Storm Lake Times Pilot

Shootin’ hoops ‘til I’m pooped


Before he grew up and moved on, my youngest son and his neighborhood buddies shot hoops just about every night at the basket in our driveway.

The basket is on the side of our driveway directly across from my neighbor’s basket and adjoining driveway, so they face each other and form a nifty full court. This was quite popular with the kids.

Many times I shot hoops with them in the heat, the cold, the wind, the snow and rain — it didn’t seem to matter much to them if they had a mindset to play basketball.

By playing so much outdoor basketball with my sons, I was constantly reminded of the many games I played as a child with my brothers, sisters and neighborhood kids at my first basket ever — at our house in Truesdale.

Dad was a welder then, so he planted a rusty, cast iron pole, plywood backboard and metal hoop (no net) in our back yard that used to house a coal pile. The court was comprised of dirt and several inches of coal dust pounded into a fine powder by our many busy feet and games played there.

We’d play for hours on end in that black dust, breathing it and falling in it.  But it made a very solid, smooth surface for dribbling and running and was the most popular basketball court in town. 

Yes, our shoes, socks, clothes and skin would all be black when we finished, not a good thing when we had to share the bath water that night with two or three siblings.

So far, there have been no instances of black lung in the family, so maybe we dodged a bullet or two in those memorable times there.

I may be dating myself, but we didn’t have running water then and our outhouse stood stately about 20 feet from under the basket and the door was always propped open for obvious ventilation reasons.

Well, one day, I raced for a loose ball, batted it back in bounds, and lost my balance while making a header for the outhouse. I tripped on the old broom holding open the door and fell headfirst inside the two-hole biffy.

I extended my arms and hands to break the fall and my left hand went into a hole and spluck! into the most weird feeling stuff I’ve ever encountered, my chin bounced off the wooden two-hole seat and the top of my head banged off the thick Sears & Roebuck catalog we called toilet paper, and into the back wall.

Dazed, I scrambled to my feet, stumbled out the door and raced to the pump over the cistern, where I pumped madly waiting for that cleansing water to rise up and rinse my sullied hand and arm clean. I then went into the house, grabbed the can of Borax,  and scrubbed my hands until the skin was hanging from the bones.

And all the while my brothers and sisters and neighbor kids stood there in their blackface laughing uncontrollably as the tears of anger and embarrassment rolled down my cheeks.

I’ll never forget that day, that basketball court or that outhouse. In fact, Dad dug two new holes, filled in the old ones and relocated that biffy a few days later.

I played many more games of basketball on that court and whenever the ball got anywhere near the outhouse side of the court, to the dismay of my teammates, I let that sucker go.

No s—!

Paul Struck is the editor of the Cherokee Chronicle Times.

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