As far as baseball goes, Arkansans' loyalties are divided between the Texas Ranger fans in the southwest corner and St. Louis Cardinal fans everywhere else. Of course there are variations on the theme, but that pretty well sums it up.
We were Rangers kids, and growing up we watched them as much as we could, directing our satellite to the far reaches of the galaxy just to catch a few innings. The picture was no problem, but for some reason we never picked up the sound. Our mom didn't like it, but we would turn up the radio and blast the play-by-play, sitting in front of the TV with baseball gloves at the ready, in case a stray foul ball landed in our living room.
There was something indescribable about those days, when we'd settle down after dinner to listen to the crack of the bat and the roar of the crowd as the lazy summer sun peeked through the windows, taking its time to go to bed. One of those Rangers broadcasters we used to listen to was Steve Busby. Busby once said that baseball was the national pastime because it was a summer game, that Americans were summer people and summer was what they thought of when they thought of their childhood.
He's right. The warm weather always makes us think of being a kid and a big part of that was baseball.
Of course, another part of that was mowing the lawn. Work and play, yet inextricably linked to one another. In the same way that a major league yard has to be clipped, trimmed and mowed before the players unleash their cleats upon it, we had to finish up the chores before heading out to play. The smell of freshly cut grass conjures memories of hard work and of kicking around out in center field, waiting on the next fly ball.
It was with that attitude that we pulled the mower out of the shed last weekend. Within minutes we were transported back in time, thinking of the pack of baseball cards we might buy with our small monetary reward. After the deed was done we stood in the yard, crouched with our hands on our knees, out of breath and sweat coming through our shirt. But with that first whiff of cut grass we weren't just hunched over, dreading the inevitable soreness that tomorrow would bring. We were taking a lead off of first, watching the pitcher's every move, and thinking about stealing second. It was spring time and the Rangers were on the radio.
Spotted: We were out grabbing a beer and a Chicken Philly at one of our favorite North Little Rock hangouts, Rocky's Pub, when who should walk through the door? Former Gov. Mike Huckabee, that's who. The Huck was decked out in sweats and accompanied by his wife and another couple. Of note: no beers for the Fox News host. The post-happy hour Rocky's crowd, while surely noting the former governor's presence, let the Hucks eat in peace. Given our liberal leanings, we joked with a friend that it was probably time to pick a new favorite restaurant. Our friend replied quickly and without hesitation, “I'll turn Republican before I stop eating here.”
This Palm Sunday morning, The Observer was driving back to Arkansas from a wonderful weekend in Louisiana watching a mating ritual between two rare birds when we decided that just because we were missing church didn't mean we couldn't belt out several verses of “All Glory Laud and Honor to Thee Redeemer King” as we headed down the road. As it happens, the cell phone rang, and it was a Baptist on the other end, also traveling back to Arkansas. She started in with “There Is a Balm in Gilead,” and the Methodist in the car grabbed the phone from us and tried to sing along, but could not, the Baptist's tune being a little different from the one the strayed Baptist-turned-Methodist grew up with. (The Episcopalian didn't know either version.) We couldn't preach like Peter, or pray like Paul, and we couldn't sing in harmony either, but we all had the same idea, anyway.