Tadpoles GolfTales RJSmiley

Tadpoles In My Stomach

As a kid I loved Orange Crush Soda. But I learned, the hard way, that Orange Crush and tadpoles don't mix.

In 1953 at the age of 10 I first caddied for my dad, the long hitting “Big John,” when he won the Southwest Kansas Sand Greens Golf Championship. (read story: https://rjsmiley.com/the-most-beautiful-trophy/)  

From that day on, I was hooked on golf… and the exhilaration of playing (and caddying) in front of a gallery.  Before the proliferation of sports on television, people followed their local sports teams and showed up in large numbers when their local golf course hosted the annual “Short-Stop” golf tournament.  

Each “Golf Tournament Sunday” my dad and I would journey to the short stop packing a basket filled with picnic lunch.  The lunch usually included fried chicken and apple pie; all prepared with love  by my mother.  

The championship flight would play 27-holes (three trips around these 9-hole prairie courses) to determine the champion,.  After the first two rounds the committee re-paired the leaders for the drama of the final nine.  Many of the flight players and local golf fans formed sizable galleries.  Because these were annual events the locals had their favorites and many side wagers were placed on the ultimate outcome.  It was at one of these “Short-Stops” that the following scene (could have been from a Laurel and Hardy movie) occurred.

The venue was Pratt Country Club in Pratt, Kansas, one of the few west Kansas communities that had a “grass green” golf course in those days.  My mother and little brother, who always wore a real “Daniel Boone” coonskin cap with tail, had joined us to see a real golf course.  The rainy spring had the course emerald green beautiful and the potholes in the mud/gravel parking lot full of water.  These puddles were loaded with a fresh hatch of tiny, pencil eraser sized, tadpoles.

I had pulled Big John’s hand made cart twice around the neat little course where he shot 34 – 37 (with a ball OB on the tight 8th hole).  At 71, Big John, the reigning SWKGA Champion, was 2 shots behind the leader, a local boy just out of high school.  As the final nine approached the locals were arriving in large numbers.  The growing galley was buzzing with excitement.  

Daniel Boone and I loved to capture tadpoles so we could watch the metamorphoses into frogs or toads.   We quickly gobbled down our lunch of fried chicken, potato salad, bread and butter sandwiches and apple pie so we could catch some tadpoles before the final nine.  I washed my lunch down with an Orange Crush Soda, my favorite, so I could put the tadpoles in the empty bottle.  Then begged for and got one more Orange Crush Soda.


As brothers do, we made a competition out of everything.  Today contest, who could catch the most tadpoles before the final round started.  

I filled my empty Orange Crush bottle 2/3 full of the murky water and proceeded to fill the other 1/3 with the sperm looking soon-to-be frogs.  I still had half a bottle of my second Orange Crush.  With a pop bottle in each hand, I was in a rush to get to the first tee before the tournament chairman announced the final pairing.  I wanted to stand proudly beside Big John when he was introduced.  

My plan was to give the bottle of future frogs to my mom then give my brother the “I knew I could catch more than you look” before we teed off.  On the run to the first tee, I tipped the bottle up and took a long drink.  

Shocked, I froze in place: IT WAS THE WRONG BOTTLE!!  

Both bottle hit the ground at the same time when my mind pictured all those tadpoles swimming around in my stomach.  I slipped behind a car and PUKED!  As I looked down at the orange liquid filled with chunks of chicken and pie with a few wiggling tadpoles, I gagged again.  Wiping my face on my shirt, I staggered to the first tee.  My mom said, “RJ what is wrong with you, you look pale.”  

“Oh nothing, just one too many Orange Crushes, I think.”  I don’t remember if we won, or anything about the final nine.  I spent the entire round visualizing those tadpoles swimming in my stomach.  


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