Monday, March 16, 2009

Softball and my family

I love my family. They are a bunch of weird, loud people, all of whom I have something in common with (besides DNA), even if it's only a small thing. My father's side of the family happens to be a rather large family (Dad being number 8 of 10 kids), which nowadays doesn't usually get together all at once. Because of the sheer size of the family and the fact most of the grandkids have started their own families, it gets harder and harder to get everyone in the same place at once. But when I was younger, we had regular meetings of the entire Buehl clan, with upwards of 50 of us at once at the same place. Some of my favorite memories came from my Aunt Robyn and Uncle Skeeter's (his real name is Kent, but he's Skeeter or Skippy to the majority of our family) house near Blue Mounds, WI.

Now, I'm not surprised if you've never really heard of Blue Mounds. It has under 1,000 people in it. It's not a particularly popular tourist destination (but then again, neither is Wisconsin as a whole). But it is actually quite pretty, as it's the tallest point in Wisconsin. It's a village surrounded by a state park. My Aunt and Uncle lived outside of this place, in one of the many valleys surrounded by towering peaks (towering for the Midwest, anyway). And of course, as you would suspect, they had a couple of very large hills on their farmette.

It was on one of these hills my story for today happened. My uncle Kerry was at the bottom of the hill, hitting a softball to some of the older grandkids that were spread out on the hill face. I was about 4 or 5 at the time, so I was not participating in the game, though I was watching intently with my cousin Christopher (who is a week younger than I am). Now, I don't remember this as vividly as others do, so this is a mish mash of what I can recall and eyewitness accounts, but what I can tell you for sure is 1) this did happen and 2) it was hilarious.

So, my uncle Kerry is about 6'2" and over 200 lbs. He's not a small guy, by any means. And he could hit a ball very hard. In fact, he didn't really have a soft touch for anything; he was all about power. This was the guy who would throw a Nerf football at you (god help you if it was an actual football) and it would hiss as it came at you, a dull thud resonating from your chest as you tried to catch it but couldn't react fast enough to close your hands. And that was when he was throwing right handed. He would then get tired with that arm, switch to his left arm (which was his natural throwing arm), and bruise your chest even worse until you had a bruised rib or collapsed lung, which ever came first (often they came simultaneously). He was an ambidextrous merchant of death. Now apply that to him hitting a softball, and you understand why at 5 years old, I chose to stay out of the game.

Well, by all accounts, my cousin Jeremy (who would have been around 7 or 8) was trying to keep out of the game as well. Of course, he was trying to keep out of the game by playing on the same hillside, just not in the direct line of the ball. Of course, Kerry got a hold of a ball pretty well (as he did rather often) and the kids scrambled to catch the ball. The only problem was that this wasn't so much a pop fly; it was more a heat seeking line drive of unconsciousness. And try as Kerry may, he couldn't get any words out as the ball veered towards Jeremy's head like a smart bomb.

Bear in mind that we Buehl's are famous for two things: our senses of humor and our enormous heads. Both of those came into play as the softball struck my cousin's mondo melon and knocked him out of his Chuck Taylor's. According to some people there he was out like a light for a good minute or so, but others say that he began wailing immediately like a hydrocephalic banshee. In either case, he was hurt and my uncle Kerry was laughing while trying to show concern for what he had done. He didn't come off as particularly concerned when he started recanting the story almost immediately, complete with sound effects and hand motions, but eventually Jeremy was fine (as fine as you can be in our family) and everyone was fine with laughing at the story (that took approximately 20 minutes). And to this day, Jeremy still swears he can't remember it happening (probably because of massive head trauma), but everyone else in our family sure as hell can.

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