filler post

Happy September 11, everyone!

This post is just filler. We are at the Hollingsworths again keeping the animals fed and happy. I meant to get a regular post out this morning but we’ve got to milk the goats, walk the dog and such, then I’ve got stuff to do in Hamilton (car papers- thank you cousins!), then over to Stevensville to be briefed on our next housesitting gig. Then tomorrow we’re up to Kalispell for two (!) soccer games in one day, and I’m making the boys a big birthday dinner on Sunday, plus a lot of miscellany junk so I’ll try to get a post out this weekend but it may have to wait until Monday or Tuesday.

hbd boys

Today is O and A’s birthday! It’s a cool, but clear and beautiful day in the Bitterroot.

 

  (click for bigger)

Yes, that’s a good dusting of snow up there. Farther up the canyons, and down by the mountains that flank the south end of Lake Como, it was more than a dusting; more like a dumping. It was cold enough last night to fire up the wood stove. 

Yesterday afternoon, after the morning storm. Winds were strong- a tree fell on a powerline and we were without power for a while. 

Allen and I went out to pick up some fried chicken at the store.

Hunkering down with kitty.

expressions of pure joy\

Without their big brother, sister and mom around, and the regular blueberry cheesecake that we order from our favorite pastry shop, I thought the boys might need a little birthday pick-me-up. I got them some chips, and the perfect Montana gift: new work gloves!

 

 

Next: back to work after all the birthday nonsense.

First they scored, then we scored, then they scored…

then we scored, then they scored, then we scored, and finally…

(click for bigger pics)

goodbye to seniors
coach recognizing one of our 3 players graduating this year

Saturday we had our third game. Our opponent came all the way down from Kalispell, and they are our first that is also a co-ed team- 3 girls. Kalispell managed a 6-1 defeat of our Monday opponent, whom we beat 5-1. With that in mind, and after two lopsided games, we were hoping now for a good, close one. And that’s exactly how it turned out.

Judging by the stature and general skill level of the Kalispell team in pre-game warm-ups, I figured we had a pretty good chance today to make it respectable, if not put another win on the ledger. Two minutes into the game, I had my doubts. We couldn’t manage two consecutive passes, and Kalispell came down, fooled our defense to get close to the goal, then back-passed to #11, their center-midfielder blonde-braids girl with a booming shot, for an easy goal. 0-1. Maybe the lads (and lasses) just needed a kick in the pants, because they shaped up after that and made some crisp passes and good runs to get open. Only two minutes after that low point, Owen took a standard shot from right center at 18 yards and netted one in the corner. 1-1.

From then it was about 15 minutes of back and forth until Kalispell came back and blonde-braids almost netted another, if not for James, who ran to cut her off and force a wide shot. Still, Kalispell, the bigger, stronger and faster team, kept pressuring us on our end and managed to go ahead at about 22 minutes. Then it was our turn to put on the full-pitch press and force an unwise, rushed pass from one of their outside defenders toward the middle. Owen sensed that one coming and rushed to cut off the pass and drill in the easy equalizer. (Later O said, “My legs were hurting so much then, I almost let that one go, but something told me to go for it.”)

Another Kalispell goal required another answer from the Hawks. This one was the sweetest. There are two boys playing defense for Kalispell that look like they should be in the rugby, or football league. And one of them looks about 28 yrs. old, with his big limbs and full beard. I called him the lumberjack. The other, without the beard, was equally big, and very fast- easily faster than Owen, who is no slowpoke himself. After Owen’s second goal, I thought that the opposing coach should have put No-beard (we’ll call him Fred)  on Owen, and permanently mark him, but Kalispell kept their original defensive set-up. Fortunately for Owen, he often found himself one-on-one with a chubby, weaker defender. However, whenever O passed Fatty, Fred swooped in to take over. More than a couple times Owen had a chance for a solo run, but Fred raced in to cut off the shot. So when Owen got a sharp, difficult cross from our right winger Michael, and Fred was on him like glue, it was glorious to see O trap the ball on his chest and fight Fred for a stretched-out toe punch for the hat trick. 3-3 at the half!

Amid all this scoring, I should mention that James was holding things together as usual in the backfield. Kalispell may have had managed 3 points in only a half, but they had far more opportunities than that, and many more than our offense, but James spoiled their chances with regularity. Speed is so important for a defender; James can allow himself to come up and approach the midfield and be a playmaker, rather than sit back on the line, because he’s so quick to get back when needed. Here James saves us when an ill-timed pass goes right to the opponent, in what should have been a good shot opportunity, if not an easy goal: https://youtu.be/uYsYM_03JBc

The second half began and Owen was substituted for the first time. I thought, hmm, maybe our coaches (a new guy with lots of experience joined last Monday) had a plan to mix things up against the Kalispell defense, then put Owen in to throw them off. It turns out that O had requested the rest- he was exhausted.

Right after O came in, Kalispell’s big striker got one step ahead of James and blasted a low, left-footer into the net. Again, Owen answered with an equalizer- this time he passed one defender on a deft move, then raced the next defender just enough to get a decent angle on a shot he set himself up for, unrushed and well placed. 4-4.

Two minutes to go and Kalispell put their best players, big defender and all, up front for maximum pressure and scoring opportunity. If we could just work it up to our forward line they’d be super-vulnerable- Owen wouldn’t have to deal with Freddy Wheels or The Lumberjack!

Alas, the gamble worked for Kalispell and they scored, netting the go-ahead with just over a minute to go.

Naturally, the Kalispell coach brought his big boys back to the defense to shut down our forward line and run the clock out. Nevertheless, Owen got one more good chance! In a carbon copy of his 4th goal, he sped by his defender and raced down the right side. Again, he didn’t rush things and waited for the good shot. This time the defense was pressuring and covering all angles, so O attempted to lift it over the keeper. It just grazed the crossbar and missed high.

Final score, Kalispell 5, Bitterroot 4.

After the 反省会 (post-game wrap-up meeting) I patted O on the back for a job well done.

-Hey. You got subbed after the half today. Were the coaches planning something special? (I’d noticed that Joe, our new assistant coach, had been sitting the whole time with Owen talking to him.)

-No, I asked for that rest!

-Really?!

-Yes. You know, I think I need about 3 days off, because every time I play, if I play hard, my muscles in my leg and back start to hurt. Today the back of my right leg was killing me.

-And what was coach Joe telling you?

-That I didn’t have to beat that defender (Fred) with pure speed. If I could get in front of him I could block him instead.

-Yes, and force him to foul you. Well, tomorrow you don’t have to play if you don’t want (It’s pick-up soccer at the high school with the big boys.) Take a rest.

“I was thinking,” said O, “I was playing a bit lazy the first fifteen minutes, because our breakfast was too heavy.” (We’re back at the Hollingsworths, and this morning we had an all-American pancakes/eggs/bacon breakfast.) “I was thinking I would say that excuse to you, but then I thought it wasn’t a good one. Then my legs started to really hurt, and I knew I had a good excuse for not playing my best.”

-But you still played well.

-I think I made those goals because I didn’t have the energy today. If I had full energy, I would have missed more shots, because of nerves. Instead, I didn’t care enough to worry about it.

And I think of my days in youth soccer- I was pretty good, but a terrible finisher. Passing, positioning and defense was my forte, but put me in front of the goal, on a breakaway, just me verses the keeper, and the adrenaline and nerves caused me to shank all my shots!

 

Goodbye Hamilton

Sniffle… Actually, we’ll be pretty close- right up the road in Victor for a couple weeks. Close enough to come down and shop at the Hamilton IGA, our favorite store, or play at the municipal tennis courts. Still, I’ll miss being just a few blocks from downtown and having those beautiful, leafy streets all around. 

 

 

 

When Charlie and Richard were here, we went down to Napp’s for a burger. At the intersection I asked them, “Hey, have you guys seen ‘Stay Safe’ yet? It’s really good.” 

-No, we haven’t seen it.

-It’s still playing in town here. Check it out! 

I had them bamboozled for at least 3/4 of a second. 

We won’t have to come all the way to Hamilton for Owen’s soccer practices, which are in Corvallis (heart of the valley). And we’ll be much closer to the games up in Stevensville. 

A quiet Corvallis evening at practice’s end. The good ol’ 反省会 (hanseikai- evaluation meeting), where you discuss the practice and what sort of things need to be improved- Owen is a pro at sitting through these- the 10-minute American version is a snap.

Why a picture of soda pop? Because of the bubbling, spitting, effervescent beauty of it. And since Richard brought bags of goodies from Uwajimaya that included green tea and barley packets, it’s so long to soda pop, public-enemy #1 in America, health-wise. Sooo good, though, especially in summer. 

See ya, Hamilton kids. Owen and I will pop by for a lemonade after tennis one of these days. Hope you’re still out!

Pretty sure I’m on a list

Has anyone here had to go through the security warning crap before being able to access this site? I’m forced to click a few extra links (this site is potential poison, click here if you really want to take the risk, etc.) sometimes to access dwshumway.com- an apolitical website for children’s book junk and a blog where my family and friends can see what I and my kids are up to. Maybe all kind of viewers avoid this site for fear of being put on the TSA watchlist. Without the blocking, I coulda been a contenda in the children’s book world!

I only partially jest. Look at what Amazon does to me. So far, I’ve had 15 reviews on Amazon for my book, The Letter Thief. Every single one is a five-star review. Now, my average star rating is down because 37% of reviews are 3 star reviews. Huh? Since when? Now, here is what you get on Amazon for The Letter Thief:

Sensitive guy I am, I want to find out what exactly makes my magnum opus a mediocre book, in the minds of some unappreciative readers, who now constitute over 1/3 of my reviews. So I click the 3-star reviews to see what these yahoos are saying, and…

Voila! Look at the bottom. No reviews match your current selections, i.e.- no 3-star reviews. Nevertheless, I’ve gone from 100% 5-star to 63%.

Scary warnings about my innocent little site; mediocre reviews that actually don’t exist; gmail mixing up my mails (mail that doesn’t come to inbox; mail I may never see because the sender is mismatched with the subject and the content, etc.). WordPress/Amazon/Google- all part of the BigTech Cabal.

I gotta be on a list. May as well go full Braveheart now. FREEDOOOOOOOM!

même randonnée, même punition

With brother and cousin in town, what better thing to do on a fine, early September morning than take a hike? As I’ve mentioned, there are tons of good hikes here in the Bitterroot; each canyon has a creek, a trail, great views, and often some waterfalls and a lake. We could have tried a new one, but I figured we’d return to the Canyon Creek hike. The trailhead is very near the B&B Richard and Charlie were staying at, and I had a great time on this hike with the boys back in July. Click here for pictures of that hike- I didn’t take so many this time.

(click photos for bigger picture)

If it’s hidden or camoflauged, I depend on Allen to spot interesting stuff- but this guy stood right out and I saw him first.

 

One thing I forgot was how tough a hike it is. Ten miles out and back is not exactly daunting, but the last mile on this hike is a bugger- straight up on big, stone slabs or loose rock and thick brush.

When we got to the lake, there were construction sounds coming from the dam. Workmen had set up there with a camp, portable toilet, mess hall, heavy equipment (helicoptered in), a sentry dog (to warn of bears?) and everything. Richard said, “What’s for lunch?” and the lone guy in the camp said we just missed Reuben sandwiches.

The wind was whistling and blowing straight at us across the lake. It had an early-fall chill to it so we found a place sheltered from the gusts and enjoyed lunch- best PBJ I’ve ever had, and the boys wolfed down their PBBs. Charlie and Allen had been keen to take a swim but the lake was much less inviting this time, with the cold wind and super-low shoreline. We took a short nap instead and headed back down.

After the hike we rendezvoused at Richard’s B&B for an outdoor spaghetti feast. Charlie’s honey came down to join us from UM at Missoula. Altogether a great way to spend a late-summer day!

family visit

Got a pleasant surprise last week when my brother called and said he was considering a visit to Montana, with nephew in tow. It’s an 8 hour drive to Seattle and various responsibilities out here in the Bitterroot are going to keep us from heading out that way for a while, so we were excited for the chance to see Richard and Charlie. 

Richard brought the bicycles and we cruised around town, the boys and I showing them our local haunts. We hit the elementary school where O and I play hoops with the fancy glass backboards and the biggest grassy play area you’ve ever seen at school, the new high school with the big soccer fields, went through the quaint, old downtown corridor, passed the library, the tennis courts, the old Catholic church, the jr. high (old brick high school) and the riverside park. (click for large pic)

Charlie, Richard, Allen, Owen. This was just a few paces from the spot where I encountered a bull moose about a week ago. Allen had already taken this path a number of times on his solo rides around town and country, but had never seen the moose. When Owen and I went for a ride, we were next to the river and came across a couple local ladies who asked us if we’d seen the moose.

-Moose? No. Where?

-There’s a mother with her calves over that way across the river, and a bull over that way by the meadow, under the trees.

Everybody knows moose can be quite dangerous and you have to keep your distance, but it seems most locals walking through the park aren’t too worried. These must be slightly citified moose, and used to hikers/walkers/cyclists. Owen wasn’t taking chances, though. He stayed by the river and I ventured out toward the open meadow. I was thinking the ladies meant the far trees on the other side of the meadow, not the trees near the river, surrounding us. I was just to the edge of the woods, looking across the meadow, when I said to myself, “Hmm, maybe I ought to have a scan around here before I go farther.”

Sure enough, there he was only 20 yards away, at 11 o’clock. I only saw his back as he was hunkered under the trees, busy munching on grass. He must have smelled or heard me because he stopped and turned his head my way for a second, and that was my cue- exit, stage Owen. “Get back on your bike, O. We’re outta here.”

-What?!

-I saw the moose!

Now Allen might have wanted to linger and check him out, but Owen, Mr. City Comforts, took my word for it and agreed we should mosey on. 

So, I have my bear and moose encounter for this trip. Now all I need is a wolf and a mountain lion and I can start concentrating on the birds. (Richard chastised me for not knowing which species was the ubiquitous black and white, crow-like bird that Mr. Terwiliger encouraged us to shoot.) 

After the ride we went to Napps, the best place in town for a burger.

Our second soccer game was Monday so R and C came out to see if O and the Hawks could manage a better performance than Saturday’s 14-1 drubbing. It was cloudy but no rain, temperature in the low 60s, no wind. Chilly for August but perfect for soccer. 

Again, the opponent had more substitutes, all-boys, and a most of them way bigger than us. They had their organized pre-game drills and lively communication; I expected another bloodbath. What a surprise then, when our little right winger, Michael, managed to get past the defender, only 4 minutes into the game, and get a close-range shot at goal, which bounced off the keeper’s gloves and into the net. 1-0! Maybe I shouldn’t call Michael little, as he’s pretty close to average, considering the stature of the rest of our players- a small team. But soccer is a great equalizer sport. If this were football, baseball, rugby or basketball, we would have been mauled by these big Montana country boys, but size doesn’t stop quick feet and ball skills- exhibit A- Messi! 

A mother showed up late, approached the line of Hawk’s fans in their lawn chairs, took a look at the players on the field, and said, with a wry, somewhat defeatist grin, “How’s it goin’? It looks like we’re in for another tough game.”

-We’re winning.

-What?! You’re kidding!

-Yeah, Michael just scored. It’s 1-0.

Then she expressed what everybody was thinking a couple minutes earlier. “After Saturday I expected we’d get creamed again!”

This goal really gave the boys and girls some confidence. There was lots of passing going on- much less holding on to the ball until taken away by the opponent. And plenty of hustle. Our girls on the right side, defense and midfield, really gave it their all. And our most crucial player, #7 James, put me at ease when he showed up ten minutes into the game and the coach rushed him onto the field. James is not one of those super-talented naturals who has that control and swagger of a goal-scoring star, but he’s fast and he really understands the game. A kid like that you don’t put on the forward line- you give him the most important position of all- sweeper (center defender- last line before the goalkeeper). My favorite things about James- he knows

  • when to hold back and when to attack
  • not to dangerously bring the ball to the center if there are no good passing opportunities
  • (most importantly) where to stand to force the opponent off-sides, often

The biggest difference today was a newcomer, much smaller than Amanda, our smallest player. As I watched Steven handle the ball, with his head up surveying the field for opportunities, deftly keeping it away from the defender,  I said to myself, “Hey, who brought in the ringer? With James at center back, Steven center midfield, and Owen at center forward, we might have a chance!”

Then we did have another scoring chance when Owen got open for a shot at the 18 yd. line. He put it just over the crossbar. 

Five minutes later Owen tried another approach. His shots have lacked power and aim- perhaps due to the deep, spongey grass and exhaustion after bringing the ball up. Instead of maneuvering for the open shot, he decided to maneuver past defenders. So in his next attack, he just kept bringing the ball up, getting closer and closer to the goal. He passed the entire defensive wall and even held off on shooting when he was alone with the goalie, and instead put a fake on and sort of dribbled the ball in, with a light, easy touch at the end to net it. I picked up my smart phone and mailed Richard and Charlie, who were coming late: “Owen scores! 2-0!”

A man in our peanut gallery said, “That was good! Owen just dribbled past 3 defenders!” 

It wasn’t 3 minutes before O netted another one, this time a finely-placed, acute-angle, cross shot from the right wing.

By the time R and C arrived we had substituted our bench players and our opponents had managed a goal. Owen wasn’t seeing any action now as our defense and midfield were having trouble advancing the ball. The tide seemed to be turning. I was anxious to see Coach put Steven back in (he didn’t dare take out James at sweeper), but the subs remained on the field until halftime. 3-1

In the second half we had our best ten on the field and started pressuring again. This game description is getting long so to summarize:

Owen picks up the ball on the sidelines right in front of us for a throw in. There is a substitution so I have time to say, “Owen!” He turns toward us. “Score a goal for Richard and Charlie!”

I knew O wanted to get another goal, not just for the hattrick but more importantly, to put one in in front of his beloved uncle and cousin. Richard tried to take the pressure off and said, “Nah. You don’t need to do anything special for us.” 

But it worked! Owen used a little fancy footwork to get around two defenders and put in an easy one at ten yards. Hattrick!

I figured I had better get a little footage of the action before the game ended, so I whipped out the camera and took some video. No more goals for Oach but he did manage a good corner kick and a well-placed pass for an assist. 

corner- O makes a nice cross and finds his man but a low half-volley is a tough shot, even for the pros, sometimes. https://youtu.be/vPKwiJNm_70

assist- O makes a nice leading pass to Conrad, just enough touch on this slow field for C to approach, control, change feet and get a perfect left-footer into the upper left corner of the goal. https://youtu.be/9ijfGq7E57k

A great soccer day and the Hawks turned it around from Saturday’s loss with a satisfying 5-1 win!

 

A happy Hawks mom passes the shoes table. This is a great idea. Soccer shoes, the good ones anyway, are expensive and with kids feet constantly growing, it gets very expensive. The Stevensville soccer club has this soccer cleats exchange table, where you pick up a nice pair for free, and leave your own pair when your feet get too big. Nike and Addidas don’t like it, but soccer moms do. 

Owen went home beaming- he got a goal in front of uncle and cousin!

Next: family hike

“Tad or Dat?”

Does that ring a bell?

I suppose you have to be in your mid to late 40s at least to have that question mean anything to you. “M or W?” might be more familiar to a younger crowd, though I don’t know if determining first server is still done the same way- by spinning a racket in your hand, or spinning it and letting it fall, then asking partner whether they choose up or down. I haven’t played tennis in ages. (click images for larger pic)

Wilson is still around and going strong, but the T.A. Davis corporation of California ain’t making rackets anymore, to my knowledge.

Remember when every respectable garage had a Jack Kramer or two hanging over the workbench? I found one at our place here in Hamilton, still in the old wooden frame.

Owen will play with his oversize-head Wilson he ordered on Amazon, but I’ll take the Jack Kramer and teach him a lesson.

Except for a few cracks, the local courts here are in pretty good shape. There’s Owen waiting for my blistering forehand, with Hamilton cross-country-club kids passing behind him.

Owen has had no formal tennis training, beside a time or two in PE class. I can see he’d be pretty good with practice. Still, I can whup him using my McEnroeesque drop shots, just when he’s expecting another powerful back-court volley.

Tennis, like golf, is almost a perfect sport, at least in the sense that there is no one to blame but yourself for errors. And you can’t blame the conditions, as both players have to deal with the same weather, sun angle, wind and distractions.

I made the mistake of playing a set with O in the midday sun, and then going to pick-up soccer the same evening. I could have confined myself to bed for the next two days.

O. had his first soccer game with the Bitterroot Valley Hawks on Saturday. What’s there to tell besides we got creamed 14 to 1. Ours is a co-ed team and we were beat by an all-boys team. (to my Seattle readers: I certainly am not implying that gender had anything to do with our loss, which can be attributed to us having only 2 subs and Helena Christian academy having 7).

I was thinking, given the large size of the field, better opponent, slow grass, and midday August sun, that Owen, playing striker and waiting for our defense and midfield to work the ball upfield, wouldn’t see the ball much. I was wrong, though. By my count, he had a solid 14 chances to touch the ball, maybe more.

Hawks fans. And Helena’s fans quarantined behind the fence.

Allen takes a halftime nap.

Finally in the second half we had some chances, playing against Helena’s benchwarmers. O had a couple good chances right in front of the goal. The parents around me screamed, “Go, Owen!” but he was exhausted and couldn’t gather enough strength to give it a good strike. He had 3 such chances and failed to convert. On the 4th try, he made a good short pass to left midfielder, who relayed it to our defender who came up for the attack, and we put one in. Achieving one legitimate goal is so much nicer than getting skunked!

Bad News Hawks after a tough but well- fought loss. Look behind the mountains at the billows of smoke in the distance mountains. That’s the 3-mile fire that’s been burning for about a week. It started with lighting. I’m hoping that the Monday rains will douse it but a local tells me it takes more than a light drizzle to put these summer fires out.

 

Monday we play on the same field but there will be wet grass so some longer-range passes will be possible with the skip effect. I’ll let you know how it goes.

gambling report

by Montana Slim

You want some high-roller Casino action? Come to Montana!

Wow! Looks like fun.

Do they have entertainment too? Will 38 Special be rockin’ the house here? Is Sloan Younglove coming to town with his comedy-magic, or does he still have his regular show at the Stratosphere?

How ’bout the choices for cuisine? Is there a steak house open past midnight? An early bird buffet special? 

Can I get comped for extended play? What benefits does a player’s card get me?

How loose are the black-jack rules? Can I double-down on anything? Can I get insurance on 21?

 

Well, you’ll have to ask Marty, behind cash register 2. He might be a little unfamiliar with such questions, but he can guide you to all the action. 

 

 

“Just go out through there and go in the first door on your left. If it’s locked I’ll call Patty, ‘n she can open the place up for ya. It doesn’t take her but a minute to turn on the slots. Oh, and you can buy your drinks here and bring ’em in if the bar’s closed.”

These sad little casinos are all over the state.  Once I was at a strip-mall supermarket in Big Fork and on the way to the car popped into one of these places, for research only. There is a certain comfort in leaving the heat, glaring sun and sounds of cars and trucks gunning their engines as they leave the parking lot, and entering a dark, plush, air-conditioned world of faux-leather seats, hardwood counters, brass rails, dark-green carpet, rows of bottles to gaze at, and blue neon in the background, but it stopped interesting me long ago. Plus there is rarely a real-live poker game, with all the forlorn and bitter characters around the table. It’s just people sitting alone at machines, with Patty coming around at regular intervals with your next Jack n’ Coke. Maybe I’ll pop in to one of these places at a busier hour someday, just to give a report, but I doubt it- the thrill, thank God, is long gone. 

I wonder what’s worse- a state with every small town dotted with these little fleecing operations, or states where it’s illegal, except on a reservation- with Vegas coming in to run the mega-casinos, waterfalls and all, sharing a chunk of the huge loot that the 1/4 Indians get. 

 

Anyway, it’s much better to spend your time, if you have free time, at the Darby Library!

O the sportsman

What does this have to do with sports? Nothing, but I haven’t been taking many photos recently. Saturday I ran the cash box at the garage sale, and this is the view from my chair. We sold over 600 bucks worth of useful stuff, and junk, which will go to charity, and I got to chat with some nice locals. 

 

Well, it’s been almost two months since our stay in Hamilton began. Soon we’ll be vacating the house we’re in and leaving town. We don’t intend to go far, though; it’s a better than even odds bet we’ll stay in the Bitterroot for the duration of the trip.

You’ve seen some of the activities the boys are up to. Now, I’ll be a bit more specific about what I’m doing with Owen. Allen is not really an organized team-sports guy- especially if they involve a ball. It’s not that he’s a klutz- he can wing a baseball and kick a soccer ball as good as your average Trevor and Madison out here in Montana, he’s just not into it. He’s happy with his swimsuit, fishing pole and bicycle. Owen, on the other hand, has that athlete’s knack with body movement and ball handling. You can see it when he just bends over to scoop up an errant grounder. I’m not saying he’s Joe Morgan material- I’m just sayin’.

So, sports-wise, the beauty of this trip is I have some time to give Owen some practice in all the sports he’s not doing when he’s playing the single sport they allow you to be involved in in Japan. He played basketball in jr. high back in Japan, but I know he missed soccer a bit- memories of elementary-school-age glory, as captain of the team.

About Owen’s soccer team. It’s just a scrub-league made up of home-schooled kids around the valley, but the coach is a great guy and the other kids are all friendly. Pretty good opportunity for Owen to keep his skills up and practice his English a bit- at least listening- O is still a shy dude in the English-speaking world. 

Coach put Owen at striker and told him he doesn’t have to run too much- like he did playing midfield back in Japan. “Just wait for the ball, turn and get a shot in.”  Thing is, O and I went out to Stevensville on Saturday to line the fields, and I began to wonder whether Owen would ever touch the ball if he plays striker. The grass is thick, lush and slow, and the field is 315 yards long, and they’re playing 9 a side! I couldn’t help but  question the idea of B-League players trying to advance the ball 300 yards to get in scoring range on a full-sized field, two players short, on a pitch that felt like running in a dream sequence where your feet stick to the ground, under the August Montana sun. They are going to be pooped after 5 minutes! The local soccer-board-member father said, “We always play with the goal posts placed here; they’ll be fine.” I didn’t say, “Now look here- I’m a licensed, association referee in Japan and this is beyond the pale!” but nodded and accepted my role as itinerant father from alien territory (Japan and Seattle). 

It’s going to be camp Lejeune basic training next Saturday, with all the running. My strategy for O is this: hang out on the half line; receive the ball; turn and boot it down the field; the ball will nearly come to a stop with the slow grass as you race past the sweeper for your solo breakaway and deftly juke the goalkeeper for an open shot. That’s the idea anyway and we’ll bring plenty of water. 

Aside from the team soccer duties, O and I like to play pick-up ball down at the high school. It’s a great, mixed crowd, twice a week in the evening. For me, except for surfing, there is nothing better, sports-wise, than pick-up soccer and basketball. For O, it’s a great experience as everything back in Japan is so hyper-organized. Pick-up soccer is loose and casual, but competitive at the same time, and players of all abilities find a role on the pitch. Owen is excelling with his crisp passing, ball-control and solid shots. He’s unsatisfied, however, with his one-on-one dribbling. “I want to get good at getting by the defender on my own.” Yes, that was always the toughest aspect of soccer for me. Better to just advance using a simple wall pass, if you have a teammate in the vicinity. And now, at 55, if I try to dribble by an opponent, I usually fake myself out. The legs refuse to obey. 

Yesterday evening I had the wonderful experience, for the first time, of getting a crisp, 12-yard pass, Gheorghie Hagi-style, over to Owen in the middle, and he one-touched blasted it (left-footed, he pointed out later), nice and low, into the net. Young O gets lots of compliments from the other players, and the Brazilians, for whom you have to earn your passes, even when you’re clearly open, don’t hesitate to pass to O. 

I’ll be brief about the other sports I’m playing with O. 

He bought a basketball down at the only sporting-goods place in town. (We’ve been keeping them in business- soccer shoes, balls, fishing gear, etc. It’s good to avoid Amazon if you can.) You can play hoops at the old high school or at a newer elementary that has glass backboards and the biggest playfield you’ve ever seen (pics in future post). 

He got a tennis racket. OK, we bought it online- a cheap Wilson for $25 bucks. The cheapest in his size at the store was over 60, and we’re just funnin’ around. 

We still have the bat and gloves for baseball. 

That’s it for ball sports and the O sporting report. Hope to have an Allen fishing report soon.