In honor of two very friendly fathers

By Bruce Stambaugh

My late father and late father-in-law were clearly different men. But they had a lot in common, too.

Both my father and my father-in-law, Wayne, were genuinely friendly to everyone they met. They each set an example on how to interact and connect with others.

Stambaughs, Millers
Marian and Dick Stambaugh (L) and Wayne and Esther Miller. © Bruce Stambaugh 2015
Dad was lanky and gregarious. Though skinny as well, Wayne was of average height. Dad was a Type A talker. Wayne was more laid back, but could easily carry his own in any conversation.

That was especially true when it came to sports. Both men were like little kids if baseball, football or basketball were the topics of conversation. They had a love-hate relationship with all teams Cleveland.

They didn’t just talk athletics either. Dad played three sports in high school and perused his enthusiasm for games well into adulthood. Wayne bowled and played church league softball.

Both found those activities as a means to an end. They got to play, and they thrived on the conversational interplay before, during and after the games.

Of all their commonalities, friendliness was at the top of the list for both Dad and Wayne. In fact, they became good friends, in part because they knew many of the same people.

farm tractor
Where my late father-in-law felt most comfortable. © Bruce Stambaugh 2015
Wayne was a farmer, and Dad loved farms, but for different reasons. Farming was Wayne’s livelihood. Dad made friends with farmers near and far because he liked to hunt and fish. He also found their various stories fascinating.

Wayne and Dad got along famously. In fact, once Neva and I set our wedding date, both men started to invite folks to the ceremony that knew both families. Unfortunately, some of those people weren’t on our invitation list. Is it any wonder we had 400 guests?

I learned early on that Dad liked to meet new people. He’d take us kids along on his excursions exploring farms all over eastern Ohio.

Wayne Miller
Wayne Miller at our daughters wedding in 1998. © Bruce Stambaugh 2015
After he retired and stumbled onto the hobby of Indian artifact collecting, Dad’s interests in farms had a new twist. Again, Dad’s high-spirited enthusiasm carried over to his children and grandchildren, who he coaxed into accompanying him on his relic gleaning excursions. It was his version of hands on lessons in history, geography, and conversation.

I knew Wayne liked me right away. On my first visit to the Miller farm, he took me straight to the barn to see the pigs. My wife said it normally took other guys two or three visits. I was honored, and our relationship blossomed from there. He treated his other son-in-law with equal love and respect.

Dad and Mom with our daughter, her son, and me. © Bruce Stambaugh 2015
Dad would use the arrowhead hunting excuse to visit Wayne and Esther’s farm, along with neighboring fields. Their real friendship was just part of the formula that successfully melded our two families together.

Even in death, Wayne and Dad connected. Wayne died on Dec. 22, 2001. Dad died on Dec. 21 eight years later.

It is no wonder that even today people that knew Dad and Wayne describe them both with the same fondness. They use similar complimentary terms to reflect on each man. Both were sociable people, easy to like and admire, they say.

Of course, both Wayne and Dad were human. They each expressed themselves in less than articulate ways at times. But to those who knew them, or maybe only once met either of them, the conclusion was the same.

People remember the genuine congeniality of both Dad and Wayne. That’s a legacy we’d all like to leave.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2015

Fun with the grandkids

Trying to get three grandchildren to cooperative in the same picture can sometimes be a challenge. © Bruce Stambaugh 2014.

By Bruce Stambaugh

Time was running out. We had already visited with our daughter and her family in Virginia’s scenic Shenandoah Valley a month earlier.

With sport seasons and the school year both winding down, it was time to return if we wanted to see our two grandsons and our granddaughter play some ball games. We got our wish and then some.

All three of our grandchildren enjoy sports. Evan the 10-year-old, Davis, almost eight, and Maren, four and a half, all play baseball, and Evan and Maren also participate in soccer.

Games and practices were held after school of course. The weekends were wide open. Oftentimes the games for all three were played back-to-back or sometimes they even overlapped. Fortunately, both sports generally used the same field complexes.

Nevertheless, it still took much planning and preparation to ready three youngsters for their games. Baseball required them to bring their own bat and batting helmet. Mom had to have their uniforms clean, too.

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When granddaughter Maren played, her team, the Buttercups, had all of three players. The boys’ team they played only had two show up. It was tee-ball after all. This late in the season the coaches did throw a few pitches for the hitters before having to resort to the batting tee.

The coaches kept the players on their toes, although with so few players, that really wasn’t necessary. There was no time for playing in the dirt or lounging on the outfield grass, which according to our daughter were not uncommon occurrences when the games dragged on. Young attention spans can be as short as the players.

I’m happy to report that Maren got a hit with her pink bat and her pink helmet, and she scored a run as well. Defensively, she literally had first base covered.

Lefty Davis usually jumped on the first pitch thrown to him. In one game, he batted four times and saw only five pitches in tallying four hits. It was fun watching both the youngsters field the balls that came their way, and the throws they made. Their play reminded me of a few Major League teams I’ve seen this year.

Evan is a real sports enthusiast. Tall and solid for his age, he did a fine job of pitching. I won’t mention that he hit the first batter in the head. Besides his competitive drive, Evan has excellent form both on the mound and at the plate, and often makes all-star teams.

We spent much of a Saturday morning watching Maren learn soccer skills at different stations using several creative interactive games, like Stuck in the Mud. Players had to stand with their legs wide apart and a soccer ball above their head. They could only move if another player kicked a ball through their leggy wicket.

The activities served their purpose well. Valuable and essential skills were taught without the kiddos going away winners or losers.

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Evan’s soccer game was more aggressive, and the older players’ skills were most evident. It’s nice to win, but it’s nicer still to see the emphasis based on the game’s fundamentals.

Of course, we didn’t spend all of our time at the kids’ sporting events. They played board games, and electronic games, too. I’m not sure where they were when we were pulling weeds around their house though.

Spending time with the grandkids is always special for us. For Nana and Poppy it was time splendidly spent, and always a win-win proposition.

Maren took time out from a game on an iPad to explain to Nana a painting she had done for us.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2014

Politeness among 100,000 people

By Bruce Stambaugh

Living in rural Holmes County, Ohio, I normally am not part of a group that tops 100,000 people. A recent Saturday afternoon, however, found my son, Nathan, and I in just such a crowd.

For both of us, it was only our second time watching an Ohio State University football game in storied Ohio Stadium. We had gone to our first contest 25 years ago. We considered it an honor to be able to go again. For what we observed, so did everyone else.

Ohio Stadium by Nathan StambaughThough the forecast wasn’t the most promising, I expected we’d see a decent game and enjoy a lively half-time show. By kick off, the skies had cleared to a pure blue with only a few puffy white clouds zooming overhead at game’s end. The weather wasn’t the only pleasant surprise.

Given all the focus on Buckeye football in Ohio, I was expecting a rousing if not a raucous crowd decked out in scarlet and gray in the fabled horseshoe stadium. They indeed were colorful, but mostly because of their home team garb.

Something else impressed us besides the sea of scarlet. Although they won, what caught our attention certainly wasn’t the lackluster play of the Buckeye team, though their overmatched opponent gave a spirited effort.

My son and I were both amazed at the demeanor of the packed house. The crowd was exceedingly polite. From our seats in the first level near the middle of the north end zone, we had a very good view of most of the proceedings.

These were loyal Buckeye fans to be sure. We had walked through parking lot after parking lot of tailgating parties prior to the game. People were having a genuinely good time. Youngsters tossed footballs. Young adults huddled together laughing and talking. Older generations watched over the grilling of brats and burgers.

The throngs of people funneling to the entrances were equally congenial. People patiently lined up. Ushers were courteous and helpful.

Prior to finding our seats, we watched the boisterous student cheering section clamor down the sloping ramp to the field. The famous OSU marching band closely followed them. The students were painted and dressed for victory, the band energetic to the point of periodic chest thumping. They were pumped.

Script Ohio by Bruce Stambaugh
The Ohio State Marching Band and the Alumni Band played out four script Ohios simultaneously on the field.
Save for one couple that sat a few rows in front of us, no one seemed to have partied too hard or too long. Fans were there to watch their team and the band. And that’s exactly what they did.

Sure there were a few boos at the officials when a call or two went against Ohio State. For the most part, people were just plain mannerly. When the lady sitting beside me accidentally bumped my arm, she kindly apologized. I did the same when I bumped her, too. With that many people squeezed into bleacher seats, a little unintentional elbowing could be expected.

Throughout the game, most everyone was well behaved. People urged on the team by yelling, “Come on boys,” as if they knew them personally. Foul language was non-existent.

The crowd reverently sat for most of the game and enthusiastically stood for the entire halftime show. With more than 400 alumni band members present, it was a special treat to watch four different script Ohio’s simultaneously unfold on the field.

I could readily see why OSU tickets are so hard to come by. Attendance there just isn’t solely for football. It’s a time-honored, refined tradition.

The column appeared in The Bargain Hunter, Millersburg, OH.

Photos courtesy of Nathan Stambaugh.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2012

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