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When I was in elementary school, I walked on stilts all over our yard. No one could do what I did. How about 10 push-ups in front of my grandparents without stopping? “Watch me do 20.” While timing me to see how long I could bounce on my pogo stick before falling off, Dad stopped me at four minutes, “Times up. You’re the world champion.”

But it was baseball that won my heart. As a left-handed Little Leaguer in June 1964, I had an artificial leather glove that I wore on my right hand. Before the first game, that faux leather glove was in shreds, held together by white string my mom had strung through the glove.

One afternoon, Dad drove up in his red and yellow natural gas company pick-up, stopping alongside the empty lot behind our house. A neighborhood baseball game was in full swing. With his left arm hanging out the driver’s side of the pick-up, he motioned with his hand to come to his truck.

All the boys ran to Dad’s truck. “Well, boys,” Dad said, “I need to borrow Don for a little while. Don’t worry. We’ll be right back. Hop in, .”

Not once had I ever experienced Dad doing something like this. Dad drove to downtown Hoxie, Kan., a town of 1,200 people out on the prairie, 90 miles east of the Colorado border and 48 miles south of the Nebraska border. Driving south through town on Main Street, Dad pulled his pick-up into a spot directly in front of Mickey’s Hardware Store. The store sat on the southeast corner of Main Street and Sheridan Avenue, smack in the middle of downtown Hoxie.

“Hop out. Let’s go into Mickey’s.”

When we stepped inside, Vernon Mickey stood behind the counter. “Well, hello, Follis boys. What brings you in here on this fine afternoon?”

Pointing to a glove sitting on the shelf on the counter behind the cash register, Dad said, “We’d like to see that baseball glove.”

Mr. Mickey, winking at my dad, reached up on the shelf behind him, pulled down the glove and handed it to me.

“I hope you are left-handed,” Mr. Mickey said, winking again at my dad. “This glove goes on your right hand.”

“I am left-handed.”

“Well, try it on.”

After pulling the used glove on my right hand, I made a fist with my left hand and hit the center of the glove. While the glove was on my hand, Mr. Mickey grabbed the leather strap on the back and tightened it.

“What do you think?” Dad asked.

“I like it.” I said.

“Is it too big?”

It was — way too big.

“It’s good,” I said.

“We’ll make it work,” Dad said.

“Yeah, Dad, we’ll make it work.”

“We’ll take it,” Dad said. Pulling out a quarter from his pocket, he handed it to Mr. Mickey.

“You’ll be the best fielder out there,” Mr. Mickey said. Writing out a receipt, he gave Dad the top copy. “Baseball glove — $.25.” With the glove on my right hand, Dad and I walked out to his red and yellow company pick-up. Black lettering on the side read “Kansas-Nebraska Natural Gas Company.”

When Dad returned me to the vacant lot where he had picked me up, the other boys were sitting underneath a tree. As soon as they saw me waving the glove on my right hand high in the air, they jumped to their feet. The rest of the game consisted of me playing catcher while they took turns throwing their best pitch.

Crouched in a catcher’s stance, Donny Follis, age 9, was the new neighborhood celebrity, the proud owner of an oversized, used softball glove. Turns out, that glove saw several Little League summers.

When Dad got home from work, he picked up my little fake leather glove laying on the ground, walked it to the back of our yard and threw it into our rust-colored metal trash barrel.

Together, we stood in the middle of the backyard as Dad threw several pitches while I played catcher. When Dad’s pitches hit my glove, they made popping sounds when they hit the pocket of the glove. Throwing the baseball back to Dad, he caught it barehanded.

That night, Dad pulled out a can of saddle soap. We rubbed it into every crevice of that old glove. Today, if someone stuck an open can of saddle soap under my nose while my eyes were closed, I’d instantly say, “Hoxie, Kansas, summer baseball, June 1964.”

“She’s going to serve you well,” Dad said. “You take good care of this glove. Don’t leave it out in the yard at night.”

Growing up out on the High Plains, I learned from my dad and mom early in life to be “just fine, ” to be grateful for what I had and to never show much emotion, especially painful emotion. “Dry those tears up.”

Thankfully, when Dad grew older, he was more present and did his best to show that, even initiating “I love you.”

Happily, that early June day in 1964, when we two Follis boys walked in “Mickey’s Hardware Store” in Hoxie, Dad was emotionally invested. Entirely present, he went out of his way to show his 9-year-old red-headed with a crew cut how much he loved him.

Don Follis counsels pastors and consults with a wide array of churches. He blogs at donfollis.com, where you can subscribe to his posts. He can be reached at donscolumn@gmail.com.

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