ORIGINALLY WRITTEN CHERYL JOST
Are you going to put this in your column?” the boy asked.
“Yep,” I responded. “You just gave me my opening line.”
Jared King had just tried to gross me out by thrusting his green, slimy hands in front of my face. His hands aren’t normally green and slimy-at least not that I’ve ever noticed.
But the third-grader had been experimenting with the green catsup that had come in his kid’s pack at the Burger King where we had stopped to eat after completing a day’s competition of girls’ softball.
Maybe I should clarify this. Jared and I hadn’t competed in a girls’ softball tournament. Neither of us qualifies as girls. But his sister, Amber, and my daughter, Meghan, do and after a long day in Clay Center, we had stopped to eat in Abilene on the way home with other members of the team and their faithful followers.
You know who the faithful followers are, don’t you? The moms and dads, grandmas and grandpas who follow these kids around lugging jugs of ice water, coolers filled with snacks and all manner of folding chairs, blankets and stadium seats.
One would expect family members to be at these types of events to support their kith and kin. It’s what parents want to do (usually), and what siblings are dragged along to (for the most part).
But if you go to many games, you’ll find another person sitting at the Hillsboro ball diamonds on many a summer evening cheering on the boys and girls as they play.
You’ll find her usually sitting in a lawn chair surrounded by a gaggle of children vying for her attention, a floppy hat perched on the top of her head.
Eileen Butler has taught third grade at the Hillsboro Elementary School for as long as I can remember. My daughter had the privilege to be in Miss B’s class when she was in third grade and so she was thrilled that Miss B had come all the way to Clay Center to watch the girls play in their tournament.
She had hitched a morning ride with Tina King’s parents and then rode back to Hillsboro in the Kings’ van.
Meg and I also rode with Mark and Tina. Keith and Alex had gone on a “Jost men’s fishing trip” to Milford Reservoir that weekend.
Without hesitation, Meg and I accepted a ride with the Kings. We knew we would be in for a fun experience with a lot of laughs along the way.
And laugh we did. The biggest laughs came when Tina and Eileen recounted stories of some of their wild and crazy adventures together.
For those that might not know, Mark and Tina own and operate a weekend venture called “King’s Concessions.” On any given day their concession wagon can be found at arts and crafts fairs, small-town celebrations or big-city parades.
When she can, Eileen Butler goes along to help make and sell Indian tacos, funnel cakes and cotton candy.
The biggest laughs came when Eileen and Tina recounted their experience in hitchhiking. They were driving to meet the concession wagon at a craft fair in Eastern Kansas when Tina turned to Eileen and with a straight face said, “I hope you’ve saved some of that water you’ve been drinking for the walk.”
“What walk?” Eileen answered.
“The walk to town,” Tina responded as she directed her dying car to the edge of the highway. The transmission of her car had just gone kaput.
After discussing whether raising the hood of their disabled car was a good idea (people will know we’ve broken down and come to help) or a bad idea (yeah, but what kind of people will come to “help”), Tina came up with the idea of hitching a ride.
Eileen was hesitant, but with Tina’s urging they came up with a list of who might be acceptable to catch a ride with. The elderly would be safe, they thought. Someone with kids would probably be OK. A grandma with a bunch of kids-that would be ideal.
As it turned out, the first person who stopped to lend aid was a truck driver who pulled his big rig over to the side of the road.
After Tina sized him up (“He was pretty small, I knew Eileen and I could take him if it became necessary”), they jumped into the cab of the truck for the ride into town.
All the way Eileen was thinking: “How can I explain this to the kids that I teach? I’ve just done everything I’ve taught them never to do.”
As it turned out, their rescuer was a native of Liverpool, England. After serving several years in the Royal Navy, Graham had left for America to seek travel and adventure. He decided to spend some time driving big rigs across our nation and, I guess, rescuing damsels in distress. A knight in shining 18-wheeler.
Graham the truck driver got Tina and Eileen to where they needed to go without incident. It’s nice to know that there are still some good people left in the world.
And the story-of all the people to pick them up, a guy from Liverpool, England, driving a truck through the middle of Kansas-lives on.
So the next time you see Miss B at the ball field, ask her about hitching her way across Kansas. Or about the time Tina hit her in the head with a pitcher. Or when Mark and Tina, along with Eileen and George King, had to pile into the front of a pickup and ride to pick up the extra car.
Just be ready to laugh.
* * *
Meghan and her Orange Crush teammates, who are coached by Luke Lindsay and Tina King, will be helping at King’s Concessions during Chingawassa Day’s in Marion this upcoming weekend.
I guess one of the advantages of having a mom who writes a column for the Hillsboro Free Press is that we can get a little bit of free advertising for the team’s fund-raiser.
If you would like to support a softball team comprised of some terrific girls from Marion, Lincolnville and Hillsboro, look for King’s Concessions and order up an Indian taco.
* * *
I remember writing that I had hoped to eat at some of Kansas’ finest restaurants as I traipsed after my daughter’s softball teams. We had thought about stopping at the Brookeville Hotel in Abilene on our way home, but they were closed by the time we had finished play. So, we ate green catsup and sipped green foamy drinks at the Burger King instead.
A true culinary delight.
The Crush plays in Clay Center again later in the season, so maybe next time we’ll be able to enjoy Brookeville’s famous chicken. For now, I’ll leave you with this family favorite.
Brookeville Hotel Cole Slaw
11/2 lbs. shredded green cabbage
1 tsp. salt
2/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup white vinegar
1 cup whipping cream
Place shredded cabbage in covered dish in refrigerator for several hours. Mix dressing ingredients in order and fold in 30 minutes before serving. Chill.