Yesterday I spent several hours helping a neighbor set up a new RV at a park near Springfield, Mo., my hometown. These folks are new to the RV experience and have acquired a very nice trailer to begin a new adventure in their lives. Danny Crafts holds a Ph.d in a variation of personnel management and is retiring from teaching at Missouri State University. He and his wife, Pam, have sold their home and are going on the road full time with the intention of seeing America at ground level. Mind you they are going from a very nice suburban existence to the nomadic lifestyle that a 30’ trailer provides. I admire their conviction and courage as Sharon and I have often talked about doing the same thing. It turns out the Crafts are wonderful folks that we regrettably only knew in passing, as they are moving to the RV in the next day or two.
I like RV stuff. It is challenging as you really must have some concept of things like weight and balance, mechanics, sanitation systems, water management, refrigeration and the ability to drive in traffic when you essentially have little concept of what is going on behind you. You also meet really neat folks while on the road as you develop an understanding of the RV culture. The Crafts will be a wonderful addition to the people involved in this lifestyle.
Aside from his abilities in the classroom, Danny is also a baseball umpire, having officiated at the college level and Double A level of my favorite sport. We made a couple of trips into town to procure extra items necessary to set this unit up, as his reserved spot had the sewer on one side of the unit and the utilities on the other, a particular inconvenience that requires extra power cords and water hoses. During these trips and while enjoying a nice BBQ lunch, Danny told one story after another about what really happens between the chalk lines in my favorite sport. I laughed at his recollection of events that occurred that involve far more than what the TV camera’s capture while the announcers provide “color commentary”. The color, dear readers, is on the field as this game is executed. Baseball is a complicated game and umpires are uniquely positioned to offer deep dives into the strategies and machinations of a sport played by superbly conditioned human beings who must also be very clever to capitalize on the nuances of strategy. The umpire controls the diamond, and is confronted by any number of “experts” on each side of the field peering out from the “hole” or dugout. Danny is a masterful story teller and possesses the unique personality trait that I refer to as “duck-back”. Duck-back people are able to accept criticism and a reasonable amount of inconvenience with a smile, deflecting the irritation at hand like water off a duck’s back. They are rare, but ideally suited to the role of an umpire in baseball. I am sad that a master of the game is moving away before I learn more from him, an unfortunate circumstance that happens when you fail to get to know your neighbors well. Danny Crafts will draw a crowd around his RV when he settles in with a beverage and his easy smile under the awning, and talks of America’s pastime.
Umpires, like police officers, must make decisions in seconds while relying only on their God given senses without the benefit of cameras and replay that do not take into account the angles and limitations that exist on every play. Every play is reviewed at that level and you are constantly harangued by the perceptions of those without your experience or viewpoint. The difference in baseball is that life or death is not in the equation……unless you are a hot headed manager or coach who will certainly challenge your status as a duck back as they bring the fires of hell with them from the dugout.
Good luck, Danny and Pam. Your experiences, thirst for new knowledge and zest for life will serve you well. I am sorry to see such lovely neighbors move on, but you will surely touch many as you travel about.
Have a great weekend, be safe and ignore the conflict all around us, for just a day!