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Thankfully, the ‘encounter’ wasn’t an omen for the holiday weekend

Thankfully, the encounter with an unhappy reader on Friday afternoon was not an omen for the entire weekend.I may not be the smartest guy in the world, but I had an inkling that I was about to get blasted when Ruth Walden came back and whispered, “He says he wants to talk to the dumb son of a ...”She actually finished the sentence, but I think you get the idea even if I don’t.We had — through some unfortunate miscommunication — failed to get in a brief about a local Memorial Day observance, which before I go any further, I deeply regret.But to have my integrity questioned when it comes to not “giving a %$#% about veterans unless they’re from New Hampton” was a little tough to take.I swallowed hard, beat down the sarcasm that tends to boil over the top when I’m stressed, apologized and politely asked him to leave.I got the point. We screwed up. No apology on this day was going to placate the angry reader. The best we could hope for was not to have a shouting match erupt in our little office on Chestnut Avenue.I am the product of a veteran, and if I could make a fist with my “little hand,” I would be a veteran.Dad served in the U.S. Air Force for 20 years, and my plan during my senior year of high school was to enlist in the Navy and become a nuclear engineer.Unfortunately, I failed the physical because — despite the fact that I would in all likelihood serve on an aircraft carrier or a submarine — I couldn’t make a fist with my right hand.More than 34 years after the fact, it still bothers me. I watched guys struggle to lift 100 pounds and pass the physical while I did not even though let’s face it, if it ever came down to hand-to-hand combat on a carrier or a sub, we’d probably be in deep trouble.Still, I have a deep appreciation for anyone who has served and especially for those that we honor on Memorial Day.I’ve covered Memorial Day observances every year since 2004, but I honestly can’t remember the last year, I didn’t attend a program on the holiday.In my Dad’s eyes, getting off your duff for a while on the last Monday of May was like breathing, eating and sleeping. You just did it.And although Dad has been gone 12 1/2 years now, I wouldn’t think of doing anything else on Memorial Day.•••••But after the encounter, I needed a break from the newspaper.I get it: We screwed up, I screwed up.But lately, I feel like I should just set up a cot in our office. It would save the time I spend driving back and forth from home, although, with no shower here, I’m sure my co-workers appreciate the fact that I do make the daily drive to and from work.The plan before I was called the “dumb son ...” was to take the camera to New Hampton’s baseball games at Riverfront Stadium in Waterloo, but I chucked the plan.On Friday, after that conversation, work could wait; I decided to just be a dad.Now, don’t get me wrong, being a reporter at a small newspaper like ours comes with great perks. When Noah competed in the state dual-meet wrestling tournament, I was matside. When Josh finished his races at the state track meet, I got to talk to him almost as soon as he was done.Sometimes, though, you just have to be a dad, and the angry man who visited our office Friday afternoon may not know this but he gave me one of the best gifts I’ve received in a long time.•••••It got even better on Saturday when I heard the news that Carter Stochl had put together a blistering second round 68 at the Class 2A state golf meet in Fort Dodge.That propelled the New Hampton senior to become the Chickasaws’ first-ever state golf champion.I would have appreciated any Chickasaw accomplishing the feat, but seeing as it came from one of the kids who first made Josh feel like a Chickasaw so long ago, it was the proverbial icing on the cake.For the first year, year and a half, that we lived here, my boys, I believe, felt like fish out of the water. The tide began to turn when Josh joined his classmates on various youth sports teams, but for a long while, I could have come home and told Josh we were going to move back to Forest City and he might have packed the truck all my himself.But the summer after fifth grade, he played on a travel baseball team with guys like Stochl, Noah Hopp, Keegan Tenge, Ryan Gorman, Zach Wemark and Drew Boeding and the transformation from Indian to Chickasaw was completed.Those “older boys” made him feel accepted, as corny as that sounds, and today, his “pinned tweet” reads “I thank God everyday I became a Chickasaw.”So I have a special affinity for this group of soon-to-be-former Chickasaws, and to see one of them reach the pinnacle of his sport — with a second-day charge, no less — made my heart sing.•••••Finally, totally off the subject, the photo that accompanies this column just made me laugh because when I saw Nick and Carol Hopp’s dog, Red, at last week’s baseball game, I immediately thought of my mom.There are those who love baseball. Count me in that group. There are those that tolerate the sport. Count the boys’ mom, Robin, in that group. And there are those poor souls who just don’t get the sport. Mom was president of that group.“I know you love it, Bobby, but I’d rather watch paint dry,” she would tell me as a kid.So when I saw Red snoozing during the New Hampton-Clear Lake game, I had to snap a picture for mom. Somewhere up above, I know she’s smiling, knowing she’s found a soul mate when it comes to baseball. 

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