"He's as handy as a button on a shirt." What in the world was the member of our golf foursome talking about? I hadn't lived in Noel for more than a few months when, and quite unexpectedly, a man who I had really never been introduced to asked a question. "Say, we're getting up a team, you know a foursome, to play in this Saturday's golf tournament and we need one more person. Do you want to play?" I thought for a moment and all the while searching my memory for the man's name. "Is that the 4-person scramble tournament here at the Elk River Golf Course?" "Yeah." "Sure, I'd like to play."
We talked for a few minutes, mostly about golf and the other two members of the team then parted ways with the reinforcement of the offer. "Now don't forget, we're counting on you." "OK, I won't forget. I'll see you Saturday morning." I'll be darned if I still couldn't come up with that guy's name. Oh well, if it didn't come to me by the weekend I was certain that someone would call him by name.
Saturday came and what a beautiful June morning it was. It looked as if there were golf carts and golfers everywhere. Some were hitting balls on the practice range while others were certain that a last minute tweak to their putting stroke would provide the cure to those missed three-footers. As I entered the pro-shop there, and as if he was waiting to see if I would show, was the man whose name I still hadn't yet come up with.
"Morning," he said in a tone that exuded a sense of relief. "Morning, are we starting at nine o'clock?" "You bet. The other fellas are on the practice green. We're fixin' to start on hole number five." "OK, I'll meet you guys on the tee box." "K," he replied. "I need to get to it. My wife's at the hair place gettin' purty-fied and I gotta pick her up in a bit." Curious yes, but I asked for no explanation.
Now, and for the benefit of those of you who don't enjoy the self-imposed pain and degradation that is part of the game of golf, I will briefly explain the four-person scramble format. Each team of four will play 18 holes of golf. Each golfer will hit a shot from each tee-box and the best or most desirable shot will be selected. The same routine will be followed until a ball is deposited into the cup sunken into the green. Only the number of best shots will be added and that number will then be recorded as the official score for the hole.
One of the four men made an awkward looking swing with his driver, causing the ball to violently slice to the right. The ball flew over a barbed-wire fence coming to rest in a grassy cow pasture. "That dog won't hunt," he exclaimed. I didn't comment but assumed the remark referencing a canine had something to do with a less than favorable outcome.
I, on the other hand was lucky enough to hit a beautiful shot. The ball began its journey down the right hand side of the fairway and after a slight curve to the left came to rest in the middle of the closely cropped grass. It was then that my teammate said, "He's as handy as a button on a shirt." I asked if that was a good thing and everyone reassured me that it was.
As the cool morning transitioned into a warm and beautiful afternoon, I continued to be inundated with folksy phrases. I wondered if the barrage of axioms may have been prompted by my earlier question regarding the shirt button. There were moments when I was tempted to inquire as to the meaning and relevancy of some comments, however I thought it more prudent to refrain from enlarging the opening in the already opened "can of worms."
Following a number of poor putts, none of which came even remotely close to dropping into the hole, a frustrated teammate remarked, "The chance of me making a putt is about as scarce as finding a deviled egg at the end of a church picnic." Admittedly, I had never been to a church picnic so I had to take him at his word and assume that deviled eggs were not only served but also extremely well thought of at such events.
The nearness of the green on a short par three-hole caused one golfer to violently lash out at the ball with his eight iron. The ball never soared more than a few feet from the ground and after a splash the dimpled and yellow colored sphere quickly sunk to the bottom of the pond that rested between the tee box and the green. After several blows to the ground with the club head, the man angrily characterized himself as someone who, "didn't have sense enough to pound sand into a rat hole." I didn't even attempt to make sense of that one.
I believe that when all was said and done our team finished the round of golf with a score of 67, or five under par. The score seemed respectable and although we didn't win there were no condolences or words of sympathy offered by members of the other teams. In fact, I recall that we finished in a tie for third place and the prize money was the exact amount earlier given as the entry fee.
Prize money was awarded for shots that came to rest closest to the pins on the par three holes and some received money for the longest drives on the par fives. I recall smiling a little as I wished that there was a prize for the team who voiced the most number of country expressions but of course there was no such award.
I look back at that day of golf as both one of fun and one of learning. I learned that some things are "better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick" and some people are "tough as nails and twice as sharp." When amazed it is widely known that it is proper to "butter my butt and call me a biscuit." Thinking about the day of golf makes me feel, "worn slap out."
I now live on the outskirts of Noel, Mo., and just across the two-lane blacktop road from the golf course. I play one or two rounds of golf a week as I find that although my mind is willing my aging body often declines the invitation. However, some of my most pleasurable moments on the golf course are those evening walks I take. Armed only with a seven iron and four golf balls I cross the blacktop road, duck under the single strand of barbed wire and walk onto the course.
As I walk the course and hit shots with that single club, I tell myself that I am working on my golf swing but if I were to be completely honest that's not the real purpose of my walks. I enjoy the quiet serenity that the evening walks offer. The breeze that comes from the south and brushes against my face reminds me that the day is almost gone. If timed just right my walks come to their conclusions just as the Sun falls below the tree-filled hills behind my house and I am graced with the sight of pastel orange colors that weave their way through the branches of the trees. I often think to myself that those evening walks and the sight of the setting Sun helps put golf and everything else in my life into perspective.
As you might expect, I learned the name of the man who some years ago extended the invitation to play golf. He and I have since then played golf together many times; sometimes as partners and sometimes as foes. What is the man's name you might ask? Well, he prefers to shun the bright light of notoriety therefore any attempt at coaxing me to give it up would be like, well like, "Tryin' to poke a cat out from under the porch with a rope."
Stan Fine is a retired police officer and Verizon Security Department investigator who, after retiring in 2006, moved from Tampa, Fla., to Noel, Mo. Stan's connection to Noel can be traced back to his grandparents who lived most of their lives there. Stan began writing after the passing of his wife Robin in 2013. Opinions expressed are those of the author.Editorial on 03/12/2020
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