Monday, December 11, 2006

Golf Balls and Clam Shells

Fort Pierce, Florida, 27.46887 -80.32463

Behind our house in West Charlton there were some woods and lots of fields. The fields were sometimes planted with clover but more often planted with corn. A snowmobile trail led from the road, through the woods and across the fields. I walked our dog, Pup, there every day.

A special treat was when our son John came to visit with his family several times per year. John has four children. They are four of our five grandchildren. On those occasions I would take Nick and Sara, the oldest of the four children along with me on the trail as we walked Pup.

On one of the earliest trips, Nick was about 6 years old and Sara was about 4. As we walked across the last cornfield, the kids spotted a golf ball in the field. They picked it up and pocketed it. Soon thereafter they found several more. The corn had been harvested so it was easy to see across the whole field. Within five minutes, they picked up all the balls visible. Both of them had all pockets and two hands full with all the balls they could carry.

We turned to leave the field when one of them found a clam shell in the field. Clam shells are not normally associated with corn fields, especially when the closest salt water was hundreds of miles away. They looked around, and soon they spotted more clam shells.

Neither of them asked where the balls shells came from, and I offered no opinion. In reality, I had no idea who put them there, or why, or when.

When we returned to the house, Nick and Sara showed off their finds to the amazement of everyone. When they went home, they brought their golf balls and clam shells with them.

The next time they visited it was winter. We walked the trail and crossed the corn field, but finding anything under the snow was impossible.

The subsequent visit was in the spring, after the spring thaw. This time, when we came to the corn field, surprise! There was a fresh crop of golf balls and a similarly fresh crop of clam shells. Once again Nick and Sara brought home as much as they could carry.

This pattern continued for several years. Every spring the cornfield produced a fresh "crop" of golf balls and clam shells. I could see that Nick and Sara actually believed that they grew there. They had the direct evidence of their own observations. Every fall they stripped the field of all balls and shells, and every spring, there were new ones to find. I did nothing to disabuse them of their belief.

Eventually, the number of balls and shells found each spring diminished and finally ceased. I guess that the frost heaves had pushed up the entire store of balls and shells that had been buried there. The neat thing is that it happened so gradually that I think Nick and Sara forgot about those earlier years, and didn�t notice the decline.

The sweet part of this story is that I am sure that sometime during adulthood, both Nick and Sara will be struck with the peculiar notion that golf balls aren�t made in factories, and clam shells don�t grow in the ocean, they grow in corn fields. Ridiculous. But on the other hand, seeing is believing, and powerful psychology. They may have no idea of how that strange notion got into their heads, but I know, and now you, dear reader, know also. I ask you to join with me in a conspiracy. Please never tell Nick or Sara what we know about golf balls and clam shells.

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