A Tale of Two Sticks

As I lay in bed I scratched the itch on top of my head. My fingertips grazed over the sore spot. Damned Bobby Watkins*, I thought to myself. 

How long had I been dealing with this sore area on my head? It’s been over 40 years, I realized.

The long-ago scene easily materialized in my brain. I’d been reliving the incident for over four decades.

I was yucking it up with a couple of my friends on the playground at school. It was September of our 8th grade year and the weather was perfect. We were on our lunch break and everyone was having fun outside.

All of a sudden, I felt a whack on the top of my head. It hurt some, but not a great deal like you might think getting hit in the head would.

Instinctively, I reached up with my right hand to rub the area. I felt blood. I looked at my hand and saw a significant amount of blood on my fingertips. At this point, I had no idea what caused my injury.

I knew this was not a situation I could handle on my own—not with all this blood. I don’t remember what my buddies did or said to me.

Leaving them, I began walking toward the door to the school en route to the office. We didn’t have a school nurse, so the secretary always took care of matters like this.

As it turned out, my injury was not something she could help me with. It was bad enough that I needed medical attention. The secretary called my mom at work to come get me and take me to the doctor in our little town.

I learned from my friends that Bobby Watkins had taken a good-sized stick he found on the playground and decided it would be fun to throw it straight up in the air; it came down smack dab on my head.

The nurse at the doctor’s office had to shave a quarter-sized hole on the side of my head so they could put a few stitches in and apply a bandage.

That was the worst part of the whole ordeal—now I had a bald spot on my head with an ugly white bandage on it.

I strategically combed my hair during this time to try to hide the spot. Eventually, the bandage came off and the stitches came out. Soon, my hair was growing out and before long it didn’t matter anymore.

Now, years later, every time my fingers touch that spot on my head, it is noticeably tender to the touch. Not so much that there’s true pain, but enough that I feel some discomfort.

As I lay in bed trying to fall asleep, I happened to scratch my head in that exact spot. The stimulus immediately made me think of Bobby Watkins and his senseless act. 

I knew he had died a few years ago, but I wondered what his life had been like over the decades since we graduated.

He had seemed to have a hard life when we were in school, so I reasoned that his adult life had probably followed the same path.

Serves him right for throwing that stick. I knew that was the wrong way to feel, but it was late, I was tired, and I didn’t care at that point. 

I actually did care. I’m not one to wish ill will upon anyone. Hopefully, he had had a good life, filled with joy and all the things that make life fulfilling.

I wish I could say that that was the only incident I’d ever had with Bobby Watkins and a stick, but it wasn’t. 

The other incident, which happened a few years earlier, actually caused me more pain, so much so that I had cried.

When I was younger, I played Little League baseball in the summers. I loved it, and it gave me something to do to alleviate any boredom I might have over the summer break.

One night during a game, our team was on the field and someone on the other team hit a foul ball. Apparently, Bobby got to the foul ball before anyone else did, hoping to make off with it for himself. 

The details are a little hazy, but I had seen him grab the ball, so I told one of the coaches or the umpire or someone in charge that he had it.

He had to surrender the ball and wasn’t too happy about it.

After the game was over, my mom and I were talking to others and making our way to the car to head home.

Well, here came Bobby walking quickly toward me with a branch in his hand. I don’t remember exactly what he said to me but it was something along the lines of, “This is for telling on me about the ball.”

He then swung the branch toward me. He hit me at least a couple of times on my neck and face. I was stunned to say the least, because he had come out of nowhere. 

I’m not sure my mom actually saw it happen, as she had been talking to some of the other moms at that time.

The assault hurt a decent amount and I began crying. I’m not sure if I cried because of the pain or just from the fact that someone would do that to me.

After my mom realized what had happened, she tried to console me, while simultaneously walking me to the car.

The lashes left big, red welts on my neck. I’m not sure how long they were there, but I don’t remember worrying about them the next day. 

The thing I was worried about, however, was running into Bobby Watkins again somewhere and his continuing to take his vengeance out on me.

Fortunately, that was all there was to it, and I had no further run-ins with him—not until that September day when he inadvertently hit me in the head with a stick a few years later.

So, those are my two incidents with Bobby Watkins.

One thing I might mention about Bobby is that one of his arms was paralyzed. He couldn’t move it at all I don’t think. 

When we were in elementary school—second grade, I believe—he had been in an accident where his coat got caught in the door of a car that was pulling away. He had been dragged for several feet before anyone realized what was happening. 

I still remember our class sending him get-well wishes. Ever since the accident, he hadn’t had any use of his arm (I don’t remember which one it was).

You might be asking yourself what the point of these stories is. 

I suppose the takeaway is that no matter how hard I might try to put the past behind me, every time I touch that tender spot on my head, I’m reminded of Bobby Watkins. When I think of him, I reacknowledge the grudge I’ve held onto for so many years.

After all, is it right that I still feel discomfort for something he did to me over 40 years ago? 

Perhaps I’ve never fully forgiven him for either incident. The branch lashing was mean and vicious, while the stick to the head was an accident. 

However, I believe that I hold more of a grudge about the latter incident because I am periodically reminded of it.

As I mentioned earlier, Bobby passed away a few years ago, so maybe the incidents shouldn’t bother me any longer. 

However, they do. I’m still dealing with the repercussions of his stick throwing even though he is no longer around.

To sum everything up, I know I need to forgive him at last. I don’t believe I’ve ever really considered the need to do so before now. But I know that is what God would want me to do.

He’s forgiven me for many sins and trespasses, so the least I can do is forgive Bobby.

Oh Lord, help me forgive Bobby for what he did to me so many years ago. Allow me to let go of the anger and resentment that I have held onto for so long. Let my heart and mind be free of any animosity toward him so that I can be unshackled from the bondage of unforgiveness. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

I feel better now. Thanks for listening.

*Not his real name

Everything I Know I Learned Playing Little League (well almost everything…)


My time spent playing Little League baseball each summer when I was growing up taught me many of life’s valuable lessons.

Were it not for the time I spent on that dirt field in my tiny hometown, I might not be who I am today.

OK, that’s not true. Let’s be realistic here. I’m sure if I had never played baseball, my life right now would not be significantly different.

But, that doesn’t mean there weren’t valuable lessons to be learned from my time spent playing on the Braves and the Gyrafalcons (yes, Gyrafalcons—pronounced with a soft “g” like geriatric).

Since I have never actually known what a gyrafalcon is, I just Googled it—it’s the largest falcon species. And its name is spelled g-y-r-f-a-l-c-o-n. There’s no “a” after the “r”.

But our team name was definitely the Gyrafalcons. I know this because it was mispronounced all the time. Gy-ro-falcons. Gyrafalcons with the hard “g” sound as in gopher. And every other mispronunciation possible.

So, our coach—a falcon enthusiast and trainer who had birds of his own—had the name wrong. Oh well. We’ll just attribute his error to the fact that Google was still over two decades away.

Later on (after I became a Brave) the name was shortened to just Falcons, which I’m sure everyone thought was an improvement.

How did we get information before Google, anyway?

Enough digression…Here’s what I learned from playing Little League (in no particular order)…


  1. The value of working as a team.  This one doesn’t need much explanation, as everyone knows the importance of contributing to your team and becoming a valuable member. Whether it’s at work, at church, on a committee, or—of course—a sports team, life works better when we all get along and work together. Yes, I’m still learning this lesson, and I have a long way to go.

  2. Never give up.  One summer, the Braves had not won a game all season long. It was pretty demoralizing, especially for a bunch of preteen boys. Then one night we played the best team in the league (the Astros I think). Before the game, we had no delusions that we could win, but somehow we walloped them. We scored run after run and they scored none, or maybe only one or two. The final score was something like 28-1. It was incredible. I’m not sure we won another game the rest of the season.

  3. It’s not whether you win or lose—it’s how you play the game.  Yes, this is old and corny, and many people argue with the philosophy of the saying. Our coaches taught us to play hard and play fair—just like they should have. To a kid, it really is all about just having fun. Even though we might lose by 10 runs, it was all good. The sounds, the smells, the feeling of strutting around the ballfield in your uniform and looking at the stands full of people who came to watch you play. It was great. And, of course, we didn’t know any better.

  4. Learn to be flexible.  First base was the first position I remember playing in Little League (I played shortstop some in T-ball). It was my thing and I loved it. But at some point our team lost our pitcher. So, somehow I became our starting pitcher. I didn’t like pitching very much and I wasn’t very good. I knew it and so did everybody else. But I persevered through the process and learned to go with the flow.

  5. Your beginning doesn’t determine your end. Early in my baseball playing days I smacked the ball and ran as hard as I could to base—third base. I don’t remember what happened next, but I did know I was well aware I had messed up somehow. Long story short, I learned that you always run to first base after hitting the ball. My baseball game on improved from there.

  6. Listen to those who know more than you do. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize that a Little League coach knows more about baseball than a 10-year-old. But the 10-year-old doesn’t necessarily see it that way. Seek out and heed advice from people who have been where you want to go. Don’t be the stubborn kid trying to field a ground ball with only one hand. Listen to the coach telling you to use two hands so the ball doesn’t go through your legs. Save the hot shot moves for when you reach the Big League.

  7. Put in the hard work even when you don’t want to. I loved playing baseball games, but not so much having the practices. It was boring waiting your turn to bat and field balls. Plus, I remember getting soooo thirsty out on that dusty field on scorching summer days. But all that was necessary if I wanted to experience the action and excitement of going up against another team.

There you have it—life lessons instilled in me through wonderful childhood summers spent playing Little League.

What life truths did you learn in childhood that you still hold on to?