The sun was just breaking through the clouds as we turned off the highway onto the long gravel road to Margery’s house. It had been a long drive to Smith River, and it would be good to get out and stretch my legs.
Mom warned me about the long drive and said I would be the only kid here since it was a school day. Still, I begged to come along to the family gathering to celebrate Auntie Dee’s birthday. I was used to entertaining myself, so being the only kid didn’t worry me.
“Robert wanted me to make sure I got all the information about Mid’s new TV,” Aunt Lila said as Mom steered around the last corner. “He is determined to put an antenna on top of our hill and string the wire all the way to the house.”
“That sounds expensive,” Mom said. “How does he know it will work?”
“He had a guy come out, and he could pick up a station from Eugene at the top of our hill,” Aunt Lila said. “And yes, it is going to be expensive. but David probably knows, after our trip this summer, TV is pretty nice.”
“I don’t know. It just costs a lot of money,” I said from the back seat, remembering the TV sets in some of the motel rooms on the east coast that you had to put dimes or quarters in the box on the side of it to turn on the thing.
“Yes, that is right,” Aunt Lila said. “Ours won’t have a money box on it, but it still will cost a lot of money.”
We pulled into the driveway. There was a large two-story, white farmhouse on the left and a large barn on the right, located about fifty yards from the house. Sparse pasture land behind the barn faded into a series of low sand dunes. I could hear the waves when I opened the car door. The ocean was not far.
The house was packed, and all the women were in the kitchen when we came through the door.
Auntie Dee hugged me.
“David, what are you doing here today?” she asked. “You should be in school.”
“When he heard we were celebrating your birthday, he begged to come,” Mom said. “I couldn’t refuse.”
With that said, the chatter in the kitchen started, and I headed to the living room, where all the men were in front of the TV set.
“You better watch this, David,” Uncle Rodney said. “The guy pitching is named Larsen, and he might be a cousin of yours.”
“I don’t have any Larsen cousins,” I said.
“You never know,” Uncle Rodney said. “Your dad doesn’t know that side of his family. Besides, this is the World Series.”
I didn’t know anything about baseball. I had heard about the World Series, but it didn’t mean anything to me. I found a seat and watched for a few minutes.
“You are going to get into trouble for missing school,” Uncle Duke said.
“Mom will write a note and say that I was ill,” I said.
“What does ill mean?” Uncle Rodney asked. “You don’t look very sick to me.”
“That’s what she writes when I stay home to go fishing,” I said. “I don’t need to go to school all the time. I learn faster than the other kids.”
“You skip school to go fishing?” Mid asked.
“I learn a lot when I am fishing,” I said.
“I bet you do,” Mid said. “You keep it up. I like to see a kid who likes to fish.”
I found a seat and watched the game for a couple of minutes. It was really boring. I headed to the barn.
I loved old barns. Every one of them was different but alike in so many ways. Margery, Auntie Dee’s daughter, and Mid had lived here a long time. This barn still had stalls for the workhorses, and they probably hadn’t used horses in the fields since the war.
The harnesses were still hung by the stalls, and unlike Grandpa’s harnesses, these were still soft and well-oiled. They smelled like good leather.
I looked through the barn and ran a few chickens out of the mangers. I gathered as many eggs as I could hold in the front of my tee shirt and headed to the kitchen.
“Oh, thank you, David,” Margery said when I came through the door with a shirt full of fresh eggs. “I didn’t have time to gather any eggs this morning. You are such a great help.”
Margery unloaded the eggs, and I returned to the barn. After another trip through the barn, I headed out over the sand dune toward the ocean. By the time I got to the top of the hill, I could see the ocean.
“This would be a great place to watch for Russian submarines,” I said as I found a tuff of grass to sit on for a time. After ten or fifteen minutes, I decided that no submarines were nearby, so I returned to the house.
“What have you been up to?” Uncle Rodney asked as I was looking for a place to sit.
“I gathered some eggs from the mangers and looked through the barn,” I said. “Then I walked out to the ocean and watched for Russian submarines for a time.”
“Russian submarines, did you see any?” Uncle Duke asked.
“No, but this would be a good place for them to land,” I said. “There is nobody around to see them for a long way in each direction.”
“You better give up watching for those submarines and watch the end of this ball game,” Mid said. “Your cousin is about ready to pitch a perfect game.”
We all sat and watched the game come to an end. A guy named Yogi ran out and jumped up on the pitcher at the end of the game.
Don Larsen had just pitched a perfect game in game five of the 1956 World Series. The New York Yankees had beat the Brooklyn Dodgers in that game, and they would go on to win the World Series that year. And this was the first sporting event that I ever watched on TV.