Turns out, a North Dakota winter is the best of all places to learn to ride a bike. The sidewalks are paved. But the snow lining the sidewalks makes for a cushy crash.
Maybe the security of Dakota snow fostered the fearlessness of driving NBA lanes for Reggie Jackson.
A Christmas story, 1934: Living in Dust Bowl Oklahoma, the family had few of the luxuries but all of the necessities, the youngest boy likes to say these days. Food from the farm, a two-holer outhouse and a coal-fueled stove in the living room.
Picking cotton was part of the boys' routine. Their dad would turn it into a contest, challenging them to pick more than he did. When the boys thought they might win, they would let their dad know. But Homer would always say, “It's not what you have now that matters, but what you have at the hang-up,” referring to the sacks being hung up for weighing at the wagon.
Almost 80 years later, the youngest boy would write a biography and call it “The Hang-Up.”
The three brothers on this Christmas received a basketball, laced with strings and a bladder inside.
Homer built his boys a goal, placing a wooden backboard and netless rim onto a steel pole. Sometime after Christmas, the youngest boy, not yet in school, was waiting for his older brothers to be dropped off by the school bus.
He took the basketball, and using both hands, lifted it from between his legs and launched it at the homemade hoop. It went in.
He could hardly wait for the bus to arrive to tell his brothers about the basket. He's not sure they believed him, but he knows that day on the farm outside Hollis began a love affair with basketball for Ted Owens.
A Christmas story, circa 2000: His parents had a new mirror in the house, so they had thrown out the old one. It was in the garbage out back.
But not for long. Their son saw the big, old mirror and was enticed by the shine and the sparkle. Reminded him of ice. It was snowing outside, the feeling was all White Christmas and so the boy decided to ice-skate. On the mirror.
He laid it on the grass, hopped on with his socking feet and made like Brian Boitano.
But not for long. He fell down, broke the mirror and the shattered glass stabbed him right in the knee.
“My brilliant childhood mind,” the boy says now. “I was really a smart kid. I still have the scars.”
Maybe the scars remain, but the bad judgment is long gone. Indeed, you could find no better description than “smart kid” for Gabe Ikard.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.