Winning My First Blue Ribbon…and Second

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                        April 28, 2014

 

When I was eight years old I was a non-stop mover. I was the hyper kid before we ever used that term. I may have defined it. I had short brown hair…no sissy long hair for us in those days…a freckled face, and most of my front teeth. Women were always telling me I was cute. Of course, they were also all my aunts. Unrelated eight year old girls seemed unimpressed!

In the summer time our community of Williamstown, West Virginia was a paradise for kids. There was the community swimming pool, Little League baseball, summer tennis lessons on the high school courts, and the greatest outdoor basketball courts I can remember.

Williamstown also had a summer parks and recreation morning program where kids could come and get involved in different crafts, games, and other kid-oriented activities. At the end of the summer the Wood County Parks and Recreation competitions were held in Vienna, a few miles up the road. Children from the various summer program areas came together to compete against one another in swimming, track and field, and other competitions.

I can remember hopping on the bus that morning with the other kids from my park and heading up the highway. I had my school lunch pail containing a peanut butter and jelly sandwich on white. (We didn’t know what wheat bread was in those days. If it was around it would have been viewed with a high degree of suspicion. After all, in 1962 we were told that there were all kinds of Communist subversive efforts going on. To us wheat bread would have been seen as a subtle pulling towards the dark side.)

      On the way to the competition my park director, a nice-looking young lady who I remember as being named Patty, informed me that I was going to be competing three events: the eight year old 25 yard freestyle and the 100 yard freestyle relay in the swimming competition; and the eight year old 50 yard dash in track.

I knew how to run fifty yards. I was fast. Whenever we played tag on the school playground none of the girls could catch me!

Maybe that wasn’t the best of ideas, now that I think about it!

The swimming competition started right after we arrived at the Vienna park, and being eight, my age group was to go first.

The announcer hit the volume on the loud speaker and said, “All those boys in the eight year old 25 yard freestyle race are to report to the deep end of the pool.” 

That was me! I entrusted my lunch pail to my friend Ronnie and trotted on my tippy toes to the  end of the pool that featured the diving boards. There was only one other boy waiting there. The starter waited another moment to make sure there were no other boys stumbling towards the deep end and then he turned to the two of us and asked, “Are you boys here for the eight year old race?” I nodded yes like a kid about to be given medicine, but the other boy looked up at the man with a pitiful expression of uncertainty and asked, “Is this water over my head?”

“Well, yes son, it’s twelve feet deep!”

     A couple of eyebrows rose towards heaven, and his eyeballs got as big as saucers, and he said to the man, “Well…I can’t swim!”

The starter looked a little puzzled and said, “Ohhh!” And then he turned towards me and continued, “Well, I guess that means you win, son!”

He handed me a blue ribbon, which I would have immediately pinned to my chest if I hadn’t been bare-chested.

The thing of it was…I couldn’t swim either! Honesty, however, had not arrived as a resident of my life, and I wouldn’t start taking swimming lessons at the Williamstown Community Pool until the next summer. I had the mindset that I could dog paddle twenty five yards. Lassie did it on TV all the time!

Besides, the deep end of a pool where the water was undisturbed looked deceptively shallow…like you could just reach over and touch the bottom.

But if you didn’t HAVE to get wet, why give out any incriminating information?

So I didn’t!

Thirty minutes later our relay team was the only team entered in the swimming relay race…so I doubled my blue ribbon haul…and was still bone dry!

The third blue ribbon was legit! I out-raced about twenty other eight year old boys in the fifty yard dash. I was like a greyhound in the midst of a bunch of dachshunds!

I enjoyed my peanut butter and jelly sandwich and hid my three blue ribbons in the safe of my lunch box, like I was The Man from U.N.C.L.E!

I’m not sure I learned any lessons that day on the value of good sportsmanship and fair play, but…I was eight!

I still have those three blue ribbons in my closet. Every time I come across them while looking for something else I simply chuckle and remember.

Those were good days, days that still make me smile, except now when I smile I have all my front teeth!

Explore posts in the same categories: children, Community, Humor, Parenting, Story, Teamwork, Uncategorized, Youth

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