"You outta get yourself a hobby." I knew my friend was just trying to be helpful when he recently spoke those words to me.
"Yeah, right," I replied but, as is sometimes the case and after some meaningless words are uttered, I began to think, "Should I get a hobby?" Then I tried to bring to an end an issue that I knew would surely begin to fester in my mind. "Maybe I already have a hobby," I thought.
It was a short time after parting ways with the originator of that advice which wouldn't leave me alone when I tried to find something which might be called a hobby, something that I already did but just hadn't yet thought of as a hobby.
"Let's just see," I said to myself as I began to consider the things in my life which occupy my time.
"There is the writing of silly stories. No," I thought to myself. I didn't consider that time spent at the computer's keyboard, those late nights staring at the monitor as the words poured out as a hobby. I had already penned a name to those hours. I called that time therapy. I considered those many hours to be therapeutic time which might stave off the onset of inanity. So, I crossed writing off the list of possible hobbies.
"What about golf?" I do play some golf and I supposed the so-called sport might be considered a hobby. Striking that diminutive dimpled sphere just might be a diversion. I began to try to make it fit into the category of a hobby. It consumes the hours of a few days each month and I didn't suppose you could call it work. However, as I thought about all the poorly struck balls which found their way into water-filled ponds or those that careened off tree branches falling to who knows where, I brought to an end the possibility that the game of golf was a tranquil pastime. "Surely a hobby would be something that would bring peace and contentment into one's life, not aggravation and frustration." So, I crossed golf off the list.
"Let's see, I don't spend hours upon hours building model ships. I neither have the inclination nor the talent to put paint to canvas. I'm not sure what needlepoint really is and restoring old cars seems like far too much work." I was running out of ideas.
Then it came to me. There was something I did and I supposed that, if the criteria for that which constituted a hobby were stretched to its very limits, this act, this thing I did might just be called a hobby. There it was; the remedy for several soon-to-be sleepless nights. As silly as it may sound, I look for and gather golf balls.
I walk the golf course grounds in the evenings. As the sun slowly falls below the tree line to the west, the serenity gives me a chance to walk, think and enjoy the sounds of the evening. The golfers who roamed the course earlier have recorded their pars, birdies, bogeys and miscellaneous scores. Some of those golfers have left behind the remnants of errant shots and poorly executed swings -- lost golf balls.
I sometimes find the little round ones resting on fairway grass and plainly visible to anyone searching for them. I do, however, understand that occasionally a shot is hit so remarkably bad that one has no idea where to begin looking for the ball.
The high grass in the rough is a good place to find the balls. They seem to know where the deepest grass is and press themselves against the ground while covering their shells with a blanket of thick grass. I find that, occasionally, a ball is discovered only because I have felt it under the sole of my shoe. Even as I step back looking for the object that pushed against my foot, I sometimes must place my hand into the grass and feel around until the lost ball is found.
The wooded pasture land near the east edge of the course is a favorite spot to search for the poorest of shots. A right-hander's slice causes many a ball to land in the high grass growing between the trees. When walking in the tall grass and in the shade of the trees, I have two things I try to avoid: stepping in cow droppings or on slithery serpents.
There are three ponds on the Elk River Golf Course property and I have given them exotic names. There is the "big pond" named for its size relative to the other two ponds. Then there is the "medium-sized pond," once again named for its size when compared to the other ponds. Finally, and, no, it's not called the small pond, there is the "pond nearest to Stauber's pasture." I call it that because, well, it's the closest pond to pasture land owned by the Stauber family. I could have called it the "small pond," but the creative side of me wouldn't allow it.
It is this, the latter of the three ponds which tempts me so terribly. You see, it is usually in August and when the rains have taken a hiatus that the water leaves the pond. Some of the water just evaporates while some sinks into the clay bottom.
Knowing that much of the pond's clay bottom was now visible, I walked to the pond the other day. I had in hand a golf ball retriever, a long pole with an attachment for grabbing balls, and a plastic grocery bag. Sure enough, when I got to the pond and, as I stood on the bank, there were at least two dozen balls clearly visible.
They rested not in water but on the bed of the pond. However, the bed, at least in my assessment, wasn't completely dry. Nevertheless, it was as if those lonely lost balls were taunting me. I knew that if they had tongues, they would have been wagging at me, "come and get me." So I decided to get them.
The bank was rather steep and, as I maneuvered my way onto the dry area of the pond, one thought did enter my mind. Suppose I couldn't get my old self up that steep embankment and out of that depression. But those balls, those tempting golf balls, surely had to be mine, so I stepped onto the pond's floor.
At first, everything went well as I gingerly moved my feet near each ball. I used the retriever to get several while others were merely picked by hand. It was those last two orange balls that would make the effort worthwhile but, as I neared them, my foot sank into the muddy clay. My leg sunk almost up to my knee and, as I stumbled, the other foot and leg sunk equally deep into the mud.
I was, however, determined and, using the retriever, grabbed the two orange balls. Pulling as hard as I could, I removed one foot from the mud but my shoe remained in the gooey mess. I reached into the mud and retrieved the shoe. The same thing happened when I pulled the other leg from the mud. Again, I reached in and pulled out the shoe.
Thinking things couldn't get much worse, I removed both socks and then barefooted sloshed through the mess, up the pond's bank and onto dry secure grass. I looked a mess but I was somewhat proud of my ability to extricate myself from the situation. Then shoe-less and without socks, I walked home. I sat on my driveway and rested for a few minutes before cleaning the mud off my shoes, socks, legs and feet. Somehow, the mud didn't matter anymore and I found the greatest satisfaction in the fact that I had found 27 lost golf balls.
It just stands to reason that every hobby must have its own unique challenge. How frustrating it must be to get all those bits and pieces of broken colored glass placed just so when creating a mosaic masterpiece. It must be very stressful while attempting to get those sailing ships through the small opening and inside those bottles. It was in the bed of the "pond nearest to Stauber's pasture" that I met a muddy challenge. But I guess that's just one of the snags with my hobby.
Stan Fine is a retired police officer and Verizon Security Department investigator who, after retiring in 2006, moved from Tampa, Fla., to Noel. 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.