Random Blog: Colonel Bogey and Major Mistake
I imagined that an Army colonel would be pretty gruff. Russell Jones was, but he was also a teddy bear. I imagined that a father would be hesitant about his only child, his daughter, marrying a man he didn't really know. Russell probably was, but he also came to trust me.
Eventually, he asked me to call him Russ. I figured out along the way that few in his circle got that privilege; most folks in his town simply called him "The Colonel." When Russ learned that I played a little golf, and badly, he was intrigued and decided that he wanted to play golf again - after a 30-year hiatus.
Now, you would imagine that after three decades of not swinging a golf club, you might want to hit a few balls on the driving range before taking the course. I offered that option to Russ - heck, I usually hit a bucket myself before every round - but he insisted on just heading straight to the course.
If you don't play golf, let me explain that there is tremendous pressure on the first tee on a busy day. Foursomes are backed up, waiting for their turn on the course. EVERYONE is watching you! I feared for Russ' first drive as much as I feared for mine. I didn't want the Colonel to be embarrassed.
I went first and got through my drive OK. Russ stepped up, and in his first swing in 30 years, rifled it straight down the fairway about 150 yards. I cannot tell you how impressed I was, not just with the swing, but with the moxie. Now, his second shot revealed his true prowess, as he whacked it into the woods! But Russ had survived the major test on the first tee.
And so began a bonding between two duffers with a common interest - his daughter, my wife. It didn't hurt that we were both lousy golfers, rarely within sight of breaking 100, and rarely within sight of the fairway, either.
One of us would swing, then we would both listen for that distinctive thwack of ball striking wood. My biggest nemesis was water; I eventually was gifted a golf ball dressed in scuba gear. A common event in every round was me trying to nudge a ball over the water, and Russ saying, "It's in the drink."
Russ was economical. He wanted to fetch lost golf balls, ours or someone else's. We would determine our "par" by how many balls we found versus how many we would lose. He had one of those extending rods allowing us to fish around for balls in ponds. Russ also insisted on rappelling down into creek beds to find lost balls, flinging them up to me on the playing surface with his extender. It was very common for our twosome to indicate to those following, "Go on, play through!"
The bonding continued with the occasional after-game meal. Our favorite place was an upscale burger joint called Islands. One time, we finished our round about 4:00, famished, and stuffed ourselves at Islands. When we got home at 5:30, his wife Ruth (always looking over Russ' shoulder to gauge how much he was eating) said, "What took you so long? We've been holding up dinner for you!"
Russ replied, "Well, we're here now. Let's eat!" And he tucked in and dove in.
I was so full that I could barely eat anything, but I wanted to cover for Russ, who was delighted to eat two dinners in one day. So I finally said I was overheated from golf and needed to go lie down. Russ gave me a nod as I excused myself, then resumed chowing down.
Eventually I commissioned a caricature artist to sketch a gift for him, dramatizing the two of us as "Colonel Bogey and Major Mistake," golf clubs in hand. After digging through a few boxes retrieved after he and Ruth passed away, I still can't find it, so I've displayed a beat-up picture of us receiving identical Christmas gifts, the only picture I know showing just the two of us together.
I'm not sure exactly what a father-in-law is supposed to look like. Is he a second father? That wasn't the relationship. Ultimately, Russ was my friend, my golfing buddy, at times my benefactor, my sounding board, and my wise, encouraging counsel. He said he loved me, and I loved him. He was my Colonel Bogey. I hope I wasn't his, or his daughter's, major mistake.
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