I might be in trouble if they do!

Funny how former eighth grade students never know me by any other name than “Mr. Pulling,” even removed 2o or so years from the scene of the crime at the local junior high.

The Brown Leather Jacket: A Dubious Heirloom? Tuesday, May 12 2009 

Papaw's Leather JacketThis will be an enduring favorite photo of my Daddy, taken several years ago with son Zach at a family reunion.  The object of the laughter is the brown leather jacket Daddy’s wearing.  There’s a history behind the jacket.

The jacket came into the family as a hand-me-down from a friend who went in with us for a garage sale, as best as I recall in the late 80’s/early 90’s.  I found the jacket quite stylish for years and wore it with pride.

But when I taught Zach for English I in 1996-97 at Eunice High, my last year teaching high school before moving to LSUE, I was rudely acquainted with the fact that this 1970’s style jacket was a fashion embarrassment to my son. He couldn’t believe that his Dad was still wearing that antiquated leather jacket in public before his high school peers.

So, I donated the jacket to Daddy, along with the story of his grandson’s embarrassment.  Daddy, who was raised in the Great Depression, was unimpressed with Zach’s fashion objections.  Daddy recognized quality and wore the jacket with pride to the family reunion this year. This was the family reunion, five or six years ago, when Zach announced his engagement to Autumn.

I’m sure Daddy, now 86,  still has the jacket.   I don’t know if he wore it this past winter or not.  I’ll have to ask him when I see him in a few days.  For sure, though, the jacket has become an heirloom.   Whatever happens to the rest of Daddy’s clothes one of these days when he’s departed from our midst, this jacket must become Zach’s.  He may never wear it, but by the time Payton’s kids are old enough, the style may return in vogue, and PaPaw’s garage sale jacket will live on in infamy.

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