Celebrating 70

After a road trip that included an 838-mile day of driving — from Elmira, N.Y., to Dodgeville, Wis., to be more precise — one would think that my father would want to do plenty of relaxing upon our arrival back in Worthington a few days ago.

But relaxing is not how Dad — who marked the big 7-0 milestone on Monday — rolls. Sure, he’s a pretty mellow dude on the surface, but if the wheels aren’t turning in his head about something, then he’s up to some kind of work.

I’ve had this view of my father for a while, and spending a few days with him in the car and then back here with my wife and kids sharpened this perspective somewhat. I must stress that I by no means intend to cast him in a negative light, as we enjoyed some wonderful time together that I imagine both of us will treasure for a long while. Vacation, though, is approached by my dad in a way that’s not quite the same as his oldest (and comparatively less ambitious) son.

We departed from an absolutely terrific McGaughey family reunion in Killington, Vt., on Monday the 18th, stopping for a couple of hours for lunch with my mom and brother before continuing onward about three or so hours southwest to Binghamton. I hadn’t been back to my college alma mater in 22 years, and let’s just the say the place has been virtually transformed since then. There’s no shortage of new residence halls, the student union seems like a completely different building … and yet, there was still a sort of “coming home” feeling to the experience. After dinner at an old restaurant at which I’d enjoyed middle-of-night meals in an earlier era, we pressed on another hour to so to Elmira, where we rented a room at the somewhat questionable-from-the-exterior Mark Twain Motor Inn, which turned out to be just fine despite the Bates Motel vibe.

I’ve already veered off track a little bit, but Monday’s travels set the stage for a full day Tuesday that included breakfast in lovely Corning, N.Y., and — many, many miles later, bed in a Super 8 a few miles outside of Madison, Wis. Dad did the last four hours of driving or so, but it was I who was more or less delirious by the time we pulled over at around 12:30 a.m. The goal has been to have a reasonably short drive to Decorah, Iowa, on Wednesday morning, then make it back to Worthington in time for supper later in the afternoon.

In short, that mission was successful, plus we had a delightful (if a little brief) Decorah stop. We made it home, we relaxed — for a little — and crashed.

The next day started with some more relaxation, as Dad and I enjoyed some good coffee and good company at The Lantern in Sibley before returning. It wasn’t long before he was up to something, though, as we made the first of what turned to be many visits to Ace Hardware. Grace was interested in having a fort in the backyard, and Grandpa was determined to find a way to make it happen.

That project turned out to be a minor investment of time compared to Dad’s second area of focus. He had sent us a fairly advanced (or so it seemed) weather station for Christmas that somehow sends all kinds of readings (temperature, wind speed, precipitation, humidity, barometric pressure, etc.) from outdoors back to your computer. He’d said he’d set it up for us when he came to visit in February, but one — of course — doesn’t set up outdoor weather stations in Minnesota in February.

The main thing I took away from the weather station setup was this: There were several reasons for Dad to throw in the towel, yet he persevered. The manual was horrible, pieces didn’t fit together properly, weather data occasionally stopped transmitting for one reason or another … but in the end, the bloody thing was up and working, and it’s still functioning a week after he left. I wish I had a tenth of the acuity needed to make such a thing happen.

But that’s my dad — it was his vacation, and he was our guest, yet he served us extraordinarily with a fort and weather station. And wouldn’t you know, he even found the time at night to drink wine with us AND read both a short novel and a book of Langston Hughes poetry? Meanwhile, I was looking at my iPad, going back and forth between rotten Twins games and various social media. Perhaps I could be using my spare time better?

What a guy you are, Dad. Thanks for being you — and cheers to the birthday boy.

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Vacation? Not quite

I had the chance to take three days off of work earlier this week, but it was by no means a vacation.

With my wife out of town, it was time for me to fly solo with our 9-year-old daughter, 7-year-old son and not-quite-yet-housebroken Shih Tzu mix dog. I had joked earlier that I might be finding my way to a certain enterprise located near the corner of Worthington’s Diagonal Road and Oxford Street by the first night of her absence, but that never happened. Instead of enjoying the rare quiet moments to kick back with a chilled adult beverage, I either read or tried to chant Buddhist-like mantras to myself in hopes of achieving some degree of relaxation.

Now, this isn’t intended to come across as a rant. All things considered, the kids and I had a good time with each other and, perhaps more importantly, the dog was still breathing when I got home and wasn’t off the strict schedule Becca had just gotten him on in preparation for the upcoming school year. Still, let’s just say I have no plans to become a stay-at-home dad anytime soon.

For instance, what the Coke can is to residents of the African bush in the film “The Gods Must Be Crazy” is what my iPad has become to Grace and Zach. Still, taking this technology away doesn’t immediately eradicate conflict; the not-so-loving siblings simply find something else to spar over. Zach has the habit of pestering his sister to work her into a tizzy — a rationale that’s hard for me to fathom, since Grace has a tendency to go from 0 to 100 on a tranquility scale in a matter of milliseconds. This thought may come back to haunt me, but I can’t help wondering sometimes when the day will come when they’ll be so close, they’ll work together to trick their parents instead of tattling on one another. Either way, patience I wish I had abundantly more of is involved.

I would be completely remiss if I didn’t express that I’m in complete awe of my wife, who has had the kiddos all summer long while off from school. I get to spend days (and some nights) at the Daily Globe; she has both the kids and house-related chores (and yes, the kids help, but often with considerable reluctance) to deal with. And now, with the new dog, it’s like we’ve thrown a mobile baby into the domestic cauldron. “Benji, no bite!” “Benji, nice!” “Benji, no!” “Benji, down.” “Benji Benji Benji Benji Benji!”

That said, Benji and I became buddies of sorts this week, though I may not always be the best of company during 5 a.m. trips outside. He sat on my lap as I read, let me tickle him without trying to gnaw at my skin and otherwise showed a decent degree of good-old-fashioned doggie loyalty.

And, while it’s easy to point out the kids’ bickering and general petulance, there were plenty of good moments, too. My favorite, though, lasted just a few seconds: Zach gave Grace a hug — and she embraced him back — after she helped her brother pick up a spare during a bowling outing.

That fleeting point in time, in retrospect, made the time I spent home with the kids worth it. Still, as much as I love them, I hope I remain managing editor at the Globe for the indefinite future. Or else, that business I mentioned earlier would almost certainly become a spot of extremely frequent patronage.

Time to get on the bike

Off and on, for the past several months, my wife has strongly encouraged me to begin some sort of exercise regimen. The problem is, I’m kind of lazy.

I know I’m at an age where I can’t afford to be sedentary, but I don’t want to get up earlier in the morning than I already do and would much rather read or watch a ballgame at night then go to the gym and work up a sweat. I used to run over the noon hour, but used up so much time running and then showering that I often felt like I was starting the afternoon behind upon returning to work.

Yes — it’s excuses, excuses for this guy.

Perhaps my biggest reason for not getting back into some sort of routine, though, has been discomfort in my foot in the form of a bunion that I can only further aggravate while running — the only workout I’ve ever really done. A very brief attempt was made at working with weights, but I didn’t feel very comfortable or confident with them and, in retrospect, was probably too embarrassed or self-conscious to ask for assistance. I know I should probably do some kind of weight training and would only get more familiar (and less intimidated) with equipment with experience, but this kind of workout seems far less enthralling than a good run.

I think I reached a solution to my exercise dilemma, however, after heading down to Sheldon, Iowa, on Sunday. Why not try cycling?

Sheldon, of course, was on the route for the Register’s Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa (RAGBRAI), and it was amazing to see thousands upon thousands of cyclists pedaling their way across U.S. 18 and filling Sheldon’s city streets. It was a festival-like atmosphere inside Sheldon’s city park, with plenty of food and refreshments combined with kids’ activities and other goings-on. In short, it looked like a great party for all — riders, their respective entourages and people just showing up to watch. But how cool would it be to take part in, at least, one leg of RAGBRAI, never mind the whole deal?

Maybe that’s a silly question, considering Monday’s high heat index and the overall distance (a minimum of 491 miles this year over the course of a full week). I would imagine, though, that cycling with a large contingent of people — whether they be family, good friends, casual acquaintances or total strangers — would result in some sort of feeling of unity. And while riding RAGBRAI can’t really be put on the same tier of athletic achievement as, say, running a marathon (a far-fetched fantasy of mine even when I was running), it still would be a cool thing to cross off a Bucket List.

And … it would be a cool source of “Tales from the Chief” material, too. Check back next year to see if I can put the ol’ pedal to the metal and make it happen.

The ‘got a dog’ blog

Well, it didn’t take long. A few days back, I wrote a blog about our decision to get a dog. As of last Sunday, we became pet owners, and I guess one way of stating things is that our lives will never be the same.

This, I suppose, is a good thing. The kids absolutely love the new addition to the family, and Becca, I’m confident to report, is mostly enjoying him, too. As for me, well … I’m hopeful that we’ll develop some of type of mutually respectful relationship as we get increasingly familiar with one another.

As for the dog himself, he’s a Shih Tzu mix by the name of Benji, and he’s approximately 1 year old, the vet has confirmed. Bec spotted him on Petfinder.com last week and made a phone call down to Denison, Iowa, where he had been rounded up as a stray and brought to the local pound. There were no real red flags, so we made the slightly more than two-hour drive down the next day to meet him and, ultimately, bring him back to our humble abode. That journey began in somewhat uncomfortable fashion when we saw the kennel we had purchased for our little friend was a bit too tiny. Bec held Benji in her lap from Denison to Cherokee, where we found a Kmart and a more suitable enclosed space for him.

Back in Worthington, Benji was initially excited to explore his new environment. I had to come to work that evening, so Bec and the kids entertained him and took him for his first walk around the neighborhood. We also had our first accident — Benji, who we were told was housebroken — really wasn’t, as he decided to contribute a little dampness to Zachary’s Star Wars blanket. That resulted in the establishment of the “no upstairs” rule. There are other decrees that are seemingly being added by the hour, and I’m waiting for the eventual pop quiz from my beloved spouse. (I fear for this occasion, as I worry that my score might send me to a kennel of my own.)

Benji seems to be a mellow dog, at least most of the time. I think some of this has to do with him currently sporting the infamous “cone of shame,” thanks to his Wednesday trip to the vet to get neutered. He’d been more hyper Sunday (the day of this writing), though, which leads me to believe he’s ready to shed the cone and run without restraint. The neutering procedure, incidentally, couldn’t have been much more timely, considering the night before the surgery he was acting as if he had just been exposed to the canine version of Cinemax.

Our four-pawed pal has also done what I’ll politely call “number two” in the house twice, noticeably gnawed on one of the legs of the dining room table and gotten each of us bit up a bit bug-wise with his necessary trips outside. Bec has easily done most of these excursions, though the kids do assist and I seem to have assumed the final night shift before bedtime. The real routines will begin to take shape once school starts, and that’s when I’m thinking Benji and the former top dog in the house will truly become buddies. That’s the time when I’ll probably start having him for early-morning and lunchtime strolls, as we share our respective joys and woes together, and then — perhaps — sit down together at night for reading or a ballgame.

After all, he’s supposed to be man’s best friend, right? As for now, I’m just happy to see Grace and Zach be so happy with the companion they long wanted.

Blog on a dog

After weeks of combined indecision and procrastination, Bec and I finally concluded this week that there would be an addition to our family. Seeing that a sibling for Grace and Zachary is biologically impossible at this point, we’ve opted for the next best — perhaps the best, at this juncture — thing. Yep, we’re getting a dog.

Bec had a pretty clever idea as to how to tell the kids, since my cleverness is often limited to figuring out new ways of rendering lawn and garden machinery inoperable. She bought a small toy — a tiny, rolled-up, object labeled “The Doggy News Express” and put it inside the door where our Globe usually appears in the morning. “Grace or Zach, could you please go get the paper for me?” Becca asked the kiddos Saturday morning. After retrieving the item, and a few seconds of befuddlement, Grace asked in a voice combining the qualities of a young soprano and a young mouse, “Are we getting a dog?” When we answered in the affirmative, one would have sworn it was 1964 all over again and the Beatles were stepping onto Ed Sullivan’s stage.

I had a dog when I was a kid, albeit briefly, but it had to be put to sleep for reasons I suppose I’ve blacked out. Then, for years, both my mom and dad had various cats, though it’s safe to say the cats my father had were essentially forced on him by my stepmother. While my mom’s cats were generally tranquil and more or less unobtrusive, my stepmom had one cat that was well-mannered, quiet and reserved (Eleanor) and one cat that was seemingly possessed with the spirit of Mephistopheles (Rhuburb). That (insert your curse word of choice here) cat would perch itself near the coat area, wait until my brother or I walked by, then jump out with a claw extended and an accompanying hiss that would in all probability frighten an assassin. Jeannine, our stepmother, claimed the animal had been treated cruelly by children in an earlier age, but we didn’t buy it. I always thought that if one shaved off all the fur, the numbers “666” would be located.

As for Becca, she had a dog, Lady, that she loved for many years (from elementary school and into college) before she got old and unwell. The day Lady had to be put down was a very emotional one for her, for obvious reasons. The type of relationship she had with her dog is something I honestly have nothing to compare to, so it’s safe to say we’re coming at the whole “family dog” experience from entirely different angles.

And yet … I’m honestly excited about the whole thing. Mostly, it’s because both the kids are pumped to be dog owners, especially Grace. Heck, Bec even gave Grace a homework assignment including all kinds of questions pertaining to dog ownership, and Grace looked up everything online and answered them all. If there was any doubt about getting a new pooch before that point, our daughter’s determination and dedication in demonstrating she was ready to assume at least some responsibility for it helped seal the deal.

We’re now looking for a dog that doesn’t shed, is preferably house-trained and would make a good companion for our children to grow with (Bec would like a byline for this sentence). We went to the Humane Society this past weekend in Sioux Falls and came away empty-handed, much to Grace’s chagrin, but plan to try again in Mankato and perhaps Blue Earth this coming weekend.

I’m sure there will be a blog or two in the coming weeks and months about adapting to life with a dog (Perhaps that’s another good argument for getting one; it should make for some remarkable writing material). Most of all, though, I look forward to the joy our new companion is going to give all of us — and doing all we can to ensure he doesn’t become the canine version of Rhubarb.

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An assist from our readers

After measuring 4.51 inches of rain over the previous weekend at the Daily Globe, I seriously didn’t expect any significant moisture to come our way June 16. Yes, I’m well aware the forecast said some awfully damp — and potentially dangerous — weather was likely, but I guess I was in denial. After all, hadn’t we gotten enough already?

Apparently not. Now, following those downpours throughout southwest Minnesota and northwest Iowa, we’re looking at all kinds of damage, with some communities in varying degrees of rough shape. Driving around Worthington on the evening of June 16 with Julie Buntjer, we saw plenty of standing water and downed tree limbs, but it turns out that’s nothing compared to what — say — Rock Rapids, Iowa, and Luverne went through.
It’s hard to believe it wasn’t long ago that my wife and I were walking down near Centennial Park and commenting to each other on how low the water levels looked. Driving “the grade” after the big storm, Lake Okabena was an entirely different entity. While I can’t harbor a much of an educated guess as to whether the deluges will result in a quick lifting of Worthington’s non-essential watering ban, I’m guessing that not much watering will be necessary for a few days.

For a good chunk of June 16 — from late morning into early afternoon — the skies kept getting more and more ominous, and it was tricky to plan what the front page of the newspaper was going to look like without knowing just what the weather might do. Then, almost before we knew it, we were all being encouraged to go to the basement after receiving word of a tornado warning. There was no doubt we were going to have a significant story on our hands, but it can be a bit challenging figuring out who’s going to do what while covering a major rainstorm when we’re all standing in the basement, thinking not so much of work but of loved ones, friends, homes and farms that are important to each of us.

Compounding matters was the fact that our photographer, Brian Korthals, was out of the office. We knew that at least one person in the newsroom would have to go find photos, but there was another solution — let our readers help us cover the storm. We asked for help over social media, and it wasn’t long before emailed pictures were coming our way. We ran a few of those photos in the June 17 Daily Globe and put many more of them online.

It’s terrific knowing that we have readers who not only value their newspaper, but are willing to also contribute to it. Our coverage of Monday’s storm wouldn’t have been as good without the assistance we had from folks across from our region, and we’re grateful for it.

Dodgers, Cardinals fight to 22-22 tie

WORTHINGTON — Every participating player reached base twice and scored two runs apiece Wednesday night, and the Dodgers and Cardinals played to an exciting, fun-filled deadlock in the Worthington T-ball opener for both squads.

There were several standouts on both sides, both for exceptional play and effort and unintentional humor. As is the case in almost any T-ball opener, there were a few glorious examples of creative baserunning. Some examples Wednesday: Running to first while utterly refusing to let go of the bat; running not just out of the baseline but virtually out of the county; standing (or sitting) on a base while teammates, coaches and fans implore a player to “run!!!”; and dashing straight to the dugout while skipping both second and third base.

(Please don’t think this sportswriter is making fun of these young athletes whatsoever. He’s just happy they’re playing and — hopefully — learning and having fun.)

A fleeting and frightening moment on the field came in the top of the second and final inning, when a Cardinals’ player hit a sharp line drive back toward the pitching circle. On one bounce, the baseball — T-balls are fortunately softer than regulation baseballs — appeared to strike a young Dodger near the forehead. He went down pretty quickly, all on-field action came to a halt and things got awfully quiet.

Before long, the tough young man of 6 years of age came to his feet and let all know he was fine. Because of his love for batting helmets, he was wearing one while in the field — and this may have actually cushioned the blow. In fact, it wasnt’t long before the fledgling star was chasing after ground balls all over the infield at full speed.

While it’s not immediately known how many seasons T-ball has been played in this southwest Minnesota community, the 2014 campaign sure looks as if it’s going to be another dandy. Six teams began play this week and will compete (probably a misnomer, since there are no winners or losers at this level) in six games each. Every single player in the league will be a Most Valuable Player. They will say an important pre-game oath (this may not be quite verbatim): “I pledge to play the best I can. To be a team player. To respect my opponents, the rules, and officials, and to improve myself in Spirit, Mind, and Body.” They will all hopefully continue to develop a love for baseball and sports in general.

And, whether this is the first of many years on the diamond or their only year, perhaps they will learn what it’s like to be part of a team — something that will serve them well in whatever path they ultimately choose later in life.

One final detail that cannot be omitted: Dodger veteran Zachary McGaughey made several fine plays in the field and had a couple of solid knocks at the dish. His daddy is very proud of him and can’t wait until his next game.

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The Wild West

At about 6:10 p.m. Monday night, I arrived home after driving 670 miles back to Worthington from Sheridan, Wyo. Becca’s sister’s second son — our nephew, Lee — graduated from high school, and it was an occasion we were not about to miss.

While going to visit Becca’s family in Wyoming is always lots of fun, the city of Sheridan itself and the surrounding area also offers plenty of enjoyment. We’ve fished at Lake DeSmet — between nearby Buffalo and Sheridan — as well as further up in the gorgeous Big Horn Mountains. We’ve seen professional rodeo, which I know little about but still find awesome to watch (especially in person). And, downtown Sheridan has a remarkably thriving business district, despite the presence of the usual chain restaurants and big-box stores closer to the interstate.

This time, I got to experience something I hadn’t during previous trips to this Wyoming city. The resulting memories will probably stay in my mind for quite a while.

Downtown Sheridan — Main Street — is home to King’s Saddlery and King Ropes, a Western-themed store like few others I’ve been in. The inventory there seems limitless as far as anything one might think goes with a cowboy-type lifestyle. But even though many of those items were fairly interesting to check out, they took a back seat — from my perspective, anyway — to a museum in a separate building behind the store.

My brother-in-law had encouraged me to take a peek inside the place, and it sounded intriguing enough to at least have a short gander or two. I had a bit of time to kill — the kids were swimming with their grandparents at their hotel, my wife was shopping with her sister-in-law and I had already downed a large iced coffee at a fine little java joint downtown. So, I went to the museum, and wound up being mesmerized.

Among the many highlights were photos of legendary Native American figures (Sitting Bull among them), guns and ammunition dating back to the 1860s, photographs of rodeo greats spanning from the turn of the 20th century into the 1990s, a wall devoted to the winners of Miss Indian America pageant and hundreds of saddles from many eras. It was, dare I say, pretty neat.

One photograph in particular boggled my mind. It was dated 1883, I think, and was taken in Hot Springs, S.D. Scrawled in black ink at the bottom are the names of the people photographed. Sitting in front of what appears to be a train depot are Teddy Roosevelt, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Doc Holliday, Wyatt Earp, Judge Roy Bean and others. I need to do a little research to see if I can verify the accuracy of this to at least some degree. If these folks indeed gathered for a photo, it seems quite fortuitous that the occasion was recorded and subsequently kept for posterity inside a museum at the back of a Sheridan, Wyo., western store.

Then again, this isn’t just ANY western store. I did a Facebook check-in shortly after walking out of the museum, writing just a few brief words about its overall excellence. Within moments, Worthington’s Bill Keitel responded, informing me that his Buffalo Billfold products were sold inside the establishment. Great! He also added that the Big Horn Mountains are the best-kept secret in the west — an agreeable sentiment, I think.

I may not be much of a cowboy, but that doesn’t mean I don’t love a good ride to Sheridan.

Summer’s closing in

One week from today, the kids will be out of school for the summer. That certainly doesn’t feel right from a weather standpoint, but I suppose it wouldn’t be terribly surprising if Worthington thermometers hit — say — the high 80s next week. Southwest Minnesota has been known to have summer (as well as winter) appear out of essentially nowhere, after all.

Though there’s another few days of classes remaining, the schedule definitely got a lot more relaxed with the conclusion of Grace’s dance season this past Saturday. Grace, who just finished her fourth full year of instruction at Kay Williams Prunty’s The Dance Academy, continues to show no shortage of enthusiasm for not just dancing itself, but being on stage. I may have an obvious parental bias, but she did a wonderful job during the performances that took place Friday night, Saturday afternoon and Saturday night. (And if you’ve never seen a Dance Academy recital, let me just say that though they last awhile, they’re quite entertaining. My mom visited last year and dreaded sitting through the whole thing, but she still talks about what a fantastic event it was.)

Grace also got piano wrapped up the previous weekend when she took part in a recital featuring fellow students of Diane Mick. That leaves little to hustle and bustle off to during this final week of school — which is of great relief to my wife, who does most of that hustling and bustling while I’m here at the Globe. (To be fair, I do contribute with some drop-offs and pick-ups, but they’re a fraction of my spouse’s.) We won’t be able to relax for too long, though.

Summer may mean no school, but there will plenty of activities even without dance and piano lessons. For one thing, it’s the Z-Man’s turn to be busy. Zach is tentatively scheduled to play tee ball (which I will likely help coach again), as well as tennis and golf. He seems to be excited about all three sports, which Bec and I think is outstanding considering his current favorite activities appear to be playing on a Wii, playing or watching something on my iPad or watching “SpongeBob SquarePants.” He will also likely have more swimming lessons.

And that’s just Zachary. Grace, too, plans to do tennis and golf, I believe, and may have additional swimming instruction as well. There are other activities that may be in the works for her — perhaps a dance workshop of some sort, and likely a girls’ book club that will meet intermittently. In other words, it’s shaping up to be a very busy summer — maybe even more frantic, at times, than the school year.

This means that, come August, I might very well write a blog about how the start of school will mean a return to normalcy and relative calm. A few weeks after that, though, I will probably feel the desire to eat my words.

‘Holes in the Basement’

Anyone who has ever seen me play the game of golf would probably tell me one of two things: “You need a lot of practice” or “Don’t even bother.”

Now that the bike path runs along Oxford Street near Worthington Country Club, I just may skip playing in this year’s Daily Globe Links Fore Literacy golf tourney, for fear that I will strike someone on the path with one of my typically errant drives. (I will let the public know in advance if I play, so those on the path that day will be sufficiently advised to wear helmets and/or additional padding).

Still, I love the game, and even though I only usually get to play a couple of rounds a year nowadays, I still look forward to a round. And, the nice thing is, the less I’ve played, the more enjoyable the game has become. Since I don’t get out much, my expectations are low, and I don’t get as easily frustrated and prone to, say, throwing a pitching wedge.

Both Grace and Zachary enjoy golf, too, and they’ve each had some fun hitting some balls out at the Prairie View Golf Links driving range. They each like the putting green, too, though at that spot I think they miss the fun a mini golf (or putt-putt golf, or — as Zach has called it — butt-butt golf) course can offer. And, in a way, I do, too.

I’ve heard there used to be a mini golf course in Worthington, near what’s now the Colonial Laundromat. I’m not sure what it was like, but chances are it wasn’t nearly as unique as what now exists in Doug Wolter’s basement.

Recently, my wife and I, along with the kids, went over to Doug’s house for dinner. He and his wife, Sandy, were gracious hosts to us as well as new sports reporter Zach Hacker, and we had fun chatting over our meal and playing the game Apples to Apples. (I won the “insanity” card for my submission of “Republicans.” Truth be told, I would have also submitted “Democrats” had the opportunity presented itself).

Capping the evening at the Wolters’, though, was a trip down the steps to “Holes in the Basement,” Doug’s seven-hole mini golf experience like none other. Through some creative craftsmanship I’m confident I could never master, we played six different holes all from the same starting spot — with different paths utilized along the way (there’s even a windmill — a must for any mini golf course) and the seventh and last from another location where you to have successfully pick the spot to which you will hit your ball (the hole is aptly named “Choose or Lose.”)

All of the holes, actually, have names that describe the challenge they present: “Shallow Destination,” “L-Diablo,” “Dark Tunnel,” “Twin Trouble,” “Platforming” and “The Long and Narrow” are the first six. The first two are pretty easy — even the 6-year-old Z-Man managed scores of 2 and 3, respectively — and the rest require a good mixture of skill and a little good fortune.

Thanks to Doug’s youngest daughter, a graphic artist, there are even pre-made scorecards to keep track of all the action. My first round at “Holes in the Basement” was by no means a masterpiece, but I’m hoping it won’t be the last. And to think I won’t strike any oncoming bike riders, either. And Doug, I promise I won’t throw my club.

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